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Friday, 13 December 2013

Hanging Out Alone - loving Aloneness, not Loneliness

Get Out of The House
Yes, get out of the house - go shopping at some exciting new mall, go have a good brunch or tea at a much-raved about food haven, go catch the new play showing at Esplanade or go enjoy a good spa massage.

The first thing that most of us tend to do would be to call our partners, friends or cousins to accompany us, so that we would not be going out all by ourselves, yes?

Companionship is Much Desired?
Yes, of course!

With companions with us, we do not feel so weird being seen all alone. We have someone to talk to, to laugh with, and to offer opinions.

It is always lovely to have our partners by our side, to help carry shopping bags (oops), to tell us that the new dress compliments us, to share great food together, enjoying a romantic day all by ourselves having fun the way a couple should.

It is also always fun to be around friends who make us laugh, order multiple dishes to share together, to hang out with whether we are shopping, high-teaing, spa-ing, visiting museums or watching a movie. Friends understand us, and it is always enjoyable doing fun things together to relax, catch up and bond.

Trust me, I love the companionship of friends.

Time Alone
But there are times, we need some me-time, to hang out by ourselves, to get to know ourselves better, to have some personal space. I have absolutely no qualms at going out by myself, whether it is to dine, watch a movie, shop or visit art galleries.

Probably a huge part of it is due to training since college days? I used to cut classes on ad hoc basis, and hence am left to linger for hours on end before my part-time job commenced, or before I could go home without being questioned. Hence I would spend my time at museums, movie theaters or simply popping into a restaurant / cafe and enjoy some nice food while reading a good book.

Today, I still tend to do that, especially when I tire of socializing, of talking to people, or have impromptu impulse to do something (like, go out?).

Rachel*, a like-minded friend of mine who used to stay in Australia, shares the same feeling. She enjoys Saturday morning brunches alone, where she could read a good book and chat with other patrons in the cafe. "I like meeting people, and it is interesting to meet people who enjoy hanging out alone too; these are independent people!"

Exactly. Wherever we go, as long as we keep an open mind and approachable look, we can make new friends.

Also, I have absolute carte blanche to decide where to go, when to leave and the next destination. Sometimes, after popping by a cafe first to try their famously-reviewed coffee, I may pop by another cafe just to try their bagels. I do not need to seek anyone's agreement; I simply just up and go.

Pointers to Hanging Out Alone
Firstly, overcome the mindset that "only weirdoes or loners are seen alone". This is not true at all. There is nothing pathetic or weird about heading out alone - you have the time and the financial means, your friends are all at home breast-feeding, why can't you pop out for some fun or quality food?

Hanging out alone requires independence and a certain level of maturity. Have confidence that you look good and approachable; not cower behind the menu stand on your table afraid to be recognized by familiar faces. If you look at ease reading a book or simply enjoying your food even by yourself, trust me, you would be envied those who lack the courage to even try being independent this way.

Just for your information, lots of rich tai-tais (usually referring to married ladies with money to burn and time to kill) shop, go for spa or have high teas alone too.

Secondly, take the time to get to know yourself better. Hanging out alone gives us more time and space to think, to understand ourselves better. For instance, we may order our food a different way than if we have companions out. I certainly do - when out on dates I tend to order the smaller items so that my tummy would still remain flat after the meals; but when I am eating with friends or alone, I feel free to order whatever that whets my appetite.

While eating, take the time to observe other people, learn their table etiquettes or simply listen to their chattering.

Ponder over issues and do reflections over your brunch coffee, or read a good book in a lovely garden cafe setting. Who knows what new insight or inspirations you could come up with? I find inspirations at time for my writings, when hanging out by myself this way.

Thirdly, save yourself the frustration or headache from differing opinions. Yes, when you have a group of companions, there may be differing views on where to go or what to do. If you wish to go out on an ad hoc basis, ditch the pals. Just head there and eat, shop, view galleries - unless you want to do sports or other activities that absolutely require partners or companions.

Even for shopping, it is so much more fun to shop alone. If you are buying presents, only you know best what your friends like / need. If you are buying clothes, your opinions should matter the most, not friends' views. Furthermore, you may be able to discover some great sale or cheap finds that you usually give a miss to, whenever you are with friends.

Really, if you feel like watching that particular play or musical, and you cannot find someone who wishes to watch it too, just buy the ticket and go on in. At least you still get to enjoy the show. Waiting for friends to go, may even take weeks whereby the particular performance you wished to watch is finished.

Give hanging out alone a try. You never know what new, exotic places you may discover, who you may meet or what great buys you may come across.

The next thing I would love to try is to go travelling alone. Oh well, not somewhere dangerous or too far away, I guess, but maybe someone nearby or somewhere I have been to before. I would like to try the feeling of going places by instincts and not by planning, meeting other lone travellers, uncovering new grounds and trying interesting cuisine while learning about the culture of a new country - all by myself.

Remember, being alone is not lonely at all. How could anyone be lonely in a city inhabited by millions? And we still have our friends and relations. Enjoy aloneness, but not loneliness.

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