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21 Feb 2012

Alone At The Movies

A couple of years ago I would never watch a movie by myself. The very idea was appalling. Having to watch a movie alone meant that you had no one to go out with. In other words, it meant that you had no friends. If you've lived for a quarter century and had no friends, there was something seriously wrong with you. If you've lived in the same city during most of those years, and had no friends, you really need to be worried. In other words, if you went to watch a movie alone, it was time to stop and review your life.

One day, when I was alone at home and bored, I did it. The walk to the cinema felt like an adventure. Once there, I felt everyone's eyes on me. The voice in my head responded to each one of them with, "Yeah, I'm here by myself. Do you have a problem with that?" There was excitement coursing through me as I got down the stairs after the film ended, and walked home. I sent a text to my husband and called mum to tell them what I had done. I wrote to my best friend that I had been to the movies by myself. At twenty-something, going to the movies alone should not have been something to get so worked up about but it was. 

Now, if I had had no one to share that with, I would have been miserable. It goes back to the same theory about not having friends. You might as well be the protagonist in one of those romantic films, looking desperately for the right guy/girl to come along and growing miserable while you wait. Friendship is to us what falling in love is to the Western world. 

One fine winter morning, I arrived in Australia to start a new life. One of the biggest things about this new beginning was being alone. I had no friends. I knew no one. I assumed that I would make lots of friends at work. Everywhere I had worked so far, people had loved me. Imagine my horror upon finding that was not to be the case. While people would be friendly, making friends was not as easy as I thought it would be. I joined classes and I spoke with strangers. I remained alone. Everyone was nice but I had no friends.

I realized that I was on my own and I had better make the best of it. Staying home, reading books was one thing but I could not stay locked inside for ever. I had to get out if I wanted to make friends. Initially, I whinged to my best friend about not being able to make any new friends. He said to give it time, "Within a year, you will have lots of friends to go out with". I was horrified! Was I going to be alone for a year? 

I started going out by myself. I found that I enjoyed it. Being alone meant that I got to meet with lots of strangers. I could have conversations with people who shared similar tastes as mine and come away without any obligations. I didn't know the names of most people I spoke and a lot of times I didn't know what they did. It was just two people or a group of people exchanging a few sentences. It was almost always happy conversations. There were no emotions involved, no expectations. This was the a new kind of friendship altogether. The free games by the city council on Thursday nights were my favourites. I could play Chess, Scrabble, Jinga and I could watch others play. I didn't have to know anyone. I had a whole bunch of new friends every week. We played, we laughed, we had so much fun. Being alone and meeting new people was such an amazing endeavour. I began to enjoy it immensely. 

There were days when there were no games and there was not much happening where I could meet new people. I didn't want to go home and be alone. I decided the best thing to do was go to the cinema. That was an activity that didn't need any company. I could go by myself, choose a movie on the spot and watch it. I had the company of all the others at the cinema while, at the same time, I was by myself. It was like having the best of both worlds. Soon, it became the thing I did when I had nothing else to do. 

I bought a membership card at the cinema in town and it became my best friend. When I was sick, I could catch a movie. When I was alone and depressed, I would check out a new film. When there was a good movie playing, I could just hit it. When I felt like doing something and there was nothing else, I would head off to the nearest movie theatre. I am hardly ever disappointed. It's an escape and an entertainment. Now, I average at about a film a week. It has been over a year and I have plenty of friends. That means I don't always go by myself but there are days when I do just that. The time I spend by myself is my friend too. 

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