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I Do it Alone: The Movies

This is the beginning of a new series I'm embarking on with the help of some fine folks (like Ursula Wheeler, as seen below). There's some silly stigma about doing stuff alone, especially among women (I don't know why). This series is meant to demonstrate people can do cool stuff alone, and there's no reason to be scared or ashamed of being by yourself pursuing an activity you enjoy. In fact, it's kind of empowering.

Welcome to "I Do it Alone." 

I Go To Movies Alone
by Ursula Wheeler


Well not quite like Alicia in the "Crying" video. Kinda creepy in retrospect.


When I was a freshman in high school, I went to a movie by myself for the first time. I made a night of it--the movie theater was in the mall, so first I stopped at JCPenney and bought myself a new tank top (it was covered in one of those early-00s patterns of fake French newsprint). Then I purchased a ticket to Bruce Almighty, and settled in for an hour and 41 minutes of Jim Carrey antics. I don’t know if it’s worth noting that my mom both dropped me off and picked me up for this excursion.


Sitting in the theater before the house lights went down, I made a big show of looking around, as if I were watching for a friend who was supposed to join me. If I’d had a cell phone at that point, I’m sure I would have pretended to check it several times. I had a sense that I was doing something mildly appalling.


But even with my discomfort, I felt pleasantly brazen and daring. No one had wanted to go to the movie with me, and I’d decided to go anyway (I really, REALLY wanted to see Bruce Almighty, for reasons I can’t remember). This was simply Not Done. What kind of loser goes and does fun things alone? is a common sentiment in high school of which I was painfully aware, and I was proud of myself for thwarting convention. To hell with all of them, and so on.


Roughly 15 years later, I still go to movies alone. This stems largely from practicality. My husband does not care for movie theaters (or for most situations that involve sitting in a large, dark room surrounded by strangers), so my main partner-in-doing-things is out. I could ask someone else, but that involves a decent amount of planning and foresight. If I decide, at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon, that I’d like to head out and see a movie, I’d rather just do it than text a bunch of friends, all of whom will probably have other plans.


This works better for some movies than others, of course. A comedy or a horror movie is almost always going to be better with someone you can laugh or scream with. But a drama is wonderful to watch by yourself. Recently, I saw Hidden Figures alone in the theater near my place. Both the beginning and the end of the film had me in tears, a reality which I was happy not to have to talk about with anyone. Afterwards, I walked home in the dark, feeling warm and enraged and inspired all at once by this perfectly lovely film, relieved not to have to synthesize my reactions to a companion.


After all, seeing a movie with someone doesn’t bother me, but the aftermath frequently does. I always feel so much pressure to SAY SOMETHING, in those weird few minutes after a movie ends and you walk outside, readjusting to the world. Perhaps I’m with someone who I know has just been much more emotionally manipulated by the film than I was, and I’m primed to be annoyed by all of their feelings. Perhaps I’m with someone who is much smarter than me, and I’m stunned into silence, knowing that whatever reaction I have to what we’ve just seen will not be enough for them. Perhaps I’m with my dad, the person I actually do see a movie with on a semi-regular basis, and he is the most stoic and emotionally withholding man in the universe, so he’s not saying much, and what do you even do with that?


Or maybe that’s all just me. Either way, it’s better to go alone.


Going to the movies by yourself is both extraordinary and not. It’s easy to put on pants and walk out the door and say “One ticket, please,” to the booth attendant, and it is not easy to do so without any second thoughts. I would like to tell you that these days I am completely confident and free when I go to a movie alone now, the way I wasn’t in high school, but of course that’s not true. Of course I have lingering doubts. I am self-conscious. Instead of contraband soda and candy, I stow a stress ball in my purse, so that I’ll have something to occupy my fidgety fingers during the show. I feel clammy and weird, but also?

Also I really, really want to see this movie. The seats are deep and comfortable. The lights go down. The show is starting.  

Ursula Wheeler is a high-strung creative type living in Chicago. You can find her on twitter or at urspostrophe.com, where she blogs sporadically about pop culture, politics, and anxiety.

Interested in contributing to this monthly series? Please contact Britt.

Comments

  1. Ursula I can't get over how good of a writer you are. Never change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *heart eyes emoji* I was just coming over here to get a link so I could promote this on my personal blog (better late than never, I guess?) and just saw this! Thanks, again.

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  2. Tried reading this on mobile and it's black text on black background.

    ReplyDelete

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