Disclaimer: Before I go into any detail, I want to preface this article by reminding you that these are my experiences (and those of the people I’ve referenced). I’m not trying to speak for everyone here, but I believe this is a valid problem that exists in society so I wanted to address it.
First and foremost, thank you so much to everyone who interacted with this tweet. I wasn’t expecting such an amazing response! Interestingly, I did receive a little backlash to this with people thinking it wasn’t an issue at all and I should write about something else instead. But I’ll tell you what I told them; just because you haven’t experienced something yourself doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for some. You can apply that to pretty much anything.
As humans, we can be pretty judgemental and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. If you told me you’d never said a bad word about anyone in your life, there’s no way I’d believe you.
We have a bunch of preconceived notions as society that we’re expected to always follow, for fear of being mocked, and one of these is the idea that solitude is a bad thing. It makes you a recluse, a loner, someone with no friends. Why would you want to spend time alone when you can spend it with others?
The answer to this is simple:
THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING ALONE.
In fact, solitude is healthy and important. For introverts like me, social interaction is a draining experience and you need to go away and recharge, like a mobile phone. Your phone can’t function 24/7 and neither can you. And yet, people expect us to do so. People expect us to have social plans all the time, otherwise we’re seen as loners. It’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me.
So what’s this got to do with the cinema? Well, for some reason this expectation that we have to be social creatures all the time has extended to sitting in a darkened room not talking for hours. Yeah, try to explain that one. If anyone started talking to me extensively halfway through a film, I’d throttle them. Why do we need to have someone sitting beside us the whole time?
Much to my dismay, I still get funny looks or snide comments whenever I say I’m going to the cinema by myself. Here’s an example of an interaction:
“I’m going to the cinema tonight.”
“Oh cool, who with?”
“Oh. Didn’t Josh want to come with you?”
“No, he’s busy.”
“What about [friend’s name]?”
“No… it’s not the kind of film they’d like.”
“Oh okay. Well I’d never go to the cinema alone, it’s kind of weird.”
That’s nice, I didn’t ask for your opinion but okay.
In all seriousness though, it’s not that I don’t like going with other people. Josh and I both have Limitless cards and use them together frequently. The beauty of the cinema as it can be enjoyed alone AND with others, which is something we should be celebrating.
Since setting up Lucy Goes To Hollywood, I’ve found myself going to the cinema alone more often, mainly because I want to get reviews out quickly. Sometimes I have no choice but to go it alone, if I get a press pass that doesn’t allow a plus one. Sometimes I’m at a festival. But regardless of my reasoning, I always have a great time and it allows me to switch off and relax.
Truthfully, a lot of this stigma and fear comes from the ‘what ifs’, and as someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, I completely understand the way the brain overthinks. I really do. We develop fears and anxieties over the smallest of things, which can severely impact our everyday lives.
Jeff from At The Flicks spoke to me about his own experience fearing going to the cinema alone, based on a somewhat irrational fear. Here’s what he had to say:
When I was a child, I saw a TV show in which someone was murdered in a cinema. It give me a real phobia about going to the cinema alone. There were many films I wanted to see, but I had to always talk someone into going with me or tag along with a group of school friends. When I really got into cinema at 15, I knew I had to break this phobia. It took a while and to be honest, was really scared to confront it, but eventually I beat it. I am very pleased by that. I love going to cinema with friends however I have no problem going alone for the last 40 years.
In my experience, most of the physical weird looks or questions come from people in the office, people at home, that sort of thing. @WhittyStuff on Twitter was kind enough to share his own experience on this kind of judgement with me:
[My parents] think it’s a very isolating experience for me, and never mind the years and years that I’ve been going alone, they always ask who I went with and when I respond with “nobody” they give pitying glances as if I didn’t choose to go alone of my own accord. People have their hobbies, people play football, people go to groups and clubs, people play games, I just happen to enjoy going to the cinema and then writing about it in enthused solitude afterwards – but I suppose it’s something that they may never fully understand.
However, there have been situations where the fact I’m alone has been commented on in the venue itself. I can remember when I bought my ticket for 127 Hours alone and the cashier said something along the lines of “Oh, this film is really gory, are you sure you want to watch this by yourself?”
First of all; I’m the girl obsessed with the Saw franchise so I’m pretty sure I can handle it. Second of all; are you just assuming this is ‘too much’ for a woman on her own? Oh please. This isn’t the only time a cashier has commented on this, but it’s the one that bothered me the most. I’m not sure if this is a gender issue or if this guy was just a complete dickhead, but it’s annoying that I let his comment get to me. It put me in a pretty bad mood for the rest of the day.
Have other cinema goers commented on this too? Yes, once or twice. I once had a group of guys sit behind me just to make horrible comments and laugh at me for being ‘lonely’. One of them even threw popcorn at me. Thankfully they didn’t follow when I decided to move.
A lot of the time, people don’t seem to think before they speak and I completely get that, but it’s a big part of the problem. It’s something that shouldn’t even be commented on at all. We should have the freedom to enjoy whatever we want to do alone, without fear of judgement.
I hope this article inspires you to go to the cinema by yourself if you haven’t already. It’s important to not let other people’s comments bother you and if anyone says anything, that says more about them than it does about you. Try not to overthink things and expect the worst and I guarantee you, the more times you go alone, the easier it becomes. I know the examples I’ve used aren’t very pleasant, but there’s no guarantee this will happen when you go, it’s just something I’ve personally had to deal with.
If there’s someone you know who judges you, maybe show them this article. They could learn a thing or two about solitude, and perhaps it could help to change their outlook on life. At the very least, maybe it’ll shut them up.