Yesterday I had the experience of going to watch a movie alone, for the first time.
It was a big deal to me. And the fact that it was such a big deal, was annoying. I didn’t understand why I felt uncomfortable. I watch movies at home by myself, and I see films at the cinema with my partner all the time, so why did a combination of the two feel so unnatural?
(Image sourced from: http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/20/seriously-why-are-we-so-scared-of-going-to-the-cinema-alone-5445847/)
Another influence on the situation was that I work part-time at this particular cinema. So not only do I see my work friends going to movies by themselves, but I also sell tickets and popcorn to strangers who watch alone too. In my time there, I have served hundreds of alone cinema-goers, and never thought anything of them, aside from the occassional admiration of their confidence of being able to do what would scare me. Each shift I am surrounded by examples of this being okay and accepted, yet it was still something that was difficult.
Why are we so afraid, or more so, unwilling, to go to the movies alone? Does it come down to confidence? Ratner and Hamilton of the Universities of Maryland and Georgetown put this down to hedonic verses utilitarian activities. A hedonic activity is one where the purpose is fun, such as going to see a movie, as opposed to utilitarian where productivity is the goal. Utilitairan activites are what we engage in each day, without a second thought. I have no trouble studying alone in the library, or going grocery shopping by myself. However, the the idea of going into a big theatre, surrounded by people seemingly reveling in their togetherness, was a completely different story.
I felt as though everyone would be judging me, thinking that I had nobody who would want to go with me. I also felt as though my work friends would be judging me too.
Ratner and Hamilton found that it was both the degree to which an activity is considered hedonic, and the anticipated number of observers, that determine how uncomfortable we are doing things alone. For example, reading a book in a cafe seems less daunting than dining in an expensive restaurant alone, because then we believe that we have more of a valid “reason” to be there; to read the book. Furthermore, sitting in a quiet park alone would be quite different to being alone in a busy movie theatre. The concentration of anticipated judgement from surrouding people would be far less, and thus the activity would be less uncomfortable.
So why does all of this matter? Logically, I didn’t understand why this was such a challenge for me. I have come a long way in my recovery from various mental illnesses to know that quite honestly, people out in public really don’t care about you, let alone are judging your every move. We are always far more focused on ourselves. When I’m out and see people alone, I don’t think twice about them, or the fact that I may be with someone while they aren’t. I’m too engrossed in simply thinking, doing, being a functioning human, just as we all are. Yet these fears still predominated as I lined up to buy a ticket to the latest mystery sci-fi, Arrival.
I got a ticket and joked with work friends about our day. We talked about the movie, about the sales competition we are part of, about an upcoming party. It was all so normal, and no different to every other time I have been, but without someone by my side.
Going into the theatre was scary too. It was about a third full, and I nervously took my seat, convinced that the groups of friends and couples would already be whispering about me. As the trailers started, a few more people took their seats, and to my suprise they were each alone too. It was then that I finally felt like what I was doing wasn’t so weird after all.
Arrival was brilliant. I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to be interested in beforehand, but it was what I chose to complete this challenge with, and I am so happy that I did. It was beautiful, strange and sad all at once, with a few aliens thrown in there for good measure. It is definitely a new favourite.
As well as the movie, I had a great time. It was a better experience than I imagined it could ever be. It was really cool being completely engrossed in the film, and sitting in the dark all by yourself. I don’t really know how explain it, but it was refreshing in some way, and a good sort of different.
Of course I still love going to the movies with friends, my partner or family. I love discussing the plot, laughing together, and having someone to explain it to me when things get confusing. But now I’m pretty stoked that I can have a great time if it’s just me too.
Love & light,
Study referred to in: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/04/why-you-should-go-to-the-movies-alone.html