I’ve never been the bar, concert, or club type. Covers and drinks are overrated, and there’s nothing that annoys me more at a concert than the “Doors Open” time versus the “Set” time. If the "doors open" at 8, then why in the fudge can’t the show start 15 minutes later? I’ve got work in the morning!
Movies are reliable, relatable, can spark healthy debate, and provide just enough escapism that life doesn’t seem so bad. Who wouldn’t want to share that with a friend, preferably one who can keep their mouth shut as the plot thickens?
Before I moved to the Midwest, I always had a gal pal or two to call up and spend an evening at the movies with. We nodded approvingly through "Sparkle," scrunched up our noses at "Ruby Sparks," were flat-out mesmerized by "The Artist," and vowed to ride ‘til we die after "Bill Cunningham New York."
So after I unpacked my boxes, I started looking for movie-going friends. It's my thing. But my first few months were rough. Being the new kid, no matter how cool it seemed when you were 18, isn’t so fun once you’re an adult.
Then one day, I was given several passes to the local movie theater leftover after an office fundraiser. With a free ticket but no new friends I eventually got hooked on nights for one. Finally, in a time of crazy change, I’d found a place of calm and solidarity where snacking was encouraged -- my church, if you will.
I’d peruse the listings for whatever seemed funny or suspenseful. I don't do sad or violent movies alone because they make me, well, sad, and then I have to go home wallowing in that sadness with the fear that a killer might be hiding in my bathtub. I'd grab my sweatshirt, stake out a seat on the aisle and sit back. I shrugged my shoulders at "The Guilt Trip," laughed and reflected on love in a time of mental illness after "Silver Linings Playbook"; I aww-ed at “Wreck-It Ralph." I felt thoroughly entertained whether or not I hated or loved what I had just seen, temporarily escaping the perils of settling in to a new place.
By the time the passes ran out I actually had several cool and eclectic female acquaintances, all of whom were nice and accommodating and all "Let’s get together soon!" But once it was time for plans to be made I got the "I told Paul I wouldn’t see that movie without him" text or "On the way -- and Randall really wanted to go so I Invited him along too" reply, which made me all the more enraged. (A word of advice for my not-single ladies, there is nothing more uncomfortable -- or more inconsiderate -- than being made into a third wheel on the friend date YOU planned.)
It soon became clear that the movies needed to stay mine, lest I fall out of infatuation with them.
Solo silver screen time has turned out to be the perfect alone activity. You "meet" several new friends onscreen, you actually take in what they’re saying, and -- my personal favorite -- you’re on no one’s time but your own (miss the 7:30? No problem, I’ll go at 9). Dress up or down; bring a book to keep you company, or chat it up with your neighbors; and practice making "smize" with the leading man onscreen.
Interestingly enough, going it alone made me reflect on the empty seat next to me. After "Frances Ha," I realized I wasn’t alone in trying to put the pieces of my life puzzle together, watching Greta Gerwig pad around New York City like a puppy whose paws are way too big for its body. "This Is Forty," on the other hand, made me feel good about still having the option to make a decision on a moment’s notice, without worrying about what the kids or my spouse might have to say about it. Even the kiddos in "The Angel’s Share" figured out that no matter how complicated the hand of life, there’s a soothing reward on the other side.
So, as I move on to my next adventure in another new city, I’ve learned that no matter where I land I can always find a piece of the familiar in a dark room, with plenty of seats, and a big screen staring back at me. All it wants is my undivided attention, and that, I can give.