Attempting to make peace with my mouse moments
Learning to be comfortable in your own company is a herculean challenge. It takes balls to sit in contentment with just the sound of your internal monologue, and no external distractions or people to occupy your attention. Especially in university, this is the time many of us experience our first ‘mouse moments’, or parts of our day where we’re eating or just chilling alone.
Nevertheless, making peace with being alone is a quest every young person has to inevitably beat in their twenties. While I like to think that I’ve made some progress towards slowly earning my independent girlboss badge, like the majority of us, I haven’t unlocked the secret to achieving inner zen just yet.
I’m perfectly content going solo for activities like running errands, or buying a coffee before uni. But the thought of making specific plans to hangout with myself inexplicably makes my skin crawl. Don’t get me wrong, the act of taking yourself on dates is incredibly empowering, and should absolutely be something everyone tries at least once. But, for whatever irrational reason, I can’t seem to break the silly subconscious belief that hanging out in public alone is ‘weird’, or an automatic signal to the general public that you must have no friends! Or a life! None of which are true.
In the name of ~self development~, and in accordance with my therapist’s advice, I decided to give the finger to my inner critic by challenging myself to go on two self-dates.
Challenge One: Coffee and a Book
I chose to start off with something nice and easy. And unsurprisingly, my little cafe date went smoothly. The coffee was great. My internal monologue was preoccupied with the book’s plot, instead of doing its usual thing of entertaining fantastical scenarios and jumping to irrational conclusions. No weird looks. And no alarm bells that screamed ‘look at this sad loner!’ to the world were triggered either. Overall, a highly relaxing experience that left me feeling oddly cool and mysterious.
Challenge Two: Movie for One
I’ll be honest, I was feeling pretty nervous going into this one, even though it makes zero sense as to why buying a cinema ticket for yourself feels so strange. I watch films alone in the comfort of my bedroom all the time without batting an eyelid (no human should ever witness the feral monster I become when comfort-watching Before Sunrise or Pride and Prejudice). Rationally speaking, how is going to the movie theatre that much different?
Pushing aside my hesitations, I mustered up the courage to watch See How They Run. I had zero clue what the film was about, apart from the fact that Saoirse Ronan was in it—which sold me because I am an absolute slut for that woman.
The cinema was eerily quiet, which was unsurprising given it was at 12:40pm on a Sunday. But hey, I’m not one to complain about having popcorn and a choc top cone for lunch. As soon as I walked in, the man behind the counter greeted me enthusiastically, which took me by surprise. It also meant that I had to do that awkward little walk up to the counter, where you’re not quite sure whether to make eye contact, or look away.
When I asked to purchase a ticket, my two brain cells conveniently decided to both stop working. What was the film name again? My eyes furiously darted around, desperately searching for a movie poster to jog my goldfish memory. Fortunately, the guy knew what film I was after as it was the only one playing. He then proceeded to ask the dreaded question: “So, just the one adult ticket then?”.
I winced silently. Wiping my sweaty palms on the sides of my jeans anxiously and swallowing the lump in my throat, I forced the corners of my mouth up into what I hoped was a ‘I do this all the time’ smile. As nonchalantly as humanly possible, I ordered a small popcorn to go with the ticket, all the while ignoring my ballistic internal monologue. As the cinema attendant handed me the popcorn, he remarked that “it looks like you’re the only one who’s bought a ticket. Feel free to sit where you like”. Oh God. I’m going to be in an entirely empty cinema by myself? This is really testing my commitment to self development cause.
Before I could say something even more stupid and garner more pity, I hurriedly thanked the guy, and skittered into the vacant cinema. As I plonked myself into a middle seat, spilling some popcorn in the process, I couldn’t help but nervously laugh. Admittedly, it was pretty comical—me, a silly little girlie, sitting with my silly small popcorn and tote bag, enveloped by a massive swath of empty chairs and a big blaring screen.
During the film, even the stunning Wes Anderson-esque cinematography and witty dialogue couldn’t silence the intrusive thoughts. What if someone just popped up from behind and abducted you right now? Imagine the trauma the cinema guy would get when he’s sweeping up the popcorn and finds your dead body. That would be awful. It also didn’t help that the only thing I could hear apart from the film was the sound of me slowly crunching popcorn, a brutal ASMR-style reminder that I was utterly alone.
When the film credits eventually rolled, I was tasked with another mission— getting the fuck out, while drawing the least amount of attention to myself. Not sure how well I executed this. I just ended up bolting as fast as I could out the cinema doors, making sure to avoid eye contact with the guy behind the counter.
Once I made it outside, I sighed in relief. Well, that didn’t go horribly wrong. The film was great. Miss Saoirse killed it as per usual. No homicides were committed. And I got a free private movie screening—an absolute steal of a deal if you ask me.
In saying that, I did miss the element of being able to periodically commentate throughout the film with others, especially as someone that physically cannot stay silent while watching movies. Also, being petrified that someone could creep up behind me in the dark at any time was a little off-putting. However, that could’ve been remedied by sitting in the last row.
Would I do it again? I don’t think I haven’t levelled up enough in independent girlboss points to truthfully say that going solo is better than going with company. However, if there was a film I really wanted to see, and no one’s schedules lined up with mine, I wouldn’t rule it out as an option.
The Bottom Line: Nobody actually gives a flying fuck if you’re by yourself. Although I was losing the plot about what the cinema attendant thought of me in the moment, realistically speaking, he was probably thinking about what to eat on his break, or how itchy his balls were. Most people are self-absorbed narcissists who wouldn’t even notice your alone-ness. In the rare chance that they do, they’re likely wishing they had your courage and confidence to hang out with yourself.
Finding comfort in being alone is truly a skill and artform that takes years to master. And for many of us, it’s still a work in progress, with many more baby steps and self-dates to go.