Apart from the whole "paying bills" and "putting on noticeably different outfits every day" thing, one of the trickiest things I've noticed about being an adult is that it's way, way harder to find yourself a partner-in-crime. Unless you belong to a particularly affection-heavy workplace, adulthood comes with few of the forced-bonding scenarios (school, camp, cross-country bus rides) that make finding and making best friends so easy in adolescence.
This is not to say that I haven't made some great friends after college, both in San Francisco and in Chicago. I frequently am bowled over, in fact, by the quality of human beings I've been privileged to meet in the last three or four years. But whereas most of my bros in my teens and early twenties tended to be of the "two peas in a pod" variety, my friendships as an adult seem to involve a lot more planning ahead and/or complicated public transit schemes.
What all of this boils down to, essentially, is that when my roommate bowed out of going to see a Betty Who show with me last week due to illness, I faced the rather daunting prospect of dancing to a beautiful Australian electro-goddess's kickass beats all by my lonesome.
At first, I contemplated just ditching, too. The only friend I could find to come with me couldn't make it until eleven, which meant I would be spending a not-insignificant amount of time awkwardly doing my earnest head-nod at everyone in the vicinity.
But one of my resolutions upon moving to a new, beautiful city was to run at everything tits-up and mouth open, and staying home from a show because I was afraid of going by myself seemed to contradict that mission.
So I went. Alone. And had a blast.
I know, I know. Going to events by yourself can be terrifying. I am not one of those magical extroverts who seems at home in their own skin no matter the environment. But it's also a great way to make new friends, have an adventure or at least get out of your comfort zone a little. So the next time you're in a situation where you're trying to lone-wolf in room full of stranger-vixens, don't freak out and bail. Instead, try some of these tried-and-true (by me) strategies:
1. Put your goddamn phone away.
I'm definitely one of those people who immediately forgets what to do with their hands the minute they're not occupied. As a consequence, when I feel awkward -- as one often does when attending a party alone -- I instinctively reach for my phone as a guarantee that I'm not just going to raise my wrists to ear level and start doing some sort of bird of paradise-style jitterbug. And though I'm certainly not a proponent of the social-media-as-isolation-tool myth, there is something reassuring about being able to escape to the world of Twitter when I'm feeling itchy.
That said, with that security comes some degree of seclusion. Putting the phone away forces you to make eye contact with people, or actually find ways to occupy yourself that aren't within arm's reach. Sometimes this means actually striking up a conversation; sometimes it means just noticing a little detail about your surroundings that you can store away to incorporate into your burgeoning YA fantasy novel.
2. Bring a prop.
This only applies to certain situations, admittedly. It's not like you can persuade a miniature horse to hang out with you all the time. I find, though, that sometimes when talking to new people I suddenly forget how to make small talk and just stand there making panicky dead fish faces. In these cases, a conversation piece -- whether it be a kitschy accessory,unusual t-shirt, or magazine cover of One Direction that you keep on your person for emergencies -- can really go a long way. At the Betty Who show, for example, I brought a tube of glitter that I offered to new people whenever our conversation threatened to fizzle. Worked like a charm.
3. Admit that you're by yourself (to a safe degree).
There was a time, when I was a misguided youth, when I once decided to conveniently show up at the same bar as my favorite band's frontman. Thanks to the magically overshare-heavy nascent period of social media, said frontman had announced that he would be at a pub quite near where I was living in Australia, so I thought it would be fine to "happen" to "be there" too.
Usually, I do not have the best chances when it comes to celebrity-stalking, but this time I actually ran into the young gentleman quite soon after arriving. In my haste to not seem like the creeper I was, I reassured him that I was just waiting for a friend. And waiting. And waiting. Thirty minutes or so later, we were still chatting, and it was eminently obvious to everyone involved that I had, in fact, gone to the bar by myself to meet this guy. Weirdo. On. Deck.
Anyway, I have since come to believe that it is generally better to tell the truth than to get caught in a lie shortly after telling it. Thus, it's probably just preferable to shrug and say "I came here by myself" when chatting with strangers, whether or not they're famous. If you're really lucky, they'll say the same thing, and the two of you can hang out with each other instead.
(CAVEAT: Unfortunately, admitting you're alone can be dangerous. Use precaution and common sense, please, and do not leave with someone you just met if anything seems fishy. If necessary, text a friend to set an expected check-in time. Perhaps you might even share said check-in plans with your new companions. Just so they know you'll be missed.)
4. Say yes.
OK, not to everything. But the cool thing about going to events by yourself is that you can control literally everything. Want to hang around and try to meet the band? Hang around and try to meet the band. Want to order an entire dessert platter for yourself? Order an entire dessert platter for yourself. Want to finally try your hand at open-mic poetry? Girl, you know what I'm going to say. You are beholden to no one's curfew; you don't need to fear anyone reenacting this moment for your wedding someday. Take advantage.
5. Start slow.
Like jump roping or singing Blue Oyster Cult for money, going places alone takes practice. No matter how extroverted or shameless you are, there are certain situations that are just markedly better with a friend around. For me, going out to a sit-down dinner by myself is almost painful, no matter what Carrie said on the one episode of Sex and the City I ever saw the whole way through. The last time I did it, the server clearly felt so bad for me that she briefly sat down at my table to chat. Though I obviously loved this, it made me wonder just how lost and lonely I must have looked while hurriedly wolfing down my plantains.
On the other hand, going to shows alone, especially dance-heavy ones, has always been a pretty easy sell for me. If you feel uncomfortable, you can always scooch up closer to the front of the stage and pretend you lost the people you came with in all your moving and shaking frenzy. Or maybe going to the movies or a poetry reading alone is more your style. Whatever it is, pick one and do it until you feel comfortable moving up to the next level. Soon, you'll never need to associate intimately with anyone ever again!
6. Stick the landing.
I know I just wrote about how hard it is to ask girls out, but asking girls for their friendship is a totally different story. If you meet somebody and really hit it off, suggest trading numbers! (If necessary, do so while screaming "WE SHOULD TOTALLY BE FRIENDS RIGHT.") You both clearly liked this restaurant / party / girl band enough to attend it, so maybe you have other things in common, too. Then, the next time you feel inclined to attend a similar restaurant / party / girl band, you have a partner-in-crime to go with you.
Or you can just go alone again.
Kate wants to dance with somebody: @katchatters