After spending my Friday night devouring an entire season of Sex and the City in one sitting, I felt ready to get out of my apartment and attempt to actually act like an 18 year old, single, college student.
Then I remembered that “single” in fact still means single and once more, that my only real friend in New York was spending the evening with her mother. Still, I thought, I like spending time alone. I do it all the time. I can go on a “date with myself.” Since I need to write a critique of an Off-Broadway play for my acting class this week, I decided to head down to the village and enjoy some good coffee and theatre.
After an unnecessarily difficult subway ride, I arrived at one of my favorite tea spots in New York (appropriately) called “Tea Spot.” Looking around the dimly lit cafe, I soon realized I was the only person there alone. A couple chatted near the window, two girls sat exchanging gossip while frantically typing on their laptops and next to me, an Australian party girl flirted with a long-haired guy who looked as though he’d been kicked out of recover one time too many. While he continued raving enthusiastically about how his band was going to make it big someday, I expected my usual feelings of pity and revulsion to surface. “Thank God I’m not on an awkward first date,” I usually think, or “Thank goodness my life isn’t as shallow as that.” But tonight those thoughts didn’t come. Tonight I felt something more like embarrassment mixed with the slightest twinge of jealousy.
I’m alone, in the East VIllage on a Saturday night?
Whenever I’m out alone, I’m usually writing or completing work on my laptop- intentionally alone, alone for a reason. Tonight I was alone simply because I had no one to be with.
“I’m with myself,” I tried to persuade myself. “I’m on a dateless date.”
Somewhere between finishing The Joy Luck Club over a cup of orgasmic, but ultimately loneliness-inducing early grey tea (it didn’t cuddle afterward) and buying my student ticket for “Feminazi,” a one woman show, it dawned on me.
I was not on a date with myself. Dates are a means of trying to get to know someone; a date is something used as a precursor to sex, marriage or both. Sure, dates are supposed to be fun, but it’s kind of obligatory fun. I took Socrates to heart when he told me, “Know thyself.” He knows I’m not used to being referred to as “thy” but that’s his style and I got the message.
Myself and I spend too much time together. Sometimes we drive each other crazy and I need to spend some time away. That’s what I was really doing tonight- escaping my little pod of selfness, curled up at home reading Harry Potter or out socializing at a wizard rock concert. Tonight I was trying to get away from myself and not enjoying it at all. I was trying too hard to enjoy being “single” and having a miserable, lonely time. I kind of knew this from the minute I got dressed and hopped on the subway, so why my insistence that I was going on a “date with myself?”
Am I really that afraid of being alone? As a society, have we been so conditioned to value the state of togetherness that even being out with the shapeless, unidentified shadow of “oneself” is better than simply being alone? In high school, one of my close friends and I decided that rather than identifying ourselves as single, we would create imaginary boyfriends. Granted, her “Justin” and my “Brett” were discussed mostly in jest. Everyone knew they were imaginary and our fictional relationships became a sort of running joke. If we broke up with a “real life” boy, we would simply declare we were “getting back together with *blank*.” By the end of my senior year of high school, I decided I should just “marry” Brett since it didn’t seem any males that weren’t created by my imagination would ever work out. I even wore a fake wedding ring for several months. Was Brett merely a way to justify my singleness? Did I really feel it was better to belong to an imaginary man than to no man at all?
Recently, my relationship with Brett has become less important. The two of us have been drifting apart for a while now and it’s time I cut it off. As of this moment, Brett and I are officially divorced. I keep the penthouse on Central Park West and he gets the yacht in the Mediterranean. Brett was not there tonight when I was the only person in the audience who arrived alone. Sitting there, looking at the audience full of elderly couples, I realized that in order to experience “together” I have to first let myself experience being “alone.” Single. I am single and I’m ok with that.
Shows like “Sex and the City” celebrate singledom, but for a show about single women, they sure seem to go through a lot of boyfriends. To enjoy being single we don’t all have to be Carrie Bradshaw- going out every night, dancing in New York’s hottest clubs and flirting with strangers while spending hundreds of dollars on designer shoes. We don’t have to be Charlottes, chasing after long term relationships at any cost. We don’t need to subside on one-night stands like Samantha. Sometimes, enjoying being single means coming home and crawling into your oversized old navy pajamas without having to worry about how you look or how your boyfriend wants you to look. It means ordering take out brimming with garlic and onions and spending the night living vicariously through TV shows about other single women in New York City. It means knowing you can flirt with who ever you want but not having to. It means kicking off your heels at the end of the day and going to bed with your teddy bear who definitely doesn’t snore.