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Flying Solo:
Turning the Tables for One
or, Actually, No, I Couldn't Possibly Appear More Confident and Mysterious, Why?

by Laura Tucker

ALONE, adj. In bad company.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

You and your friends are out all the time: benefits, bars, house parties, dinner parties, live music, more bars. You're exposed. You're "out there." But you're going home alone, and without digits most of time. And maybe you're starting to wonder what you're doing wrong.

No offense, but the problem might be with your crew. Not so much the quality as the quantity. After all, animals travel in packs... for safety. (And don't think Freud wouldn't have something fun to say about the way you go out.)

Get ready for the best advice anyone will ever give you:

Go out alone.

The difference between sex and death is that with death you can do it alone and no one is going to make fun of you.
Woody Allen

It seems counterintuitive, right? Does it hit a little too close to home? Shades of lunchroom humiliations, or the moment you realized that you were going to be the last one picked for the team?

Get over it. Alone is fabulous. Alone is independent and confident and mysterious and sophisticated. It's (famously) Greta Garbo and Humphrey Bogart (or Christian Slater, if you must). Alone is very, very sexy.

Of course you're not meeting anyone now. Standing in a huddle like that, you're completely unapproachable. That special someone is going to have to use skills worthy of an Australian sheep dog to separate you out from the herd. You've also made it very easy for yourself to ignore whatever tantalizing possibilities there are across the room.

And while packs have been known to approach other packs en masse, (making sure that numbers are fairly equal, lest a skirmish or a game of musical chairs suggest itself), it's usually the solo reconnaissance operative that scores the hit.

Solitude is the playfield of Satan.

Vladimir Nabokov

I'm not suggesting that you throw yourself into the deep end without testing the water first. Here's a gentle introduction to the art of public solitude:

If you're meeting a friend for dinner on a weeknight, choose a quiet neighborhood restaurant with a bar. Get there early and have a drink by yourself. Bring a magazine or newspaper if you need to, but don't hide.

You're not alone, remember - you're waiting for someone. Indicate that you're open to conversation without looking pathetic, and do not limit your options. You should open to conversation with anyone interesting: male, female, young, old, tending bar or otherwise.

I'm willing to bet that you'll have a conversation with someone you wouldn't otherwise meet, and that you feel willing to try something a little more courageous next time.

The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone.

Henrik Ibsen

In flying solo, as in the rest of life, attitude is everything.

There's only one way to avoid looking like a loser: don't look like a loser. Check the energy you're giving off. Creepy and on-the-make is bad. Desperate is bad. Unapproachable is bad. Hooker in a hotel bar... you see where I'm going. Adjust posture, facial expressions, and internal dialogue accordingly.

And don't ever, ever, ever apologize or make excuses for your alone status. You will instantly cross over to the pathetic side of the ledger.

And go do something you actually like to do. There's no substitute for genuine enthusiasm. It's an opportunity, too we all have a passion that is unshared by even our closest friends. Whether it's klezmer music, movies with subtitles/car chases/kissing, earnest folk singers, death metal -- or something much, much worse -- indulge yourself. Maybe next time you won't have to do it alone.

Some suggestions for activities you might consider doing on your own follow.

Sitting in the Dark
Going to the movies by yourself is one of life's great pleasures, even if you're in the best relationship in the world. If you're not, it provides you with a stellar opportunity to meet someone who likes the same kinds of movies, thereby eliminating at least one contentious relationship issue. Think of it as a shortcut to the traditional second date. The icebreaker is built in.

Dinner for One
Another one of life's great pleasures. You could order Chinese food and watch reruns in your sweatpants, or you could change your shirt, wash your face and head out to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner by the bar. If an interesting conversation presents itself, fantastic. You have to eat anyway, right?

Dancing with Myself
It doesn't matter if the venue is large or small, there's usually already a sense of community and good will in the audience at a live show. The relationship shortcut concept holds here too: If you're next to each other in the nosebleed seats, you've already got something to complain about together. And if you're dancing in the pit, you're already covered in each other's sweat.

(Just so you know, Sex in the City's Kim Cattrall met her husband at a Village jazz club she'd gone to by herself. Picture that filmed in black and white.)

A Single Shot
I will guarantee that there's some kind of a cafe or lounge attached to your friendly neighborhood alternative cinema. (I'm thinking of places like the Harvard Exit in Seattle, and the Angelika or Film Forum in New York.)

Truism: Anywhere you can find a three-dollar cup of coffee, you can find a single person willing to talk to you. Whether you want to talk to them is another question, but at this point, getting a date in a coffee shop is like shooting fish in a barrel. [We'll even show you how. -ed.] These places did not proliferate because of the way they over-roast their beans.

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

And I'll Cry if I Want To...
Going to parties by yourself can miraculously turn you into someone who likes them. If it's a friend's party, chances are good that you'll know people there, but since you didn't arrive with them, you're not bound by that weird obligation to hang out with them all night until there is a mutual decision to leave. While you're there, you're free to move around, and to leave when you want to. I do hope you meet someone, but I think you'll find that leaving a party exactly when you're ready (alone or with company) is a thing of rare beauty.

Take care of yourself, since there's no one else to do it. Please use common sense and be safe. Always let someone know where you're going, and call when you get home or if there's going to be a change of plans.

If you do feel uncomfortable for any reason, approach someone (a bartender, a couple, a group) and ask to join them or to be escorted to a cab or your car. Contrary to popular opinion, embarrassment isn't fatal. I'm not just talking to the ladies either.

Give your Liver a Rest
Don't overindulge during your solitary excursions. One drink may ease the butterflies, but it's important to stay alert.

Come Here Often
Become a regular: at a club, that neighborhood restaurant, or a coffee shop. You'll be more comfortable and therefore more confident if you've been to a place a few times and staff starts to get to know you. You'll also start to recognize the other regulars.

I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
Henry David Thoreau

Yes, you're more likely to meet someone if you go out alone, but the fringe benefits are also wonderful. You'll meet people you wouldn't otherwise have met, even if they don't turn out to be Prince/ss Charming. And you'll never again have to wait outside for 45 minutes while your friend gets his coat and a number from the hottie in the Capri pants.

In fact, just learning to be alone is a useful skill. There's something to be said for sneaking a little bit of unclaimed, unscheduled solitude into our busy, micro-managed lives. You get to step out of the chaos and spend some quality time with your own thoughts. You can reflect on your own situation, your own values, the rich and tempered rhythm of your unencumbered lifestyle.

And hey, you never know. You just might meet someone.

Laura Tucker went to a party by herself and met a perfect boy. They live in Brooklyn with their cat.

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