The art of going out alone

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Photo by Fukuchi – http://www.panoramio.com/user/5038356?with_photo_id=41544435

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What does your Saturday night consist of when you are going out for a few drinks?

Meeting some friends, going out with your girlfriend/boyfriend, pub crawling with college classmates, or going out by yourself? Chances are most people won’t do that last one, they can’t understand the point (or so i have discovered in the last 8 or so years that i have been pioneering this option)

When you go out with a few friends to a bar or nightclub you go out as a group with a pack mentality of collectively doing the same thing. The group enters, the group orders drinks, the group goes to the smoking area, the group goes to the dance floor; you’ve come out to be together, so you stick together. It’s a good system in many ways, because you will never be short of social interaction and that interaction will nearly always be with someone who is comfortably familiar with you in the first place. It can be a bad system when the group you are socializing with isn’t exactly on the same page as you or another person in your group; E.G. when the majority of the group want to go to a particular place that you may not like, but you invariably go along with them for the sake of not being left alone with no one to drink, talk, smoke and dance with.  But, if you have ever spent the night out in a club by yourself, and you can overcome the paranoia that you may be perceived as a loner or weirdo, you’ll realize that when you only rely on yourself to make your own entertainment you tend to have a more interesting time.

Let me digress.

I was never the kind of person who liked to be out by themselves. It can be an uncomfortable vulnerability. Even if you are just waiting for your friends to come back from the the bathroom, you can feel that temporary disconnect from the rest of the club that you are in. People, by nature, do not want to be singled out in a larger public collective. It’s always easier to be seen in a group. So, what makes someone want to defy normality and go out alone?

For me it started as a mistake. It would have been around 2006 as far as i can remember and i had been in a routine of meeting up with two other friends every single Saturday of the year. It was a given that i was going to just message them that day and go out that night, however, this particular night i had forgotten that they were gone to the Creamfields festival. I had drove in to the city by the time i realized this and didn’t feel the need to; a) drive all the way back home to the countryside, b) miss any potential Saturday night excitement that seemed important in my life back then. I came to the conclusion that staying in the city and going out alone was more productive than going home and sitting in a room alone. It was logically sound, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like people would think i was somewhat odd for standing around, not talking to other people, smoking by myself  in a corner and drinking Lucozade (I still had to drive home after all) But i dared myself to do it, even if only as a once off experiment.

That first night of solitary anti-socializing was riveting. Even though i was going to the same venues as i usually had done, i spent more time scanning the room and observing the form of other groups of people that i never would have paid attention too i had i been hanging out with others. Sure, i felt uncomfortable at first, but i had a method that never kept in one part of a club for more than 10-15 minutes so that i wouldn’t look like a guy who was lost, lonely or leering.

I would go to the bar and order a drink, i would spend a short time there as i paid and took a few sips. Next move was to the downstairs smoking area of this particular club. Light up and see whats going on around me. Cigarette done, i would then move to the first floor of the club and if needs be order another drink, if not, check my phone and survey the madness till i needed another drink. Go to the bar, order a drink, take a few sips, and then go to the upstairs smoking area. This was one full round of the club. My thinking was; you can stretch anywhere from 30-60 minutes out of a round, depending on how quickly you drink and your patience for standing solitary in a bustling place. Then you had the option of doing a second round, half round (which was just the downstairs) or leave and start another round in a different club. This might sound a little OCD, but when you are out by yourself time tends to go a hell of a lot slower than when you are with a group. You may think that you’ve been at a bar for 30 minutes only to find it’s really been 10 minutes. As a result i had to get my head around the concept using my time more wisely since i wasn’t spending it on or with anyone other than myself.

This is the next big advantage to going out alone. You choose when you leave. When you feel like the club your in is getting boring or you’re not digging the music, you can just get out of there and go somewhere else. It’s not as straightforward as that when you have to confer with your friends about if they want to leave, or if they’ll leave once they’ve finished their drink, or if they’re going to get another drink and then think about leaving. All the decision making is in your hands and you don’t have to wait on anyone. It’s the empowerment of individuality.

Since that first night of experimental solitude i have become a much more natural recluse. I no longer tether myself to the “rounds” system and just enjoy the moment of what is going on around me instead. Every now and again it may be useful when you’re in a venue that’s not as busy as you were expecting, but the as time as gone by, it’s been a lot easier to not give a shit about what people may think of the man smoking in the corner. It even led me to venture to other cities and towns where i would spend a night or two just exploring the nightlife, alone. Which resulted in some of the most brazen and humourous encounters, including sitting to eat some Supermacs with a gathering of winos in Eyre Square at 4am. Treat your life as an adventure, you’ll have fun.

You still may not be convinced, so let me help breakdown the code of what makes it a more comfortable experience.

 

1) Know where you are going

It helps to know the bar you’re going to go too. This counts for both the layout of the place and the clientele. Familiarity is comforting, but not necessarily essential. If you decided to go to a bar where you know the staff and other regulars, who’re kind of cheating. It’s about throwing yourself in to the deep end. Even though you are out by yourself, there is always a partial goal of talking to someone you don’t know.

 

2) Know when you’re going out

If you are used too going out for a drink with a group of people at around 9pm on a Saturday night and staying out till the clubs close, you can’t apply the same time structure to going out alone. You can, if you are a much older man who just enjoys sitting at the end of a bar chatting to the bartender about the days sports fixture. But if you are venturing out for the night by yourself, i’ve found it better to aim for a later time. Going out around 11-11:30 suits the solo drinker much more. Your head will be a bit clearer when going out later, and that’s always an advantage.

 

3) Don’t drink too much

Your limit for drinking should be lowered when you go out alone. Never aim to get destroyed drunk by yourself, in private or in public. When you get sauced up with other people it’s easier for the group to manage someone who is a clumsy drunken mess. This is clearly not the case when you are drinking alone. Also consider how drunk you will be when you are leaving to go home. If you don’t take taxis, walk the safest route home.

 

4) Try not to look lost and try not to look at your phone too much

This ties in to the idea for public paranoia. The thinking that people are looking and talking about you because you are standing by yourself. Try not to look lost, or make it seem like you are waiting for someone to arrive. The compulsion to avert your field of view from the club your in to your phone and social media apps is tough. But if you spend the night checking Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and never looking around to see what’s happening, then you may as well have stayed at home. Take in your surrounding, observe the world go by. You are bound to see the things that no one else will.

 

5) Engage with the random people who talk to you

People will notice you. It’s a fact. The majority will breeze on by without thinking too much of the solitary stranger, but their is a strain of person that will want to know what your story is. These are the people you want to talk too. Many’s the time i’ve had spontaneous conversations with absolute strangers, simply because they noticed me by myself, and approached me to ask me who i was and why i was on my own. These curiously inebriated drifters of the night are everywhere. In some cases they will even invite you to come and stand with their group to have a conversation they most likely won’t even remember in the morning. It’s fun, embrace it.

 

6) Embrace spontaneity

As an extra note to the above point; Don’t fear the possibility of the unknown. You may get invited to have some shots, to go to a house party, or get dragged to the dance floor to flop around with other uncoordinated club goers. You can’t be too conservative, remember to tell yourself; “Fuck it!”

 

7) Posture

Yes, posture. Body language talks louder in a crowded scene than you can imagine. People are highly superficial, it’s not their fault, it’s evolution. We are wired to judge all books by their cover, even if only on a minor scale. When someone does spot you hanging out by yourself, smile. If you awkwardly glance back to them with a dumbfounded expression, you loose your air of mystery. Confidence is mainly perceived non-verbally to strangers, so get to know the comfort of your own skin.

 

8) Don’t sweat it and you won’t regret it, it’s not for everyone

People won’t understand. Those who i have talked to and explained my love for going out alone usually respond with confusion. They can’t decipher how anyone could have fun with such an isolating move. If i may be honest, sometimes it can be hit and miss, but this is true of any Saturday night no matter how many friends you go out with. And, i can completely understand people not wanting to socially isolate themselves in public, it’s not in their nature. If you try it and hate it, leave it. But whether you see yourself as an introvert or extrovert, you can build a stronger mentality by training yourself to be at ease with yourself.

Photo by Dan Freeman http://followgram.me/danfreemanphoto

 

So that’s more or less my scope on the situation. Don’t see it as a way to make yourself a social pariah, see it as a strengthening technique. Take a risk and see where your night will go. Maybe even start out with a half night; Plan to meet your friends later in the night and spend the first few hours exploring solo. And even if the whole idea is too painful and absurd to you, think of this; The next time you are out and you see that person who is clearly by themselves, just say “Hi”. Because all it takes is an introduction.

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Update: I’ve noticed that there are actually a lot of blog entries online with the same title as this one, covering the same topic. They might be worth investigating as i am approaching this post entirely from my own experience. But it would seem that some of the points i made here are fairly universally

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