Tonight — approximately three hours from now — I will see a movie by myself. This is because I love seeing movies by myself. Between you and me, I like seeing movies by myself more than I like seeing them with other people, and not because I don't like other people (hi friends I love you), but because this is my time. My. Time. Mine. Time when I can't check my email, or don't have to text back, or don't have to make polite conversation when all I want is to curl up and, well, watch whatever it is I'm going to see.
Which was terrifying at first. For years — years — I worked up the courage to see a movie by myself. In high school, I'd watch TV shows and movies in awe of the main character who had the guts to spend precious time attending a movie ON THEIR OWN. How brave was that? (I'd think.) How cool. Me, I was stuck wrangling a friend or six to see that one movie I was dying to until my early 20s. Then, in 2008, came . . . Atonement. (Golf claps.)
At the time, I was working tow jobs, and one February evening I was graced with a rare night off.
"So what are you up to tonight, Anne?" a man in a tie asked me.
"I think I'm going to see a movie," I answered. "By myself."
Time stopped. Everybody stopped working. Heads spun. Birds flew out of trees. The snow quit falling. A record scratched, somewhere. Did I — I think I did. I just committed.
I looked around for validation, smiling in a, "Eh? EH?" approval-seeking way. But nobody cared. No one. Literally not a single soul. Why? Because it's a thing people did all the time. Or at the very least, the guy was making small talk with me, and I could've said anything and garnered the exact same response: "Oh yeah, that's cool."
You're DAMN RIGHT it was cool. So, after taking my car in for an oil change, finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and speed-eating a plate of pasta, I drove myself to the movie theatre. I bought a ticket (from the automated stand because what if somebody laughed at me). I walked into the theatre, chalk-full of retirees, and sat near the back. I mean, WHAT IF THEY KNEW. What if the two old ladies near the front thought I was a LOSER. How, in this world that revolved completely around me, could and would I go undercover as a PERSON sitting all by myself and watching a MOVIE? I was nervous until I wasn't, and then realized I'd made a huge mistake seeing Atonement theatres since I hate crying in public and, well, have you seen it? (If you don't cry, you're dead. So I did. In my car. In the cold. Alone.)
And I loved it. I felt independent, and I felt confident, and I felt like I was a real, grown-ass broad. I'd eaten meals by myself, but a movie? Two and a half hours of my own time without anybody to talk to or a phone to look at? This was the makings of a "I'm Every Woman" montage. I had only one option: to wait until 2012 to do it again.
I have absolutely no idea why I waited four years to see another movie by myself, but we'll blame it on me being an idiot. One Sunday in September, I was bored. And like any bored, regular person, I surfed the Internet, looking for anything that would get me out of the house. Enter: Sunset Boulevard, and a 12 p.m. showing that ensured a nearly-empty movie theatre (#bliss), and hours I didn't have to account for. DONE. I dressed up (I don't know, you guys), I got in the car, I checked myself in, and realized this was my ticket to sanity.
Which it has been. Talking to people is great. I love it, and I do it constantly, even though I'm a writer, and my standard workday consists of sitting at a kitchen table, typing, telling a cat not to bite the patio screen. I could also work all the time without a break. I love what I do, and I love the process of actually doing it, and my workaholic personality has seen me lose track of how long I've been doing what, even though I may be sick, tired, running late, or whatever. But I figure this: my job is not some struggle. I'm writing essays and lists and jokes. I get to delve into worlds I love, try to understand them better, then try and make people laugh in the process. Working hard is my way of saying I appreciate the opportunity to be a writer — like how you feel better about a good mark after you've studied a lot. But sometimes, just like with most study benders, I'll get trapped in my own brain, and that's where a movie — alone — comes in.
There's a scene in Mad Men where Don sees Peggy at the movie theatre and she tells him she's just knocking the cobwebs out, and she's onto something. I can't count how many times I've needed to clear my brain by seeing anything; by choosing a movie that looks the least awful and just watching it because whatever I was doing was making me crazy. (See: focusing on wording or one joke as opposed to looking at a piece as a whole.) So that's why I've seen movies more than once, I've seen movies that look ridiculous, I've seen things I'm almost mad I actualy saw, but still, even if I go into them at 10 30 thinking, "UGH, should I even be doing this right now?" I leave excited to get back to work in the morning. On top of actually enjoying my own company.
I like being able to feel comfortable being alone in a public place. First, I've always wanted to be one of those sassy retired broads who sit at lunch reading books (because you know their lives are amazing, and don't you dare argue otherwise), and second, I think it's important to tolerate yourself. (I mean, hello: if you wouldn't be your own friend, then yiiiiiikes . . . that's a different article for a different day.) I started going to the movies alone both to feel capable, independent, and later to re-centre, but I also went to get my mind off bigger things. On days when I felt like I wanted to jump out of my own skin; when I was in the middle of life crises and personal disasters, I'd go to the movies to forget how shitty I felt — and it worked. Obviously, nothing is solved by escapism, but escapsim can sometimes offer perspective and a step back. I could still be quiet and process, but instead of being IN IT, I could be IN . . . a movie theatre, eating popcorn, and temporarily losing myself in somebody else's story.
So that's why I say go for it. Go to the movies alone. Go! Get! Start with a matinee, then eventually work your way up to a Saturday night. (Captain Phillips last Novemeber — I went for it, everyone.) No one cares, no one is judging you. And if a group of tweens start talking in the middle of Captain America, don't be afraid to tell them to shut up. Trust me from experience when I say they find a person alone at the movies terrifying.