Diary of a Professional Teen is a weekly column of #deep thoughts by twentysomething teenager and youth expert Taylor Trudon, where she’ll talk about her feelings in relation to what it’s like to be a Young Person in 2017.
Two weeks ago, I finally saw a movie by myself. It only took 27 years, but I did it.
For some people, taking yourself on a date to see a movie is a treat. But if you’re an anxious, over-thinking, everyone-is-looking-at-me type of person, it is a squirm-worthy, inconceivable idea. I’ve always prided myself on being independent, and I actually enjoy spending time alone. I’d rather be at home eating pizza and watching reruns of The Office in bed than at a party. I don’t mind sitting at a coffee shop with just my laptop. I like taking long solo hikes where I have entire conversations with myself. In my head, I am a strong, outdoorsy warrior like Cheryl Strayed, braving unpredictable weather conditions while thinking deep thoughts about life. The reality is, I’m at the park surrounded by couples in Lululemon. But I don’t feel weird because it’s socially acceptable for me to hike by myself. Once I’m outside the park ... not so much.
Like a person who’s obsessively counting calories, I separate activities into “good” and “bad.” Sitting in coffee shops and going on hikes alone are in the “good,” more-than-acceptable category, similar to kale and quinoa. However, things like going to a concert or dining at a restaurant with cloth napkins alone would be akin to eating cheese fries. If you’re on a diet, you just can’t eat those fries, no matter how appealing they may be. Allowing yourself to consume even a single unhealthy snack can seem like a dangerous thing to do.
Every January I make a list of New Year’s resolutions, and every time I tell myself that this year will be the year that I go see a movie by myself. That I will go to the theater on a Sunday and sit toward the back, eating my popcorn and licking the salt from my fingers in the dark. And then once the credits start rolling at the end, I’ll quickly and quietly slip out the door. But I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it. Going to the movies alone has always been something I fantasized about, but in my brain, it remained in the “bad,” off-limits zone. Why?
It’s because I know I care what people think. Not in the people-pleasing kind of way (that’s another diary entry for another time), but in the judgmental way. Why is that young woman sitting alone? Does she have no friends? Is she waiting for someone? Did she get stood up? Truth is, most people are too self-absorbed to make these observations. I already know that people are too busy dealing with their own shit to care why I’m sitting alone, but that won’t stop me from wondering if they’re wondering about me. And I hate that. I hate that it bothers me because I know that it shouldn’t. I don’t want it to bother me, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.
What I want is to be the confident, gives-no-fucks woman who walks into a movie theater, head held high, and purchases an oversized bucket of popcorn with no intention of sharing with anyone. I want to go to a concert, regardless of whether or not a friend will be able to come with me. I want to go out to eat and have the waiter clear away the second set of plates and silverware because no, no one else will be joining me, and I don’t need or want anyone to join me. I want patrons to look over at me and think, Look at that badass woman sitting by herself sipping a glass of wine. I bet she runs shit. I want to take a vacation in a new city where my only companion is Google Maps. I want to have these experiences not just to prove to myself that I can, but because once you can get past your own discomfort, it’s actually kind of nice to do something for yourself, to not need the permission or the company of anyone else in order to do something special, no matter how trivial.
So I take baby steps. I went to the movies by myself on New Year’s Day, like I was attempting to set the tone for the entire year. I purchased my ticket online in advance to make it harder to back out. I didn’t sit in the back, hiding; I sat in the middle where I could see. Waiting for the movie to start, I realized that I didn’t feel insecure or anxious like I thought I would. When I looked around, I noticed that no one else was looking at me. So I took a deep breath and leaned back in my plush chair. And while I didn’t stay until the very end of the credits, maybe next time I will.
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