A few years ago, when I lived in Cork, I was bored of a Saturday evening, so I took myself down to the cinema for a little ‘solo date’. It being a Saturday, it was busy, so I was glad I got there in time and beat the queues. So in I went to see ‘Ali G In Da House’ – well I did say it was a few years ago! – and settled into my seat armed with my movie munchies happy out.
So the cinema filled up rapidly, and it was almost a full house. The seats in my row were full except for one next to me. Slightly embarrassing. It seemed to highlight the fact I was there by myself. I thought to myself, once the lights die down I won’t feel like as much of a freak. But worse was yet to come. About five minutes before the lights went down an usher arrived in with a couple who were late, so he started scanning the cinema for seats. They made their way to my row, which was a pretty good row view-wise, because I’m a seat nerd when it comes to these things, and the three of them just stood there, looking at me. They did the Irish thing where they didn’t actually say anything, but engaged in a pantomime of maths and seat arranging, where they looked at themselves, counted two people, looked back at the empty seat next to me, counted to one, looked back at themselves, counted two again just to be sure, then looked at ME, etc etc…
It was as if all the house lights went down and a spotlight came on, shining on this little silent interaction. I would call it a Mexican stand-off but there would have been actual words in that. Their pointed gaze and mental maths did nothing except piss me off. So I ‘Irished’ them right back, pointedly ignoring them, focusing on whatever exciting event caught my eye in my popcorn. In the end, they had to split up to get seats. Controversial? My answer is a resounding NO.
Now before you think I’m a selfish bitter old maid of a yoke who just wants to squash the dreams of young lovers, take a moment. I was there on time, I picked my seat and sat back to enjoy the movie. They came in late and then expected me to get up in front of a packed cinema and leave my hand-picked seat (I have an OCD about those things) and do a walk of shame to whatever leftover neck-breaker of a seat was left in the front few rows. And why? Because they were a couple and I wasn’t.
To be honest, even if they had done the decent thing and maybe asked discreetly if they could trouble me to move so they could sit together, I honestly don’t know if I would have obliged. I had the choice of the Solo Walk of Shame, or staying seated because I had as much of a right to be there in a seat of my choice as they had. Just because I chose to go on a ‘solo date’, I was in the firing line. I blame the cinema. They need to review their seating layouts.
I just wanted to share the story because I was out to dinner recently with mammy dearest, and I got to thinking about how weird it looks when you see someone eating by themselves in restaurants. It’s not very often you see it, but when you do, it seems odd. But stick business clothes on them and they’re just grabbing a quick bite because they’re oh-so busy. Put them in normal clothes and the picture doesn’t work as much.
I’m someone who hasn’t got mad love for the general public as a whole…specific people – love them. An unnamed mass of humans – rise up out of me and leave me alone. However, I do venture out beyond the realms of Facebook and Twitter sometimes, and I have to admit, I do like going to the cinema by myself, whether I’m single or in a relationship. Also, being at the movies isn’t really a talking activity. I like watching a movie completely unprejudiced by someone else’s opinion, and when it’s over I don’t have to have an immediate reaction to what I just watched.
However, since that incident in Cork all those years back, I find myself allergic to the idea of a ‘solo date’ on traditional date nights like Friday or Saturday, even though I’m entitled to go when I want; as far as I know my tainted dirty single money is as much legal tender as those paying for two. Going out by yourself is absolutely fine, and quite enjoyable. More people should do it. The rest of us should get over our discomfort at seeing people out by themselves, be it to watch a movie or to grab something to eat. Moreover, don’t penalise ‘odd’ people who choose to take themselves out for a night on the town, and appear to upset all the cinema-seat shaped apple carts made for two by sitting alone. It’s not creepy to watch a movie alone.
Unless you’re an old guy who brings a newspaper for company to see Twilight: New Moon. True story. Now that’s just creepy…