I have an apology to make. I have to apologise to all of those people I’ve silently judged at the cinema over the years as I’ve spotted them attending alone. Previously, I thought it was a sad practice. I thought that these people must have no friends, lack in social skills, and lead generally loveless lives. Assumptions such as that aren’t rare, either, and similar labels are given to people who are seen alone at gigs, or even restaurants.
You see, last week I did something I thought I’d never have the courage to do, and used a block of free time I had during the day and took myself off to the cinema - alone. Having tweeted about this fear on several previous occasions, some replied in agreement of my reservations, while others rubbished any notion of social faux-pas and encouraged me to face my irrational fears.
Still full of doubt, I resisted the temptation to do so until around a week ago, when a large gap in my day collided head on with a rain shower of biblical proportions. Having quickly checked the film times on my phone I headed out in the rain aiming to take shelter inside of a nearby cinema, all the while, my previously held concerns were beginning to settle in the pit of my stomach.
At this point, I feel it necessary to explain a few things about myself. Having just read what you have, you’d be forgiven for assuming that I’m a shy, unconfident person, who fears social interaction and has underdeveloped people skills. In truth, I’m nothing of the sort. I’m far from the wallflower one may expect, healthily self-confident and generally good with people. My uneasiness with the going to the cinema alone was routed in something much different than that - I was scared of being judged as I had others, and worried that I’d feel more shameful than alone.
En route to the cinema, with four hours of my day to kill in between engagements, I still had a little bit of time before the screening I had chosen began - Gone Girl, 11.30am, Everyman Cinema, Leeds - so made a detour through a supermarket, and picked up a meal deal to line my as yet to be fed stomach. By the time I made it to the ticket desk, I had fifteen to twenty minutes still to wait before being seated. Asking for one ticket was far less painful than I expected, the girl on the till simply smiling at me, rather than muttering “sad fuck” under her breath as I’d convinced myself to anticipate.
Taking a seat toward the rear of the foyer, I took out my notebook and began to make notes for this here article - how meta - and found myself silently people watching, rather than worrying about what the other people in attendance thought of me. At that time of the day on a Monday, there was only around another ten to fifteen people there, which immediately helped calm my nerves.
Amongst them were a young, teenage couple, a mother and her son, a mother and her daughter, a group of three old ladies who’d already been drinking, two lads who I couldn’t for the life of me work out whether or not they were merely friends or lovers (not that it matters) and a middle aged couple I suspected were having an affair. None of them gave me a second glance, and before long, we were being ushered in to the screen, where like a film loving Batman, the darkness would soon become my friend.
The film came and went, my brain allowed significant time to digest the plot, while my intestines did the same with my meal deal. It dawned on me while watching the film that cinema’s aren’t, by their nature, very social environments. I sat in silence and watched in the same fashion I would have if I’d been accompanied by one friend or fifty, that part of the experience - the main part - hadn’t changed in the slightest. I laughed, recoiled and swore under my breath in complete freedom. I was there to engage with what was on the screen, not the other people in the room with me.
In truth, part of me did miss the ability to discuss and dissect the film afterward with a friend, but I genuinely enjoyed the ability to make of the film what I wished to without interruption, coming to my own conclusions and stewing merrily in my own thoughts. Before I had to be somewhere else, I had enough time to pull up a couple of reviews and thought-pieces surrounding the film and debate them in the confines of my own mind. Shortly after, I texted a friend who’d seen it separately a spoiler laden review, and eulogised over Fincher in a Facebook message to my uncle in Canada, allowing myself the chance to share the experience without having actually been to film with either one of them.
I left somewhat elated, and with a possibly misplaced sense of self-pride in myself for having finally faced one of my longest standing irrational fears. I’m still somewhat doubtful that I’d want to go to the cinema alone during the evening to see a comedy, but during the day, where the audience is thin and the weather outside unwelcoming, I could think of no better place to find myself.
If you, like I was once did, fear the prospect of a possibly prejudice filled solo trip to the cinema, I urge you to fight through it. You might just find yourself discovering your next favourite pastime.