I went on a “date”

I wish I could say my blog hadn’t gone the same way as 99% of blogs and sat gathering dust for almost a year, but here we are. If you want to know why I left, why I’m back or who I am, there are more details on my new About Me page!

Anyway, on with the writing. On Thursday evening I took myself out on a date and it was THE BEST. I finished work, changed into a nice outfit, went out for dinner and a glass of wine, and then went to see author/journalist/podcaster Elizabeth Day talk about her new novel. If you saw my rambling on social media about that last bit don’t worry, I won’t bang on any more about it, but safe to say I think she’s amazing and I was NOT AT ALL chilled about getting to meet her!

Back to the date. You may have a couple of questions: “why didn’t you invite someone to go with you?” and “why are you calling it a date?” I also asked myself these questions mid-date so I thought it would be a good exercise to try to answer them.

If I’m honest, the answer to the first question is complicated. I do have this slightly odd fear around inviting people to go to things with me. Something standard like a drink at the pub, fine. But something where personal taste might be a factor like a gig or a book event or something else arty…unless I know FOR CERTAIN that the event in question is definitely “their thing”, I get so worried about whether the other person is enjoying it that I kind of ruin my own fun. If you think that sounds ridiculous then you’d be right, but that’s anxiety for you.

(With this particular event I also knew that at I’d likely queue at the end for as long as it took to get my copy of “How To Fail” signed, and it seemed unfair to inflict that on an unsuspecting friend!)

Anxiety aside though, I actually quite like going to things alone – not every time, but now and again. I’d never want to actively exclude people from joining me, but I’m naturally quite introverted and who said alone-time has to be limited to your typical introvert activities like sitting at home with a book? I’m so grateful that going out to meet friends is possible again after so long without it, but I’m also equally grateful for the privilege of being able to go and sit in a coffee shop by myself.

Back to the question of why I insist that I’m taking myself “on a date”. You may think I’m just trying to make it sound less sad than “going out on my own” but to me, evenings like this remind me to give enough of a shit about myself to make the effort and do something nice. The first time I ever went out for dinner on my own was scary, but I’d been single for ages, my social life with friends at the time was more “drinks at the pub” than dinners at restaurants, and eventually I just got sick of never going out for a nice meal! So I went. Admittedly I chose the location carefully – casual pub rather than restaurant, but one where I was unlikely to be hassled by drunk men (the annoyance at this even being a factor is another conversation for another day). But once the location was decided I just took a book to read and had a lovely time having my food cooked for me and soaking up the atmosphere.

Dinner out on my own kickstarted things and from there, going on a “date” just became a nice thing to do for myself now and again. I’ve been away for the odd weekend on my own too, and I’d do it again. I’m no longer single but that makes no difference because it’s not about lacking people to go to places with me, it’s about valuing myself enough to go to places alone, to get dressed up just for me, and sometimes to spend money just because I want to (another tough one for me and another blog post on that soon!). In short: going out alone has become a genuine treat that I look forward to.

You may be super confident about going out alone and wondering why I’m feeling the need to write about this. If you’re one of those people you might not appreciate that not everyone feels that way. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who don’t feel confident turning up to things alone so for those people, here are my top tips:

● If you’re going for food, start with somewhere you’ve been before where you feel comfortable.

● Take a book. Or your journal. Or a notebook to write in, your tablet to type on…whatever keeps you occupied! Sometimes it’s great to sit with a drink and watch the world go by but for me a book is always a good security blanket on the rare occasion that I start to feel a bit conspicuous due to my lack of company.

● Make an effort. Dress up, if that’s your thing. If you’re going to an event, go for dinner too and make an evening of it. Treat yourself – you are worth it!

● Be mindful about taking in every little detail. Enjoy having time to really notice the things going on around you, without distractions.

● Focus on the positives, not the negatives. There are some advantages to being alone! At a gig you can squash right up to the front, stand at the very back, or do a bit of both – it’s entirely your choice. At an exhibition, you can stare at the same piece of art for half an hour if you really love it that much. You can stay out as long as you want or go home early. Maybe this all sounds selfish but I really think it’s ok to sometimes do things exactly the way YOU want to.

I hope some of what I’ve written has resonated with you, and if you’ve never been confident going out alone I hope I’ve convinced you to take yourself on a date sometime 🙂 If not, let me know in the comments what’s holding you back and maybe I can persuade you!

Thanks for reading xx

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