I saw a meme on Instagram yesterday that displayed the quote, “to be able to visit galleries alone, go out to dinner with yourself, take lone walks and go solo to the movies, is an underrated strength” and surprise surprise it got me thinking!
You see I love taking myself on a date, I did go through a phase in my life where I struggled with it, but in general, I’ve always liked taking myself off for a coffee, lunch, drive or walk and to the theatre alone to treat myself. I’ve travelled alone and I think it stems from there, when off to trek across the world alone you soon learn how to enjoy your own company. I’ve gone on off for spa weekends alone, dressing up that evening for dinner and sitting sipping wine in the restaurant people watching or getting lost in a good book. It’s fun and I think it’s something important to do for yourself.
It’s interesting though because my mum never would. She’s often said how she doesn’t even always feel comfortable walking into a bar alone when meeting friends and being the first one to arrive. She’ll wait outside until her companion arrives. She thinks it takes a lot of confidence to be able to do what I call dating myself. I’m not saying she’s wrong, I just think it’s also something important. My brother has often had to as a result of his career making him travel and work away a lot and I distinctly remember when I was a lot younger listening to him during a similar conversation with mum, saying that he thought it was a very liberating thing sitting alone in a restaurant for a meal.
I think he’s right (don’t tell him, I don’t want him thinking I agree with him) it is liberating and I think to a certain extent my mum is right, it takes a certain kind of confidence in your own skin to be able to enjoy activities traditionally done alongside others alone. A couple of friends spring to mind who I know also do these things, one of which even holidayed alone and loved it. I also think of conversations with a couple of single mum friends way back when I first embarked on parenting solo. One has been a single mum for longer and she without a care just gets up goes off and does stuff, she doesn’t sit around waiting for anyone. Whether alone or with her boys she’s up off and seizing the world and it was the first piece of advice she gave me, “don’t wait around for people” and it’s stayed with me since. The other single mum friend and I just took a bit longer to warm up to the idea but now I’d say the pair of us thoroughly enjoy and in fact relish in this independent enjoying our own company lifestyle.
I know it sounds unsociable to a certain extent but in all honesty it’s the exact opposite. Think Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet in The Holiday (minus the fit Jude Law look like affair, I’ve yet to meet him) their characters both holiday alone and end up meeting others. Kate’s character in particular with her new found friendship with the elderly filmmaker, that’s what I’m taking about. Being confident and comfortable to fly solo on social outings opens you up to chatting to a wealth of different people from all walks of like and can really teach you a lot.
I sometimes feel though that this attitude of dating yourself isn’t encouraged. I think I can see where my mum is coming from when she says she feels people are all looking at her and in a negative way, suggesting that she shouldn’t be alone. In reality though, who cares? I mean, shouldn’t we all be too busy with our own lives to take so much notice of others? And shouldn’t we be encouraging each other to be the confident and comfortable in our own skin to enjoy a solo walk in the park or a cinema trip where actually you can’t talk to the person next to you anyway!
Another thing I read in the early hours of this morning (post little P’s midnight bad dream as I struggled to drop back off from settling her) from Dove Reverse Selfie campaign. It stated that 80% of 13 year olds were using certain apps to alter their selfies before posting and that the pandemic had made it worse. 80% that’s a huge amount, that’s my friends kids, my family, my students, that’s a lot! That figure means we all now a 13 year old thinking and behaving that way. I mean seriously, is that the generation we’re really living in. That we’ve gone beyond a filters which were bad enough to full on photoshopping pictures so we don’t seem “ugly” to our friends. So then it hit me, no wonder people don’t feel comfortable enough in their own skin to take a walk or go for a drink in a bar alone. People can’t even take a picture of themselves and allow it to be natural barefaced and enjoyed for what it is.
It’s interesting because whenever I’ve had the conversation with my mum about sitting on my own in a restaurant or when I’ve enjoyed a spa night in a glam hotel to myself, she’s often said that it’s more difficult for women. Now I’m sure you can imagine my equal rights head, bee in my bonnet going into over drive at her comment, but then the #reverseselfie coined by Dove’s campaign, suggests that she’s right. Young girls are so conscious of their looks and seeking approval from their peers that they’re not learning the basic skills of loving themselves, appreciating the deeper aspects of personalities such as the art of conversation, intelligence, humour and kindness. They’re not learning enough about themselves to enjoy themselves and their own company beyond their looks and how to adjust them in a selfie to have the confidence to enjoy that train ride to the next city and brunch by the creek (ahh my memories of travelling the states).
So if you do anything today, consider taking yourself on a date and teaching your youngsters to learn to enjoy their own company and getting lost in their own thoughts. Because if you can’t date yourself and enjoy being you in your own skin then actually, it’s going to be a pretty lonely world isn’t it?