Having fun as a party of one

This is the guide for not having your bubble burst when the person seating people at a restaurant looks at you — fabulous you, treating yourself to a brunch or dinner on the town, taking control of your Friday night or Sunday morning — and says, "just one?" 

Let's get something straight: there is nothing wrong with going to a restaurant, bar, cafe, tea shop, Burger King, whatever sort of dining establishment by yourself. You deserve to treat yourself, and if that means there's no one around who wants to go too, then you are fully capable and deserving of taking up that table space by yourself. (And who knows — maybe you'll make a friend who's out doing the same thing!)

It's okay to feel doubtful about this; especially on Super Bowl Sunday, you're probably seeing people in your networks shoveling way too many nachos or football-shaped cupcakes in their faces. I'm in Pats Nation over here in Boston, and I don't have any plans for a Super Bowl shindig aside from watching the Puppy Bowl in my apartment and cooking up a storm. (Going to the grocery store during the game may be the key!) But you shouldn't stay home because you don't want to sit by yourself. You truly can make being a party of one actually fun, building your confidence to go to more events on your own, increasing your chances of growing budding friendships along the way.

P.S. Hello new subscribers! We are now 400+ strong, and I'm so happy to have you all here. Want to refresh on the topics covered so far? Get to know Sown, learn about sustaining long-distance friendships, think about political empathy, and get tips on small talk (or skipping the small talk). And as always, here are the editorial guidelines so we're all on the same page!

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This is not just a you problem.

"How do I get over the weirdness of doing activities alone, like going to dinner by myself?"

This is what Gabrielle from Florida wondered in response to the challenge in the first issue. It's a valid question, but in fact, eating out alone generally isn't concerned too weird anymore. A reservation for a party of one is the fastest growing table party size, rising 62 percent in 2015. On top of that, OpenTable notes that (in Canada) the frequency of solo diners has grown by 85 percent in the past two years. And remember: getting out of your home and putting yourself in a position to interact with others is the first step to finding and building those friendships of the future, even if right now that just means people-watching and savoring your solo time out. 

"Suddenly ... dining out alone felt like a courageous act. Striking up conversation with those around her led her to feel much more connected to people in the city she was visiting than she'd ever imagined," described an NPR article about environmental journalist Simran Sethi's solo dining experience.

Maggie from Chicago — my grade school classmate! — wrote a powerful perspective about going out alone that she is graciously allowing me to share in this newsletter. (You can see more of her blog here.) It wasn't a simple task to overcome, as you'll see below. But once you start, it makes the next time, and the next time, and the next time easier. Maybe you'll even become familiar with the perks of being a regular.

I recommend bringing a book (why spend your "me" time scrolling on social media on your phone?), sitting at the bar or a side table, and making sure to tip well if you can. Don't feel pressured to eat a whole meal if you just want to read or people watch; sit at the bar and get an appetizer, drink, or dessert. Here are 20 solid steps for planning your dining experience, like pretending you're a food blogger or reviewer to take the perfect Instagram shot of your meal or imagining yourself as your Sasha Fierce alter-ego. Redditors share some tips here ("If you tip generously and don't mutter murder plans to yourself, the wait staff will be extra cool to you") too. Let's dig in.

Maggies and Mules

A year ago, if you would have told me I would dress up in all black, spend a good amount of time doing my makeup — complete with my favorite red lipstick — and go to a bar by myself, I would have laughed in your face... because a year ago, I was not in a place to be able to do something like this. I've blogged before about how much I have drastically improved within this past year, despite depressive and anxious thoughts constantly infesting my life; they're like cockroaches. Gross. {Shudders}

But this was the problem: last year, I was incredibly unhappy. I wanted to be happy, but it was hard, because I felt so empty, and I didn't know why. I knew that I needed to transfer back home (i.e. transfer schools) to try to get rid of this emptiness, but it was a lose-lose situation, because transferring home meant leaving behind all of my friends, thus making me feel even more empty. I didn't want to leave them, but I knew if I wanted the status of my mental health to improve, then I needed to pack up all of my things, say goodbye, and move home for good.....

Nonetheless, I am arguably SO much better than I was a year ago today. The Maggie from a year ago never would have heard the Old Dominion song, "Half Empty," and decided that she wanted to go to a bar by herself; the Maggie from a year ago today never would have been able to wear all black, including a black leather jacket, with dark makeup and red lipstick and walk into a bar without hiding behind anyone,

because the Maggie from a year ago today was so scared and unsure of herself, and her social anxiety never would have allowed her to go to that bar, even if it was with people; the Maggie from a year ago never would have stepped into that bar in the first place. 

However, last night, I put on dark eyeshadow and my new signature red lipstick (my mom has now started calling me "Lips"); I put my hair in a high ponytail; I put on my favorite pair of black (ripped!) jeans, a black sweater, a pair of black boots that I got for Christmas, and a black choker; I put on my black leather jacket, looked in the mirror and told myself I was a badass, and drove to the restaurant I used to work at with every intention to walk in there without any fear or hesitation, without any self-consciousness or reluctancy, without anything except sureness and confidence and positivity. I was going to sit at the bar by myself, order myself a drink, and avoid being on my phone too much.

When I pulled into the parking lot, though, a wave of nervousness hit me like a slap in the face, and for a minute, I considered just turning around and saying, "Screw it. It's fine." But within that minute, a lot of questions ran through my mind, the main two being: Would I be okay with not reaching my goal? What would have been the point of putting so much effort into achieving that feeling of badassery? 

If I decided to stay in my car and drive back home, I knew I would have been incredibly disappointed in myself, and my effort would have been a waste. So instead of giving up, I said, "F*CK IT!" out loud to myself in the most confident voice I could muster, got out of my car, and marched to the door, despite my heart pounding — despite feeling slightly nauseous. I was going to do this, even if I wasn't as sure, confident, and positive as I originally wanted to be. I was doing this, despite feeling slightly self-conscious, uncomfortable, and awkward. I was doing this. 

AND I DID IT: I sat at the bar and avoided being on my phone too much; the fact that all my old coworkers, including two of my good friends, kept coming up to me and talking to me helped tremendously — being in a familiar environment did as well, because I didn't feel (all that) uncomfortable. I ordered a Bud Light, my fave, and then a Tropical Mule (which included Lemon Liqueur; Jake Owen's Beach Whiskey, the Coconut kind; Ginger Beer, and limes... 10/10, highly recommend). While drinking the Mule, I realized something: 

I am a Mule, because by definition, a mule is a combination of different things, and I am a combination of different things – I am a combination of two versions of myself, because though I am still partially the Maggie that I was a year ago (I am still scared, lonely, sad, and lost at times), I am also a new and improved Maggie: this new and improved Maggie is way more confident and happy than the one from a year ago; today, I am able to laugh at myself and the silly mistakes I make rather than being too upset that I'm not perfect. As time goes on and my depression and anxiety keep improving, I know that confidence and happiness will become more of the norm for me.

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 🎉

"Do something every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Think about what is weird to you to do alone — going to happy hour by yourself, getting In-N-Out alone without bringing your phone in, savoring dinner without talking to anyone else, whatever — and do it. Treat yo self.

Have fun, party of one. 
Write back and let me know how it goes! And add these to your friendship toolkit:

Grow the Sow.

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