I used to be petrified of going to the movies alone.
Perhaps due to my vivid imagination, the prospect of going to the theater alone conjured mental images of judgmental, frowning people in the theater turning away with disdain and snickering at the friendless loser who couldn’t get anybody to put aside two hours of their day to accompany her to the new Batman movie.
This innate fear of attending movies alone continued into the better part of my 20s, until I moved to Colorado Springs for a summer internship. I was writing freelance movie reviews for a couple newspapers and without any close friends in the area, I went to movies alone in order to get my pieces written on time. And I learned something about myself.
I absolutely love going to movies alone.
I can eat a whole bucket of popcorn without accountability, guilt, or the awkwardness of accidentally brushing a platonic friend’s hand when we reach for a handful of our salty snack at the same time. I’m not distracted by a friend constantly yammering in my ear and talking during the movie that I dished out ten dollars to see. I don’t have to coordinate schedules with anyone. And with my friends absent, I can allow myself to become more emotionally involved in the movie, putting aside my “tough” exterior. I am more relaxed in the theater when I’m by myself.
The question I pose is this: why are we afraid to go to movies alone? Where does this existential dread of sitting alone in a theater seat stem from?
American society views the act of going to a movie as a social experience that should be experienced with one’s friends. A person going to a movie alone may simply feel out-of-place around the myriad of groups, laughing in the lobby at that one good joke from the latest Judd Apatow movie. On an even deeper level, this fear of being alone at the movies may stem from the ingrained desire of humans to belong to something or someone.
Going to the movies alone isn’t for everyone. First, you have to love watching movies. This may sound like a given, but there are people who only go to movies purely for the social experience and will not enjoy watching a movie alone.
As an experienced “theater loner,” I have a couple tips for someone who may want to try going to a movie alone, but who isn’t sure how to make the experience a positive one:
1) The world doesn’t revolve around you. If it feels like everyone in the theater is looking at you, they’re not. If people are looking at you, it’s probably because you have something in your teeth.
2) Sit up in the very top row so it doesn’t feel like everyone sitting behind you is looking at the back of your head and wondering why no one is sitting with you.
3) If you’re really early for the movie and feel self-conscious, put your coat or bag in the seat next to you and pretend you’re waiting for your friend to get back from the bathroom.
4) If you’re going to a kid’s movie, go to a matinee. It’s more fun to watch a kid’s movie with a theater full of children laughing. The laughter of children makes fart jokes tolerable. Not funny, but tolerable.
Like every new experience, buying a “ticket for one” will feel weird and awkward at first. But if you make it through with your sanity intact, you may find that you actually enjoyed the experience.