“Sorry, can’t make it to that thing you wanted to do tonight,
something’s come up.” – That One Flaky Friend We All Have
Behold: The one sentence that means I’m going to be spending
the night at home. Usually after multiple, steadily more
depressing attempts to get someone to come along to the
gig/party/anime convention I’d wanted to go to. Just me, the
contents of my fridge, and my fantasies of how amazing the
night would have been if only sodding Susan hadn’t decided she
was finally going to get her “weird foot growth” sorted. (It’s
a verruca, Susan. Just get some Dr Scholl’s like the rest of
Or at least it used to be, until I realised one blindingly
simple truth: I could just go alone.
Please don’t misinterpret this: I am a misanthrope of the
And by misanthrope, I mean socially anxious. I don’t get FOMO.
I get JOMO. Joy of Missing Out. I like staying in, watching
Dragonball Z and feeding my
phone cats. I love my friends but find socialising
exhausting, and people cancelling on me frequently sends a
frisson of joy up my spine that is unparalleled. Hurrah! A
night to myself without having to navigate the minefield of
social interactions! A brief reprieve from the smorgasbord of
ways to trigger my anxiety!
But there are also outside-world things I want to do. I don’t
mean things like walks in the park, or going for a bike ride –
we all know you can do that alone. I’m talking about things
people usually go to with people. A party thrown by
someone you know well enough, but also know will get a bit
bored of you clinging to their coat-tails all night. Concerts.
Various group activities. For years, I’ve been held back from
doing everything I want to do by the idea that I need a buddy
to go with me, lest I look like – what do the kids call it? – a
Except that’s bullshit.
Which many of you probably already know. I’m sure there are
hundreds of independent young men and women out there who have
been venturing out toute seule since they were first
able to clutch a beer bottle and lean nonchalantly against a
bar. But I am speaking here to the people who, like me, have
lived years constrained by the idea that they need someone with
them to go to things. And I’m here to tell you, going places
alone is amazing.
No one actually cares if you’re there alone.
Turns out, unless you are a high school kid who can’t pull off
a leather jacket and a brooding look, literally no one gives
two hoots if you turn up somewhere alone. Trust me, I would
know. I am constantly on edge in places where there are people,
checking to see if anyone’s looking at me funny. And I can
confirm: No one gives a shit. They’re all too busy getting on
with their own lives to care about that one person sat by
I would tell you that you shouldn’t care what other people
think anyway, but that would be hypocritical – I care deeply
about what people think. So, so deeply.
You don’t have to miss out on anything you don’t want to.
My friend group has an unusually high proportion of people in
creative, freelance work, which, I’ve discovered, is a potent
combination of working lots of irregular hours and having to
drop plans at a moment’s notice if work comes up (going to a
gig will never take priority over paid acting work). This means
that when there’s something that I want to go to, getting a
friend-date can be hard work. And even if I do find someone,
there’s no guarantee they’ll actually show up when it’s crunch
Over time, I got used to missing things I wanted to do, because
there was nothing more terrifying than having to go alone.
Until one day, hopped up on a few afternoon drinks
(day-drinking isn’t as frowned upon in my office as perhaps it
should be), I did.
I went to an event at a bar by myself, stared at my phone
screen a lot, got a little tipsy on free cocktails, and
eventually started to talk to people. It was shaky, and
nerve-wracking, but when I left I felt great about myself.
Since then, I’ve been all over the shop, completely alone.
Concerts, cinemas, cocktail tastings. No venue is safe.
It’s pretty freeing.
This is twofold. You have freedom to go to whatever you damn
well please, without having to rely on your friends’ schedules.
You also have the freedom to choose if you actually socialise
or not. You can watch the show, listen to the music, enjoy
whatever you turned up for, and, in any breaks, look intently
at your phone screen because dammit you DO have friends they’re
just all ONLINE. Or, if you feel like it, you can try to talk
to people. It’s totally and completely up to you.
As an introvert who gets drained by social situations, I can
now go to a much higher proportion of things I want to do, as
being out no longer means I have to be socialising.
And if you’re an extrovert, you can go make as many new friends
as you want. I’ll just watch you jealously over here in the
corner while scrolling through my Facebook feed for the 100th
It can help with social anxiety.
Let me just bust a popular myth about social awkwardness and
introversion: Just because socialising is exhausting and scary
for me, doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it. Sometimes I want to
stay home and eat marshmallow fluff with a spoon. Sometimes I
want to go out and talk to people. A lot of the time, I
desperately want to make friends but feel powerless to. And
then there are those rare, glorious, champagne-like days where
I feel like Holly Golightly’s more charming sister and will
chat to anyone foolish enough to wander into my path.
The one constant, however, is that when I go out with friends,
I will only speak to them, as there’s no motivation for me to
step outside my comfort zone. If we do end up talking to other
people, I will use my friends as a crutch and let them carry
But when I go out alone, it’s easier for me to meet people. I
can’t hide behind anyone, and there’s much more reason for me
to try to talk to people. And the more I strike up
conversations with strangers, the less terrifying interacting
with new people becomes, and the closer I get to unleashing the
Holly Golightly within.
It’s empowering AF.
I have wonderful, if sometimes flaky, friends. And doing stuff
with them is great. But so is doing stuff by myself.
And that’s what it comes down to. I don’t actively go to things
alone because I have to, or to make some point about not
needing anyone. I do it because I enjoy it, and I know that my
own company is enough for me.
So next time you decide not to do something because you’ve got
no one to go with you, please reconsider. I bet you’re way
better company than you realise.