Peter McGraw invites Brandon Patrick and Christina Martinez into the Solo Studio to talk about doing things alone (in public). They discuss their perspective and experiences doing things alone, and Peter shares the results of a survey of attached and unattached people for an array of activities that you might do alone or with others in public. They finish by presenting tips to listeners who want to do more things alone.
Listen to Episode #108 here:
How To Do Things Alone
I invite guests, Brandon Patrick and Christina Martinez to talk about doing things alone. This is an important topic because put simply, not having a partner should not stop you from doing things you like to do. We discuss our perspectives and experiences doing things alone in public. I share the results of a survey of attached and unattached people for an array of activities that you might do alone or you might do with others in public.
We finished by presenting some tips to those of you who want to do more things alone. If you’re a member of the Solo community, the bonus material is back where we brainstorm activities for the forthcoming Solo challenge that will coincide with the launch of my book, whenever that may be. You can sign up for the community at PeterMcgraw.org/solo.
If you liked this topic, I would encourage you to revisit the series on Solitude, where I explore the overlooked benefits of spending time alone. Finally, please keep telling other proud singles about Solo. We are starting a movement. We’re changing norms and this episode might be a good nudge for someone you care about. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Welcome, Brandon and Christina. This is the first episode of a series about doing things alone, which we’re not. Subsequent episodes are going to be how to parent alone and how to live alone. We are talking in this episode about doing things alone in public. I talk a lot about transforming oneself from being single to being solo. I say that it happens when you embrace your autonomy and completeness, but I also believe that the transformation from single to solo has people embracing their sense of adventure.
This idea of living on their edge. That was an idea that came up in the show very early and I haven’t revisited it in a while. Doing things alone brings those two things together. The search for autonomy and embrace a sense of adventure. I’d like to start as two solos talking a little bit about your experience doing things alone, whether it be mundane or extraordinary. Christina, do you want to kick us off? You do things alone a lot.
I do. I travel a decent amount alone. I was on another episode where you talked about my van, but I have an old van that I’ve restored. I also have thrown a bed in the back and it’s allowed me to take off early for the weekend and not have to worry about setting up a tent wherever I get to. I get to explore Colorado a little bit more, which has been fun.
That’s @RusticRoaming on Instagram. It’s a wonderful account. You camp and travel alone.
One of my favorite things I’ve done alone, I started by accident because I had a friend that couldn’t come one night. I didn’t want to miss the show so I was going to concerts alone.
I’m so glad that you’re leading with this one because the entire reason I’m doing this episode is around the idea of going to concerts alone. I’m going to preview something. I did a survey of singles, 42% of solos say they’ve gone to a concert alone, which I thought is a surprisingly high number. I’ve gone to concerts alone but I thought I was an outlier. Brandon, you’ll enjoy this as a music person in the room. I went and saw the Wu-Tang concert alone.
I believe that. I can imagine you mid to front row having the time of your life.
I purposely went to the front row. I don’t normally do that. I like to sit back at concerts. It was super fun and it was fascinating to go to a concert alone.
That’s what happened to me. Maybe the number is so high because a concert is something you know is coming to town. You build up the excitement for it. You planned it and you know you’re going. For me, that’s what it was. I didn’t want to miss the band while they were in town. It’s not something else that I could go to another night. I ended up having such a great time. I met other fans around me that were excited about the same songs I was. I got to push my way to the front and stay in the crowd for the parts I cared about, and then get out of the sweaty mess.
What band was this?
I’ve done it for a handful. My favorite band that I’ve done it for is Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. He’s a little bit slower anyways, but it ended up being one of those experiences where you get to plan the whole night to turn out the way you want. I met some people and went to a bar with them. I didn’t have to do that but they were cool. I’ve seen some of them at other shows since then. I’ve done other shows where I haven’t made connections, but it’s been just as good of an experience.
Anybody who frequents here knows that I’m an active dater. I have ups and downs as you might imagine. I’m enjoying that period at the moment. I’m not a huge live music person but as you were saying, Christina, if there’s a band coming into town that I like, what I used to do is buy two tickets without knowing who’s going with me. When I’m having downtime, which is equally often, I sometimes find myself with two tickets and don’t have a date. I’m scrambling maybe to find a friend to go to or someone. This is pre-Wu-Tang.
My solution had always been I won’t go and I’ll sell the tickets on Craigslist. I think I have a new solution listening to you and it’s this. It’s to buy three tickets. You can invite people. You don’t make it date-like. If you can’t find the people, you go alone and sell the two tickets. It’s easier to sell two tickets because 60% of people don’t go alone.
You can advertise it. It’s like, “I’m going alone. Who’s up for a fun adventure,” and make another cool solo friend.
I like that too. Nowadays, I have many more degrees of freedom when it comes to filling my dance cart.
I agree with you. That situation I got into because I bought two tickets and assumed someone could come. The stars aligned and everybody was busy that night. Now, I’ll even buy one. I don’t mind going by myself.
I don’t know if this has to do with concerts, but it also has to do with sporting events and stuff. If you’re willing to buy at the door or buy from a scalper, you can get a killer deal on a single ticket oftentimes, especially when they are reserved seats. If your scalper has one that’s alone, you have much less competition for that ticket.
I don’t trust scalpers. I saw it on Kenan & Kel.
Do you trust people generally?
I trust everyone unless unregulated money is involved.
You watched Kenan & Kel in the ’90s and you’re scarred since.
That’s too bad because you’re missing a lot of pleasure in your life.
I believe it.
What about you, Brandon? Share an experience with us about something you do alone. You’re a traveling comedian. You spend a lot of time alone.
Not only alone but alone in places I don’t know. I don’t even know where to go after shows. I’ll find someone from the show and get them to take me somewhere or go to a party. Where’s the hangout? Going to parties alone are so great. You can leave. I love that ability. If it’s not fun, you can just leave.
There’s no obligation, that’s it.
There’s no friend that’s trying to get laid and you got to hang out.
If the party is good, there’s no friend trying to get you to go to the next party because they’re trying to get laid at the next party.
It starts at 5:00 because it didn’t happen at 4:00, and they couldn’t make it happen at 3:00. I was like, “Let’s go home.”
I love this idea because I have perfected the art of the Irish goodbye. For people who don’t know what the Irish goodbye is, it also goes by the Irish exit. You’re out with friends at a party or a bar and you want to go home. You’re like, “Christina, I want to go.” “No, just one more drink. Don’t go.” It’s a lot of peer pressure. I wait until people aren’t looking and then I’m out the door. My goal is to be in bed before they go, “Where’s Peter?”
This is a question and I want you to be honest. Once you’re in bed, do you send the text?
It depends on who I’m Irish goodbye-ing. If it’s my friend, Mark, no, I don’t send the text because he knows. If it’s people who don’t know that I do this, I send a text that says, “Irish goodbye,” and that’s it, so they know I’m alive.
You have all of the characteristics of a Batman villain except for the villainy.
Think of me as an anti-hero, not a villain. You go to parties alone. I didn’t ask that question, so I don’t have the data on that. These are parties where you don’t even know anyone.
In college, I remember I would buy from Taco Bell this little $20 taco meal.
I would be up talking to you. I’d be like, “Are those tacos for everyone?”
I always show up to parties and social situations late. By the time I get there, everyone is 2, 3 drinks in and I’ve got my tacos. In college, all my apartments were having different parties and you could just dig your thing, “My friends are having something that’s near here, but this looks more fun. How’s it going? I got tacos.” It’s great.
No one questions it. I wouldn’t. I’ll be like, “Here’s the guy with tacos, just come in.”
I don’t mean to diminish your Taco Bell, but the audience is a little more upscale to solo. What’s an alternative?
That was a young college-age thing. As I’ve gotten older, I’m bringing gifts. If we’re going to a party, I bring a gift. It’s never a bottle of wine because that’s the gift everyone is going to bring. Not a cake. It’s either a book or a record. Something tangible that they’ll have to spend some time with.
I like both of these. I’m going to go with one that’s not extraordinary that’s also mundane. I do a lot of things alone. I live alone. I travel alone. I travel internationally alone. I go to coffee shops. Anybody reading this is like, “Shut up about your coffee shops. I’m doing that on a regular basis.” I want to talk about going to the movies alone. I will tell you my journey as a solo moviegoer.
I remember distinctly when I started to lean in on it, and that was in graduate school. For a few years in graduate school, I lived alone. For a couple of years, I had two roommates and we lived in a duplex. They are nice guys but it was a phenomenon that happens. Everybody’s familiar with this Friday night phenomenon. You get to the end of the week and you’d love to go out and do something, but you’re worn out. You will hunker down and Netflix and chill kind of situation. This was pre-Netflix. This was pre-big screen TVs.
I love movies more than television. I love the big screen. There’s something special about going into a theater where you’re undistracted, larger than life, the big sound systems and so on. One of the nice things about going to movies alone is you choose the movie you want. You never get stuck watching something you don’t want. You sit where you want. You can often get better seats by yourself because there’s often a little space between two couples and right exactly where you want to go.
The downside is that you don’t have someone to process afterwards, “What did you think of that? I didn’t understand that,” and so on. There’s an upside and a downside. There was a $1 theater in Columbus, Ohio where I was getting my PhD. It was like twenty minutes away and I would drive out there.
As a solo, I have a question for you about the movie thing. Do you do both armrests? Usually, you have to share an armrest.
I will not monopolize an armrest.
You’d like to use one?
Yes, I would. I went online and did research on where the best seats in the theater are and you’re not going to be surprised. It’s in the middle of the middle. In the middle of the row, in the middle of the stack. I started doing that and I liked it so much that I could come and go as I please, choose the seats and the movies that I want, especially when I was exhausted. I wanted that alone time and I didn’t need to process what I was seeing. Do you two go to the movies alone?
I’m not a big movie person.
Going to the theaters is less of a thing nowadays than it was back then.
If it’s a Marvel movie and I want to not get spoiled, I’ll go. Usually, I like to watch things at home.
I get it. It’s a different thing. It’s the quintessential thing about going to a movie alone. It’s not as challenging as what some of the things we might talk about might be like dining alone. It’s very clear you’re alone. In the theater, it’s dark so who notices and cares.
Some movies are designed to be seen in a theater.
Anybody who knows me knows that I like data. I have this background as a behavioral economist. I went in search of, “Has anybody studied doing things alone?” The answer is yes. There was a 2015 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research by Rebecca Hamilton and Rebecca Ratner, both of whom I know.
I’ve known Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton for many years. There are good scholars. They are Consumer Behavior Researchers and they looked at why people are reluctant to participate in pleasurable activities, such as going to a museum or movie by themselves. Let’s see what your instincts are like. Why do you think people don’t do things alone even though they would be pleasurable activities?
They believe that everybody is watching them and has made up a story of why they’re alone, which is not true.
One of the main reasons for it is they think that other people are going to judge them, “This sad lonely guy with his bag of $20 tacos, how desperate is he?” This is different work than what The Rebeccas have done. There’s something called the spotlight effect and it’s exactly that. Not even when we’re alone, but in general we think the world is paying much more attention to us than the world is. The world is paying attention to themselves.
You have a stain on your shirt and you think everybody notices and no one notices because they were worried about the stain on their shirt and so on. It’s important for folks to recognize that not everybody is sitting around thinking you’re sad and lonely, and who cares what they think? I’m done caring what people think, especially if that’s going to keep me from doing something that I want to do.
The other thing that Ratner and Hamilton found was that people underestimate how much they’re going to enjoy doing something alone. They don’t think it’s going to be as pleasurable as it ends up being, which is important. They think, “Going to movies is not going to be that great.” You then go to the movie and you’re like, “I like this seat. I liked getting to sit where I want to sit. I’m not feeling bad that I’m eating a whole bucket of popcorn,” or whatever bad habits someone has.
The other thing that they do, especially for you, Brandon, but also you highlighted it, Christina, with your concert examples, is they fail to anticipate the unexpected interactions that can come from doing something alone. The reason is, for example, when you travel with someone else, you almost never meet anyone new because you spend all the time talking to each other. You’re not approachable as a couple and so on. When you travel alone, not only are you more approachable as a solo but you’re also more motivated to strike up a conversation, share an experience, ask a question, and continue a conversation in this way.
They did a study at the University of Maryland campus where some of the participants of that study go to the local museum alone and others go with other people. The solos predicted that they weren’t going to enjoy the experience as much as they would if they had someone with them. After their experience, they said, “How was the museum?” The solos and the non-solos had exactly the same good experience going to the museum.
People underestimate it. They think people are going to judge them. They fail to recognize that they’re going to have these unexpected positive interactions. When you overcome those things, you can have a great time. One of the other nice things, when you go to a museum alone, if you don’t like the piece of art you’re looking at, you don’t have to linger because the person you’re with is into it. It has that freedom.
You get done with stuff so much faster with the same level of enjoyment and comprehension. It’s like, “I saw that in 30 minutes or more.”
You’re not distracted by someone interrupting your thought process or something.
I’m not sure if I saw this from TED Talk or an interview but there is a part of a class that asks students to go to a museum to pick a piece of art, sit and look at it for three hours with no phone, no headphones, no music or anything like that. The point of this exercise is attentiveness and what emerges. It’s a worthwhile thing to consider for the simple fact that I’m sure people cringed when I said three hours in front of a painting.
I can’t look at anything for three hours.
I can look at anything I like for three hours.
To the point, it’s very interesting that it gives you the room to explore something the way you want to and be mindful.
Thank you to The Rebeccas for doing that study. It’s one of those studies that I wish that I had done. In 2015, I wasn’t thinking about solo stuff. I was thinking about humor stuff. They were great. I decided to do a survey that was motivated by the results of a Twitter poll, in which I asked people if they go to concerts alone. I was surprised by how high the number was. The survey was let’s say solos and non-solos. These are married people. It’s single versus non-single people.
These are 254 American adults and I asked them about 25 activities that you might do alone in public, and most were hedonic. Most were pleasurable and enjoyable things, but some had a utilitarian element to them. They were practical or necessary like shopping. You can see all this data in my post for Single Insights, you can find that on my website, on LinkedIn and Medium.
I profiled a ramen company that focuses on solo diners. They have built their restaurants to cater to solo diners. This is a Japanese restaurant but they have some locations in the United States, most notably in New York City. I’m going to highlight some numbers because they’re encouraging. Solos do a lot more things alone in public than you might think that they do. I was similarly surprised with regard to the concert numbers.
Let’s start with the biggest difference between solos and non-solos. Something that solos do alone in public a lot more than non-solos is shopping. It has the highest percentage, but very similar rates. Shopping for clothes, solos were 96.1%, non-solos we’re 94.7%. The shopping for groceries was 93.6% and 88.4%. I should clarify one thing. This is conditioned on if you do this activity. If you shop for clothes, then do you do it alone, a lot, a little or not at all thing. The other very high one was going on walks alone. It’s 94.6% of solos and 86.7% of non-solos. That’s an 8% difference there, but that’s a very high percentage. All the things where there was a big difference between solos and non-solos were in the middle range.
For shopping, I would’ve thought closer because I don’t think it would matter to me if I had someone else. I like to do that by myself, but I would say eating.
There were ten big differences, casual dining, 64% for solos, 41% for non-solos, so that’s a 23% difference. Fine dining, also a 23% difference, but the percentages were much lower, 34% for solos, 11% for non-solos. If you’re married, you don’t go out to a fancy restaurant without your husband or wife. The highest is something we talked about. It’s going to the movies. It’s 58% of solos go to the movies alone on occasion at least versus 25% of non-solos.
This is going to be from the highest difference to the lowest difference. Going to the theater is 51% versus 21%. A bar, 49% versus 20%. Museum, this is what the Rebeccas were looking at, 58% versus 31%. Concerts, 42% of solos, at least on occasion or regularly go to concerts alone. Hence why your observation versus 16% of married people. The results were super striking to me in two ways. On one hand, singles are doing this a lot more than your intuition may think and a lot more than what the world expects them to be doing and caters to them. The other one was I felt bad for married people.
When do you get that moment to yourself? They are at your house and every single thing you’re doing.
We were talking about this coordination issue. Someone is making a compromise. When you go to a movie, there’s someone who’s less excited about a movie or when you go to a concert, one is dancing up a storm and the other person is swaying a little bit.
The concert one makes more sense to me because that’s something you buy may be a more expensive ticket to and you don’t do it at the last minute. Maybe you have plans with someone ahead of time.
What this means though is that either you don’t go to the movie you want to see, or you don’t go to the concert you want to go to because your partner doesn’t want to go, or you get dragged along and you’d rather be doing something else. I do have some sympathy for married people. It’s a hard path to walk.
On top of this, I was thinking about parents because if you’re like, “I’m heading out,” someone’s stuck at home with maybe multiple kids or an infant. It could be a lot to ask your partner to take on everything.
It is true. When I go to academic conferences, I now have a bunch of colleagues who have children and they describe a phenomenon. They are gone for three nights in another city and they are having a good time. It’s work, especially once you’re established in the field. They describe the experience as they walk in the door and their partner hands them a child. It’s like, “I’ve been battling for 72 hours. I need a break.”
I’ve had colleagues say, “It’s not worth the fun. It is so steep.” The emotional price that they have to pay with their partner in order to do it, the negotiation, whatever they have to give up as leverage to be able to do it, they’re like, “It’s not worth this professionally and personally to do.” That’s another reason for this difference. To continue, hiking, 65% solos and 41% non-solos. Fishing/ hunting, I put them together. Some people fish and some people hunt.
Also, hunting is more of a group activity because you need help carrying back a lot of the time.
If you’re hunting solo and something happened.
I don’t have the difference because they’re together. It was 53% versus 30%, but I get it. I can see how fishing would be much more of a solitary thing.
If you catch and release or if you catch something and plan to bring it back with you. It’s small or something versus harvesting something.
If you’re hunting deer, rabbits, quails or something like that, that would be something you can do. The last one is dinner party, 40% of solos go alone, which in some ways that’s a sad number for me because why isn’t it 100%? Why is it that half of solos who go to dinner parties end up bringing someone else?
Maybe they are not getting invited.
It’s versus 26% for married people, which you can imagine the questions, “Brandon, where’s your partner?” “She wasn’t in the mood.” The difference at the max was 33%, and the mean of these top 10 was 21%.
Was going to a wedding on the list?
Yes, it was.
I can’t imagine any couples are able to get out and do that so well.
As I said, the major differences were things in the middle between 34% and 58%. The things that were very low had much smaller differences. Weddings alone are 37.5% for solos versus 21.6% for married people. Solos are bringing dates when they do these things. The lowest is skiing, which I care about because I ski alone on occasion. I do my little get-up, do my coffee shop thing, and leave at 10:00 AM. Where I was living, in Boulder, it was 1 or 2 hours not to the parking lot, but to the lift.
I could be skiing at 11:00 and ski for three hours, and then come back down for a meeting at 3:00. I did that sporadically and I waited. It was beautiful. I’d pick a date, put it on the calendar, several dates, and then I’d wake up that day. If the weather was nice and I was feeling good, I’d go. If the weather wasn’t good, I just continue working but that was 18.5%. I don’t know how much people interpret that question as a full day of skiing or I’ll go off and do some runs by myself. It’s 18.5% for solos versus 9.5% for married people.
That’s shocking me. There’s a singles’ line. It’s one of the rare opportunities where there’s something purposely made for you to go by yourself.
I love the singles’ line. It’s almost no wait for it.
Every time, I feel like someone jumps on with me from the singles’ line. To me to hear only 18% seems low.
Brandon, I wonder if you’d be surprised about this. When I asked about comedy shows, what’s your hunch?
People don’t want to go alone.
It does seem like comedy shows are so communal in a sense because of the shared laughter and experience.
You de-incentivize from going alone. They are going to sit you with someone.
The seating in an average comedy club is either theater-style or more likely to be the case, a cocktail table style.
They’re going to sit you with someone.
You got to hope they have a good sense of humor.
Some people are lunatics in comedy shows and they’re yelling out or drunk. It’s like, “Can you talk to your friend?” “I don’t know that person.” You’re then having a really bad time.
Solos were twice as likely to go alone, 21.5% versus 10.6%. Those numbers seem a little high given the nature of comedy shows. I’ve gone to them alone but I also studied comedy. Have you ever gone to a comedy show alone?
No, I’ve never even thought about it, to be honest.
It seems like a weird impulse. The fear of doing anything alone because someone is going to make fun of you. This is the perfect environment to get made fun of for being alone.
They’re not going to seat you in the front.
If you’re late.
In general, who gets made fun of is the first two rows.
That’s all we can see.
Would you call out on someone alone?
That seems rude that we’re in this situation.
If it’s a single woman, I’ll definitely flirt. I’m trying to make that solo into a duet with me.
The last few things were sporting events and dance clubs. It’s very different. They were the same in terms of the rates for solos. Both are around 27%, 28%. That’s a little high. It’s almost the same for solos and non-solos for sporting events, 21%. That’s a gender thing. It’s husbands going alone because their wives say, “No.” Dance clubs alone, only 10% of married people go to dance clubs alone.
What was the solo number?
That’s because people go to dance clubs to meet people.
I would say this. There’s enough error in this study that a number like 10% or 9% is probably even a little bit lower. As I said, I was fascinated by these numbers because they’re encouraging and should be motivating for people who don’t do this stuff to recognize that for some of these things, 50%, 60%, 70% of singles are doing it alone. As I said, a moment of silence for the married people, who I have to be forgoing and these are mostly pleasurable and enjoyable activities because they can’t do it because they’re supposed to be this unit, God forbid, on a Friday night.
They need someone else to be their excuse because of the sporting events, when I picture them, maybe not going alone, but going with friends at a higher rate. It’s like, “My buddy invited me.” They need someone else to be the excuse instead of being like, “I’m going to leave tonight.”
I wonder how much the married numbers here are even inflated because people say alone as in not with my partner. In any case, I stand by these data. Thanks for letting me share these results.
Thank you for sharing them.
For the last session here, I like to give people some tips and advice. Knowing this, the average person is not doing this stuff a lot, maybe it’s intimidating or uncomfortable. Let’s give people tips, either people who want to do more things alone in public or want to do it better. The novice to intermediate person, not the pros of which we are clearly. Let’s do three tips.
Get dressed up and do something to make yourself feel confident. There’s a joke among women that wearing cute underwear makes you feel confident because you feel good in it and it’s the same concept. Going out to a nice dinner or something to treat yourself and just going out knowing you look good makes you feel good and already sets you up to be more confident in being there alone, if that’s something you’re worried about.
I love the idea of dressing up in general. Anybody who reads this knows this. I had an episode on Clothing The Solo. It talks about the benefits of wearing clothes that fit, colors that look good on you, things that you feel confident in because when you feel confident then people will treat you like a confident person. It’s a lost art. I love bringing back lost arts.
This is relevant to this topic of flaneuring. It is to walk a city alone and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the cityscape. This came out of the 1800s in France. These well-to-do gentlemen would dress up and walk Paris. I had a guest who talked about flaneuring and talked about the great cities and how to go about doing it. It echoes a lot of things that have come up so far.
The nice thing about being a flaneur is you get to decide how long you want to walk, where you want to go, and in many ways, it encourages these unexpected interactions that you might have. There’s something about dressing well or dressing the part of the flaneur, which completes the experience. I love the idea of dressing up for the thing that you’re doing.
It’s fun. I wore a hat the other day and I thought of you. I was like, “This is a Peter hat.”
I’ve started wearing the hats and you’d be amazed how many people comment on the hat.
Hats are a lost art and that’s one thing I like too. When I am rich, I am going to have a bunch of fancy hats. The hats I have on a hat stand in my room next to my accessories. It’s the ones I picked out and invested in.
What do you get, Brandon? What’s your tip? That’s a hard one to follow because it’s not intuitive and once you hear you go, “That makes good sense.”
It’s a good suggestion. When I go out, I want to make up a backstory sometimes. You don’t have to get super elaborate like, “I finished robbing a bank,” but you can certainly highlight different aspects of your life and project things. I’m more likely to say, “I’m a musician on the road than I would ever say in real life because the reality of it is I’m not a great musician.
You’re a musician adjacent.
I’m close but I’m not there, but if I say, “I do this.” I won’t mention the other things that I do and you get to coast with, “People like this about me. People don’t like this about me.” You get to focus on group aspects of your personality, which sounds monstrous out loud.
I think it’s exciting. If you’ve ever been with someone who knows so much about you, it’s exciting to choose one thing to highlight about yourself and get people to react to.
I have a story that connects the two pieces of advice. I won some very minor awards at the university and I dressed up in a suit for the presentation. They gave me a boutonniere. It was a fresh flower pinned to my jacket. It was late afternoon and I was like, “I’m going to go out.” I’m all dressed up. It seems like a shame to go home.
I went to a happy hour in Downtown Boulder and I made friends. I made friends with my friend, Carrie, and her husband was there. We made friends because I was dressed this way. It turned into a whole thing about why I was dressed this way and they were telling stories to people about I was at a wedding. I was at a funeral. I was doing all these kinds of things because the boutonniere transformed the entire outfit. Dress well and lie, enhance or embellish.
I’m going to have less fun but a more practical one. As I think about why people don’t do things alone in public, some of it has to do with safety, especially if you’re a woman. A little bit of preparation can ease some of your insights. First of all, you’re in public and in that way, you’re pretty safe, but you may not feel safe. Having a contact or someone who knows where you are and will check in with you or is expecting you to check in is a good way to assuage some of those concerns.
I do that all the time.
Especially, when I go camping and stuff, I use Find My Friends on my phone. I always tell someone when I leave and when I’m supposed to be back.
You just don’t know. It’s unlikely that there’s going to be a problem, but the problem is worrying about the problem. On the off chance that something goes awry, there’s someone who’s making a call coming to the place immediately, rather than three days later. “I haven’t heard from Peter in a while, I wonder where he is.”
We’re going to do some bonus material. I’m creating something called The Solo Challenge. It’s going to be a checklist of things that you do alone and you get a score. It’s going to be part of my book launch. I’ve been brainstorming activities to put. It might be 50 things. Some of them will be super easy and some of them will be more challenging.
In the bonus material, we’re going to brainstorm some of them and this is a very challenging one. Very few people will be able to do it and that is to do psychedelics alone. You do a mushroom trip or an acid trip alone. You typically do psychedelics with someone else who’s not doing psychedelics. I’ve done this with mushrooms. My friend, Shane Mauss, we had an episode called Not A Solo Trip in which we talked about these things.
When I do a solo mushroom trip, he requires me to tell him when I’m going to begin and ask me to check in at a certain time period. He keeps his phone with him during that entire period in case I have a bad trip and I need to make a phone call. It’s like the phone a friend situation. That’s a different type of safety and it’s psychological safety but nonetheless, knowing that if things go horribly awry for some reason, which thankfully they haven’t, I can call.
It’s the same thing when a lot of women go out, even sometimes on a night out. They want to know that someone else knows.
What’s your next one?
My next one is going to be to start small and off-peak hours. If you never do anything alone, maybe getting dressed up and going out for dinner on a Friday night when it’s going to be packed seems intimidating. What you could do is maybe go to lunch at a restaurant, not a fast-casual. Something that’s going to be a shorter experience where you’re in and out and it’s maybe not as packed, and you’re not as tired to push yourself through the experience. Start where you’re comfortable.
Eating at the bar is often a good way to do that because you have more solo diners. They’re at a chair sitting across from you. If you run a restaurant, let me give you a friendly tip about coaching your host. It’s not, “Is it just you? Is it just one,” in this perplexing sad tone. You say, “How many are joining?” I say, “One.” You say, “Okay.” It’s a simple way to make a solo diner feel welcome.
It’s not even talked about in their training because it’s across the board. “You’re by yourself?” It’s like, “Yes, who cares?”
To your point about the bar, that’s why it’s nice because a lot of times you can seat yourself.
Start small off-peak hours and gradually you can build up to a seat at the French laundry on the front on a Saturday night. Brandon, what do you got?
To piggyback off of that, give yourself a time limit and be like, “I’m going to go out for at least 90 minutes,” and then that way your brain will fill the time. The thing you were afraid of was getting out of the door. Now that you’re out the door, go adventure, have something happen, do something fun because you’re going to have to spend those 90 minutes doing something. It might as well not be something boring. If you give yourself that time limit, you also don’t feel the pressure to stay out forever.
We talked about the bar can be a good place. Not everybody drinks or they don’t feel comfortable being at a bar, even though they don’t drink, even if they’re going to have food. I am a big believer in the mafia table. Have I done this to you before?
We went to dinner one time. We walked in and you immediately told me where we were not going to sit.
I do remember that. I was like, “That’s a terrible table.”
He’s like, “I don’t even care if she tries to sit us there. We’re not sitting there.” I was like, “I did not have an opinion.”
The mafia table, for people who are not familiar with this, you can see the people coming to try to kill you. In the gangster movies, no one could sneak up behind you, walk up behind you in a restaurant, and assassinate you. The mafia tables in the back and it faces the door. I love sitting at the mafia table because people-watching is the best because you can see everything that’s coming and going.
Moreover, because there’s no one behind you. You can feel a little bit more comfortable as a result of it. Wherever I am, I’m always looking for my mafia table, “Where is it that’s no one behind me?” A lot of these are about increasing your comfort level and you getting reps so that then at some point you don’t have to make these compromises.
They’re like training wheels. They’re designed to be taken off.
What’s the last one?
I’m going to say to wear something or bring something that you wouldn’t mind someone asking you about. What I was trying to say was like a band tee or maybe you’re into wine. If you dubbed yourself a wine connoisseur, maybe you order a glass of wine and then it might encourage someone to have a conversation with you. If you bring a book to fill your time, someone might be, “That’s my favorite author.” Something that if you are wanting someone to talk to you while you’re out, give them something to pick up on.
I bring a journal with me a lot. I’m not on my phone, but I do like the idea of a book. Pro-tip, if you want folks to talk to you, smile and make eye contact. People will not talk to you if you have your head down or your headphones in.
Maybe if you’re asking the bartender about whiskeys because that’s what you’re into, someone else might chime in and be like, “Have you checked out this distillery,” if that’s your thing. It’s something that you feel confident having a conversation about that someone else might pick up on and approach you with.
It’s like a prop.
It is a prop.
You’ve already talked about your props.
I’m big into props. I’m also big into visualizing the worst-case scenario when you’re worried about going out alone. It’s like, “People are going to judge me.” Realize how little of an impact that could make on your life. Enjoy it. As you said, no one’s paying attention to anyone else.
If they are, who cares?
It doesn’t matter.
Honestly, if they’re paying attention to you, it’s probably positive. It’s probably that they noticed you.
If you’ve ever watched a bored couple in a restaurant, at least one of them is looking at you wishing they were you. Let’s be honest. If you’re reading this, you already have taken many of the steps to shed norms that don’t work for you, or you’ve already started to shed how the expectations of others may not be your path to living a remarkable life.
This is a matter of continuing that perspective which is, “There is no good reason to not do something solo in public unless you don’t like to do it.” The only way that you don’t like to do it is that you have tried it and it doesn’t work for you. The advice that you folks are giving is one of these things, “Put the training wheels on. Give it a go. Be patient with yourself. People will often surprise you.”
The data suggest two things. One is there are a lot of solos out there doing solo activities, and then the second one is from The Rebecca’s. You may not think it is going to be very good but in general, it is going to be good. It’s in no way different than doing it with someone else at least in terms of pleasure, but then there are the benefits of not having to coordinate and having that autonomy. As I said, start with a sense of adventure. With that, I want to say thank you to both of you for helping these wonderful readers as we start this process of doing things alone.
Thanks for having me.
This is fun.
- Brandon Patrick
- Christina Martinez
- Solitude – Previous episode
- Journal of Consumer Research
- @RusticRoaming – Christina’s Instagram
- Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
- Single Insights – Alone Not at Home: What do Singles do Alone in Public?
- LinkedIn – Alone Not at Home: What do Singles do Alone in Public?
- Medium – Alone Not at Home: What do Singles do Alone in Public?
- Clothing The Solo – Previous episode
- Flaneuring – Previous episode
- Not A Solo Trip – Previous episode
About Christina Martinez
Christina Martinez is an outdoorsy DIYer living in Denver. She holds a degree in Marketing and HR from the University of Colorado. Christina spends her free time with her dog, cooking and restoring her 1968 Dodge A-108.
About Brandon Patrick
Brandon Patrick is a stand-up comedian, storyteller, and host of host of Burritos with Brandon.