As I write this I am sitting in a cafe all on my own. I’m one cup of coffee down and am currently partaking in the ‘getting the waiters’ attention without looking like I’m trying too hard’ dance (it’s been going on for ten minutes and I’m all but ready to stand up, put my hands above my head and wave like a maniac because relying on my eyebrows and subtle head nod as a means of communication is clearly not working).
“Are you waiting for anyone?” I was asked when I first sat down.
A question that used to fill me with dread.
Er, well, no.. not right now. Not cause I haven’t got any friends or anything you know? I HAVE friends. No, ahaha, I really actually do. I’ve chosen to come here on my own. I wanted to. It was a choice. A GOOD choice. I could get a friend to come with me if I wanted to, I just didn’t want to. Don’t judge me for this. It’s cool. I’m cool. Please… believe me.
Not today though. Today I told my server confidently that I wasn’t, it was just me, on my own. (Bua’s with me but she’s more of an accessory than a companion as far as restaurants are concerned I think.)
So I’m sitting on my own, actually cry laughing to myself in the corner because I’ve just received a text from Alex with a brilliant autocorrect in it, but for the most part feeling, and hopefully looking, like a well put together, actual grownup who is fiercely independent and riddled with confidence and absolutely fine with the fact that she is on her own.
There are two types of being on your own, I think. There is type one: being on your own at home and learning to enjoy it and there is type two: being on your own out in public. I was not really okay with either. Now, I am happy with the first and working on the second.
Type one is about learning to love your own company, (and accepting that it IS possible to watch Teen Mom by yourself and that gasping when there is no one else to hear it is legit fine) and that might be a blog post for the future (let me know).
Type two is a confidence thing. It’s about walking into a situation without a friend to act as a safety blanket and being alright with that and that’s what I want to write about today.
Update on the cafe situation. I successfully managed to get the waiter’s attention, I didn’t need to put my hands above my head but I did need to include my mouth in the flurry of weird activities my face was doing as a way of attracting attention – the smile/grimace (- smirace???) worked and I’ve decided that I’m hungry.
So I’m about to be on a lunch date with myself. Ooh. How, great.
The idea of going out to lunch on my own is something I never thought I’d do.
When I was about 13 I would go to coffee shops with my friends (definitely because we saw it as a way to feel way more grownup than we actually were, never letting the fact that we didn’t like coffee stand in our way, we’d spend a fortune on hot chocolates with whipped cream and marshmallows, although with hindsight that probably gave the age-game away a bit.)
With only a very small amount of credit allocated to our very shit phones we would not waste our precious words working out exact times and locations, if one of us were running late, the other would be forced to conclude that by the simple fact that you didn’t arrive when you said you would.
If it were me running late my friends would wait for me in the warmth of the cafe. If it were my friends running late I would stand outside, come rain or shine, and wait for them there.
“Why didn’t you just go in and wait in the warm?” they’d ask when they arrived and were met with a shivering wreck cuddled into a ball, “I wanted the fresh air”, I’d lie.
What did I think would happen if I walked into Costa on my own? Oh. Any number of things!
- I would trip over the doormat when I walked in, flying across the restaurant, spilling the contents of my handbag (why did I have a handbag at 13? doesn’t matter) across the floor. A super thick and absorbent sanitary pad would probably land at the feet of a boy that I fancied.
- I would walk in not realising that it was a special book club that day and that members of the public weren’t allowed in and I would have to turn around and go after being asked to leave by everyone all at once.
- I would get up to the counter and the server would tell me that I was fat enough and I didn’t need another marshmallow (but loudly, over a tannoy probably so that everyone else would know it too).
- I would sit down on my own with my drink and then loads of people that I knew that all had friends would come in and they’d a) take pity on my and sit with me or b) point and laugh.
- I’d get my drink and then turn around to get a table but THERE WOULD BE NO TABLES so I would have to stand in the middle of the room and just drink it standing up and pretend that that was my entire plan the whole time and the exact reason that I came to the cafe.
Did any of these things ever happen? Stupid question. Of course they did not.
And yet unfortunately that fear was not something that I just grew out of. It’s something I have had to stand on my full tippy-toes, stretch my arms as wide as I could, jump up and down and squish myself out of.
I always aspired to be the type of woman that would take her MacBook to her local Starbucks and share her musings with the world in a brilliantly off-hand-but-perfectly-passionate-way.
Please imagine my disappointment when I became an ACTUAL writer and realised that this was not nearly as glamorous as I thought it would be. Starbucks is a busy place and you will be thwacked in the back by about a million prams a minute and will probably end up leaving in a tantrum after a less than successful ten minutes.
Films portray Starbucks to be a quiet place of tranquility, concentration and creativity. The reality, I suspect, is that William Shakespeare would have been hard pushed getting Romeo & Juliet finished over the sound of four cappuccinos being made.
How I was going to get from ‘can’t go into a cafe on my own’ to ‘I’m going to make millions of pounds out of sitting on my own in a cafe’ I wasn’t sure.
Update on today’s cafe situation: I underestimated HOW busy this place gets at lunch time and I’m sitting relatively near the door. About 100 people saw me eating my weird chicken sandwich creation on my own. I did the thing that I always do when I feel awkward, stare at my screen and furrow my brow to indicate concentration and a total lack of shits to give about anything beyond myself, my screen and my sandwich (the title of my next book perhaps?).
No one laughed at me, no one pointed, no one jeered and I’m pretty confident no one has sat down at their table and whispered to themselves about my tragicness.
I didn’t really like eating in front of other people, that was always a big part of it too I think. I thought people would judge my food choices and, as a youth with no experiences of hospitality at all, I assumed all the nice, cool, good-looking, twenty something servers would all retreat to the kitchen, my order in hand, and have a bloody good giggle at table 13’s expense: did you see her? Yeh, the one that ordered two portions of chips and a milkshake? Oh you know the one…. it’s THE GIRL HERE ON HER OWN?!
And I think that might have been connected to vulnerability… stay with me here.
When you’re a bit insecure and you want the world to think you’re badass as fuck and not shaking with fear on the inside, you do everything you can to create a hard-as-nails exterior, or I did at any rate. I would march down the street, (I still sort of march down the street), headphones in, RBF out in force (although I’m working on that since my book came out and I dedicated an entire chapter to the resting bitch face and why we must banish it), I’m in the zone.
The no-fucks-given zone, the no-weakness-zone, the I’m-as-cool-as-a-cucunber zone.
But then, when the time comes to EAT, I show the world that I am human. I also show them, as anyone who has seen me around food will know, that a) I give a lot of fucks b) I have a lot of weaknesses and c) I can rarely keep it as cool as a cucumber (read: I miss my mouth a lot)… thus we ruin the facade of a girl with her shit together.
It’s the same with exercising. I was always frightened to exercise on my own too. If you think it’s hard to play it cool when you bring food into the equation, just you wait until a power plate arrives at the party.
Update on the cafe situation: I just received my bill and it was £30 for a sandwich, a DC and two cups of coffee. What was supposed to be a £7 sandwich turned out to be a £19.50 sandwich because of how they’d reconstructed it so I could have gluten free bread (I actually can’t eat it I don’t just enjoy being difficult at restaurants). And what did I do?? I COMPLAINED. I voluntarily made a scene in a restaurant which means writing this blog post is ridiculously therapeutic because look at me go being all sassy and self righteous and refusing to pay for a stomach condition because that’s.not.fair.
They’ve just amended the bill, FYI.
I didn’t want to do anything on my own. Shopping, eating, exercising. I didn’t want people to think I was sad or tragic or pathetic or all of those other things they would never actually think to think.
I had the self worth of a potato, I was awkward and uncomfortable and if I wasn’t hiding underneath my clothes, I was hiding underneath my friends (not literally, obviously…). I needed to show the world that I had friends. I had friends that wanted to do things with me. I had friends to do everything with me.
SoI lacked confidence. The confidence I needed to realise that no one, and I mean no one, gave a hoot about me.
No one cares when I walk into the gym on my own. No one cares that I sit by myself in costa. No one cares that I’m asking for a table for one. No one cares that I am in the park on my own or at the cinema on my own or even that I’m eating a Chinese buffet meant for six people on my own.
At worst, at the very worst, my alone-ness will be noted, but in a ‘oh isn’t that chick cool, hanging out on her own’ (because that is exactly what I think when I see people hanging out as a party for one).
At best, and as is likely time and time again, it will not be noticed, commented on, thought about. Not once.
As with so many things in life, other people don’t care.
And ya know what? Not only is it not feasible to live a life reliant on other people but having the independence to do whatever, whenever, feels chuffing wonderful.
Oh and the best bit about eating alone? There’s no one there to nick your chips. So, y’know… #winning.
FINAL UPDATE ON THE CAFE SITUATION BECAUSE YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHO TOOK THE PICTURE. AH YES. THE PICTURE. THE WAITRESS TOOK THE PICTURE. THE ONE I COMPLAINED TO. THERE WERE LIKE A MILLION PEOPLE AROUND. LOADS OF PEOPLE STOP TO STARE. DID I GIVE A FUCK? I DID NOT. (Although I did lie and say that my boyfriend was away and was really missing us so I wanted to send him a photo of me and the pup in a pretty place… lol… baby steps…)