Friday, June 29, 2012

"Too Nice to Go Alone"

Greetings from London!
Asexuals met so far:  4
Portions of vegan haggis eaten: 1 (in Edinburgh, yum yum)
People in suits:  About 5 million
People in jeans and t-shirts:  1 (uh...even the most stylish peeps have off-days, right?)

While I've felt lucky to hang out with a lot of cool people so far (old friends, internet friends, and strangers--but not for long-- alike), I've spent most of my time alone, and have been doing a bunch of thinking on the topic.  I'm working on my post of practical travel tips, which will be published after I get back home.  But I've also been thinking about some of the psychological stuff behind "how to be alone".  For more of that, read on!

Today, for instance, I knew that I shouldn't be walking much more, as my legs felt like two pillars of wood.  But I needed dinner, so I decided to look at the Vegan London map and go to whichever restaurant was closest to my lodgings.  I identified the place, although from its website, it looked fancier than what I'd typically choose.  Although it might have been slightly outside my budget, what I immediately said to myself was, "this is too nice for one person".  And I knew that the moment I had that thought, I wanted to analyze it further.

As I walked to the Tube (having changed out of my jeans and t-shirt), I started to understand my reaction.  American culture doesn't discourage splurging on yourself a bit, however, it does encourage the insecurities of single people.  I didn't want to feel out of place, perhaps among couples dining in a traditionally "romantic" atmosphere.  Since I rarely go to fancier restaurants, I wasn't sure what to expect, and that fact made me wish I'd had company.  And if the place ended up being really special, I'd have no one to share the memory with.  However, these normal concerns (at least, the normal concerns of a chronically anxious person) can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where being single is not only viewed as being an inferior state, but actually becomes that state.

Had I not left my comfort zone and gone to the slightly fancy restaurant, it would have always remained, in the back of my mind, something outside my reach...something for other people and not for me.  There would have been a sense of denial, however small, that with enough similar instances would build over time.  I would feel like, being single, I was missing out.

What I realized from this experience is that "this is too nice for one person"-type thoughts are always preemptive.  I can't imagine an instance when, while actually doing something, I've thought "this is way too much fun for one person".  I've wished that I had company, but that's different, as it's not perpetuating the idea that I somehow don't deserve to have a good time.  Like when I got to the restaurant, I wasn't thinking that it was "too nice" for me to be alone there.  In fact, there was another person eating alone!  While I wasn't thrilled to be by myself, doing the activity anyway served to demystify it quite a bit.

And tomorrow, the search for good meals under 5 pounds continues...*wink*


Anonymous said...

I've actually noticed that, in parts of Western Europe, 'being alone' is not always encouraged, especially if you're a female. I've gone hiking by myself in East Germany and I never see anyone hiking alone - I always pass couples or families with children. The one time I went hiking with a male friend, he assumed that it was an invitation for a date, which I had to deter him from rather abruptly.

My mom's family in the Netherlands, for the longest time, couldn't understand why I didn't have a boyfriend and thought that it was weird, even though there are many males in the family who are not dating actively for many years. The automatic assumption is that, if you're a women and you're single, then you must be looking for something, or someone, even when traveling.

Ily said...

Thanks for commenting, Anon! Like you, I've hiked alone a lot. I've only really felt unsafe once, when I encountered a large group of drunk people. I sometimes see male and female runners doing trail running alone at a small park in my town, but I rarely see hikers of any gender alone.