I thought it would be liberating to see a movie by myself in the same way I feel liberated when I wear navy and black or black and brown together after living under the self-imposed oppression of never mixing neutrals.
I did feel empowered by arriving early, realizing I could sit wherever I wanted. I choose what I would assume is the most coveted movie-viewing seat—in the middle of the row, near the back of the theater. The liberation feeling ended soon after, when I was suddenly surrounded by couples.
I recall a conversation with some of my teens where they were describing their recent movie experience. They had seen an older lady who was all alone, eating popcorn. They noted how she looked weird* and was awkwardly smiling. I had this sudden fear I was the person teenagers would whisper and call weird. Then the lights dimmed, and I was reminded of how much I really love previews. Some of them even nearly moved me to tears, so I was then grateful no one was right next to me judging me.
During the movie, I had thoughts of someone could steal my purse and I wouldn’t be fast enough to catch them or when I had to walk to the parking lot, I would be an easy target—even though I had my keys in hand, my hair wasn’t in a ponytail, my purse was not cross-body, and I wasn’t talking on my phone or looking distracted.** Generally most of my fears are irrational and in reality, the parking lot was actually quite well-lit. But it was 10:30 PM, I was alone and I couldn’t even pass as someone who has done karate before.
Overall, I wasn’t too entirely impressed with the movie, The Great Gatsby. I can’t really pinpoint it, but I disliked the music score, and I think I just dislike Tobey Maguire as an actor in general.
One could argue since we live in an individualized society, going to see a movie by myself shouldn’t have such stigma attached to it. I probably wouldn’t have gone except I received a gift card to the movie theater for Christmas and still hadn’t used it. That and I am currently living with a family and don’t feel entirely comfortable. Still, I thought: I have a gift card and I’ve got the time, so sure I’d love go to see a movie, thanks for the invite, self. We are going to overlook the fact I ended up seeing a later showing than I wanted and I watched it in 3D, which gives me a headache because I’m actually an old person.
I thought I had reached the point in my life where I am totally self-actualized and okay with seeing a movie alone. I am, after all, an introvert and do, for the most part, enjoy spending time alone. However, I am not about to become Henry David Thoreau or anything either. I am somewhere between wallflower and Walden. It must be something about movie theaters. Even though seeing a movie is not a social experience (I am talking to you, you who talk during movies), there is this social aspect attached to going to a movie theater. We live in a “going to the movie theater is a social experience” zeitgeist. I honestly think there’s nothing wrong with going to a movie alone. I don’t think you have to be dating someone or only have your friends with open schedules before you can go see a movie. This is America. Land of the free [to go to movies] and the brave.
While I truly believe that mix of empowerment and feminism and ‘MERICA and what have you, I was left feeling the full weight of my aloneness.
Sunday after church, I drove to the house where I am staying. There were lots of cars parked outside. It is Sunday, the day of meals together. Yet, as I was sitting in a room filled with people, I felt so alone. Of course I am grateful to be welcomed into their home and family, but I felt everything within me crying out for my own family—for some familiarity and comfort. As much as I know I have people who care about me and even feel empowered with the knowledge I can change my own tire, I just want family.
When there were still new episodes of Gilmore Girls on Tuesday nights, I would have what I referred to as “Avoid the World Days,” which was my excuse to skip out on basketball or volleyball games with my friends to instead stay home and watch Gilmore Girls with my mom and brother. Even when I avoided the world, I was not alone. I was with my family. I had a home.
Though I am not currently houseless, I do feel homeless.
There is this inner ache for something different, something more. Being alone is accompanied by this restlessness.
So am I doomed for a life of loneliness? No, I don’t think so. It is, however, my current reality, so I need to find peace within this current stage of my life.***
*Thinking about it now, that’s quite a vague description. So I can only assume she was wearing a sweater with a cat on the front, probably that she knitted herself, although I am aware it is more likely she was wearing normal clothes because sometimes teenagers have a definition of weird I can’t really comprehend.
**I once read a list of things predators look for and apparently it’s easier to grab a ponytail and cross-body bag, though I can’t remember where this information come from.
***I for real had the thought while sitting alone in the movie theater about how I should go on a dating site because then at least I would have a real excuse for leaving the house. But, a) I am not desperate; b) I am only twenty-one, so I haven’t reached the panic of oh-my-gosh-I-need-to-find-a-husband; and c) I doubt I will ever reach that point. Still it would be nice to have the ability to go out to eat with someone more often (and have them pay, because I can’t still use the I’m a poor college student excuse anymore, but it is still the case). All this to say: dating sites are not finding peace with this current life stage.