This week’s episode continues our investigation of solitude. Peter McGraw speaks to a friend and remarkable single, Christina Martinez, about how she spends her alone time. They discuss her “Old man activities,” which include restoring a vintage van – an endeavor that has connected her to a new community and friends. They give encouragement and present best practices for people who want to cook alone, dine alone, and go to the movies alone.
Listen to Episode #79 here:
Roaming In Solitude With Christina
We continue our investigation of solitude and as you might imagine, I’m focused on its benefits. In this episode, I speak to a friend and a remarkable single about how she spends her alone time. We discuss her “old man activities,” which include restoring a vintage van. An endeavor that has brought her into contact with an involved community and new friends. I won’t give it away here but please pay attention to when the conversation turns to the idea of editing. We finished by giving some encouragement and discussing some best practices for people who want to cook, dine or go to the movies alone. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Christina Martinez. This episode continues our exploration of solitude. As part of it, I’m talking to remarkable singles to explore their practices and perspectives about how they spend their time alone. Christina is an outdoorsy DIYer living in Denver. She’s the Marketing Manager and Strategist at Scott’s Liquid Gold and Neoteric Cosmetics. Christina holds a Degree in Marketing and HR from the University of Colorado, which is where I met her years ago. Welcome, Christina.
Thank you, Peter.
Christina, we met in my Consumer Behavior class and have since become friends. One of the things that I liked about you as a student wasn’t how well you performed in my class. It was your reaction to that joke that you always have such a sunny disposition. You are living your life happily. That’s something that I have recognized in the ensuing years. A lot of people aren’t good at life but you are good at life. I want the reader to learn a little bit about how you approach life, whether you are coupled or single, you do both. You seem happy doing both. Is that fair to say?
Would you describe yourself as a single by a chance person more than a single by choice person?
I would say 50/50. 2020 was important for me to do my own thing after being with someone for a while.
You were with someone for a long time and you were with that person for long–distance for a while.
That was interesting for me to learn about how I reacted to both situations. It’s what made me want the year by myself afterward.
Say more about that. Your partner was in another state. Was he far but not across the globe?
We weren’t in crazy different time zones. We were only an hour apart as far as that goes so it was easy to still figure out times to communicate and we were within driving distance. It’s only seven hours apart but it’s different when you don’t have a default person that you feel obligated to invite to a lot of things. It’s more intentional when you choose to bring them along.
You were like, “Is this worth a seven-hour drive?”
It would be. “How important is this event to you? Do you already have friends there?” You pick and choose things that were a lot of times, I would default to bringing along someone that I’m dating or making sure I’m there for things I probably don’t need to be there for.
Interestingly, you say this because this series is coming on the heels of a previous series about unconventional relationships and we explore the relationship escalator. One of the hallmarks of the relationship escalator is someone that you are riding the relationship escalator with
For a long time, I feel like I have been the fifth wheel because I wouldn’t bring someone for a while. I technically had a date but then they weren’t available. After a while, I started inviting all kinds of people as my dates and it was fun. I got closer to a lot of different people and it’s enriching to have more people involved in different parts of your life than one go-to person.
You sound like the ideal SOLO reader now.
You said that I didn’t make an impression on you with my smarts. At least I had some of my charms.
I didn’t say your smarts. I said your performance. There is a difference.
I definitely did get an A in your class.
This is starting to fit into our theme about at least how you spend your alone time. You talked about being a fifth wheel. You don’t have to be a fifth wheel. You can invite someone along like a friend, a family member or something like that. How do you decide when you get invited to some event or when there is an event, let’s say, whether you go solo or you seek someone else to join you? Is there some way you go about choosing?
Depending on what it is. I have joined groups as the fifth wheel when we were going out for concerts. I will grab whoever and dance with whoever. It sounds more fun to go by myself. There was a wedding I went to. It was intimate and small, and I only knew the bride. I was like, “It would be fun to have someone to talk crap about with my drink in the corner.” I ended up bringing a girlfriend and we had a blast together. The bride was cool and it’s totally fine. She was like, “Your plus one is your plus one. You can bring whoever you want.” It was the first time I had ever brought in a girlfriend as a date to a wedding but it was a blast. It’s one of the best times I have had at a wedding.
I’m in the sweet spot in life between weddings and funerals so I don’t have to make these choices. When it comes to funerals, you don’t need a date. Most of those hard decisions are behind me. I love that you did that. It was nice that your friend accepted that because I could imagine scenarios where there would be some pushback because of the relationship escalator in that sense. You are good at life, you are a happy person, you are delightful to be around, and you are good about being alone. That’s why you are on this show. As you were saying, 50/50, single by choice and single by chance. In the long run, you might want to partner up. What do you feel about having kids?
I have gone back and forth on this. If you would have asked me even years ago, I was always like, “Absolutely not. Why would I put my life on pause for somebody else at any point in my life?” I have started to re-approach it. I have this whole perspective on there are things that I’m able to do, so I should do them. It’s impactful when you meet people that are, for instance, in a wheelchair. I look at it and I’m like, “I’m lucky that I’m able to run.” I went and signed up for several marathons then I went into the half Ironman. There are all these different things that because I’m capable, I feel like I should do them and have the experience. We only get one life. Kids have started to become one of those things.
You were like, “I have a uterus.”
It was such a stupid reason. By no means, I have made a decision and I wouldn’t be like, “I’m doing this now.” There are a lot to consider taking on that but I feel it’s not special. Half the population can have a child.
Have I said that on the show or have I said that in a private conversation?
It was a private conversation. I can still do something that 50% of the world can’t do and even more than that. I’m fortunate to be healthy and I am capable of doing that. It’s an experience like nothing else. I have put it back on the table to consider. There are a lot of other things that come with having a family and things like that that I appreciate. If we are talking about the pregnancy portion of it, I’m starting to get older. I have realized how it’s nice, especially during COVID, to see yourself spending your time alone. I have got to appreciate it so much but there are things I haven’t got to do as a single person that I thought I would be spending my time doing, which is traveling. I have started to reflect when all of that stuff is off the table and what I want to be focusing on so those things have popped back up.
I have an idea and this is putting this out to the world. If a couple needs a surrogate, Christina would be the perfect surrogate. She takes good care of herself. She’s happy and responsible. This is a win-win. Someone who couldn’t have a baby gets a baby and you get to be pregnant because you are able to get pregnant.
I see how it sounded that way but absolutely not. If I’m going through all this work, I’m keeping it. I’m starting to the point where I’m like, “If I’m doing the work, I’m keeping that kid. I’m going to make it to a mini-me. I’m going to make it a trail running partner.”
I do want to clarify my thing about it’s not special. The issue is this. I would say it’s special to you but it’s not special to the world. It’s the way I feel about having children. It is incredibly special to the people having that child but it’s not a special act in terms of global proportions. It is special in terms of the miracle of life but humans have been doing that for a long time. I don’t want to get a lot of angry messages from my parents, who are SOLO readers, that are there. Parenthood, like marriage, might probably overprescribe. It’s good for a lot of people but the pressure that people feel to have it and do it, I don’t think serves them because people find themselves on a path later that they go, “I’m not well suited for this.”
I’m in the spot where I have started to have nephews and all of those things. I can appreciate kids now, but I have some friends that are going to get pregnant at some point in any way possible. Their goal is to be a parent. Mine is if I find the right partner that adds value to my life and doesn’t hinder me from doing other things that help me progress in different ways, I would love to go on an adventure with them of adding to that but I’m not a surrogate. I’m not having this baby and not reaping the rewards.
That’s a healthy way to go about approaching it, where you are open up to the possibilities and it becomes a choice rather than a certainty. It scares me when people are like, “I am going to have children no matter what the way is.” If you have the means, it’s possible to do but it seems like a hard slog, especially being a child of a full-time single mother. I do like this idea. I like your perspective of, “I want to do things that I’m able to do.” First of all, some of it is luck. The fact that we have two legs that work is a stroke of luck in many ways and we should celebrate that.
Being born at the time that we were born and where we are born in the United States gives us many more opportunities. To squander them, I do see it as a missed opportunity. I like that about you. I also like the idea that doing these because you are able to do them presents challenges and growth. Let’s talk about your marathons and your Ironman experiences. You decided to run a marathon because you can run which, let’s be honest, is an unusual reason to run a marathon. People run marathons for a variety of reasons. There is no right or wrong reason. What was your experience doing that? That was some solo time. When you go out and run 10 miles a day, you are often doing that alone. That propelled you into further solo activity.
It was interesting because you start out. You are training, you are going 5 miles, and that’s 30 to 45 minutes. You are not out there that long. You can listen to your favorite couple of songs. You start doing long training runs like a half marathon and you were like, “I’m going to be out here for 1.5 to 2 hours.” I started listening to podcasts to distract myself. Being out there for a three-hour training run, I put a book on tape but that’s not pumped-up motivating so you are having all these times and you are trying to talk yourself through, too.
Those Lime scooters are the worst invention because I would run far enough out to get my training run but those stupid things would be sitting there. I would be 10 miles out over all of my thoughts and I would be like, “I know that I would do this route to make 5 miles back home but I could grab the scooter and jump on this path.” It’s the worst but that is willpower. At some point, I know some people wake up and specifically have time for meditation. That is not how I work. I don’t set time aside in the morning to specifically journal or read. I have these moments where I wake up and I go on my runs. I don’t always put music on. That is when I collect my thoughts, do planning and everything else. At first, it was a lot of noise and trying to ignore things to get through the run. Now, I can get into a groove and lose myself during it.
I have an ex who was a big-time hardcore runner. She would go out, gets up, drinks a glass of water and goes run 10 miles. She would do it without earbuds. She will just have her key and go. I said, “You doesn’t listen to music, podcasts, books on tape or anything?” She goes, “No. I’m running. That is what you do. You run.” I was inspired by that because I had never considered doing that or even working out without music to get you pumped up. The Rocky theme song and the weird fantasies run through your head as you are working out. You know what I’m talking about.
There is a trail run in Boulder, Colorado that I would do once a week and it was one of my favorite hours of the week. It’s beautiful, smells good and not too busy. It’s a hard workout but not so hard that you are ruined. One day, I was like, “I’ll take my key and let’s do the run,” and it didn’t go well. As I know with a lot of things, when you are making a change the first time, it didn’t go well. After the 4th or 5th time, I figured it out. I was like, “I’m alone with my thoughts. I can pay attention to the trail or my thoughts more or less.”
I don’t know about you but I would only be out for an hour. I would come off the mountain with 1 to 5 ideas where I would give myself a chance to work through something. The only challenge was remembering the insights. I would have to practice remembering the insights. I invite people to consider an activity that they do that they fill the time and the space with music and information, which is super accessible and try it alone. A big one is a long drive. It’s okay to have the radio off for some time. You are training for these marathons, you are doing these runs and you decide to throw away your headphones. How did it go with a marathon? You did several of them and you eventually transitioned into Ironman, which is swim, bike and runs.
First of all, Ironman is a big title. I’m going to preface this by saying I did a 70.3. I did half Ironman. People are in that title. I don’t want to take it from them but that was approached differently. I make a New Year’s resolution every year. At least one is something tangible and the rest can be intrinsic.
Can you give some examples? One is tangible so it’s something that you do but the other one is a change in perspective?
It’s something I want to work on personally. I have had years where I was focusing on being more patient or things like that.
You have already worked on this, Christina?
You have no clue how bad it was before. Growing up in Colorado, we are in a landlocked state and my parents never did anything watersports wise so I had never learned how to swim growing up. My goal was to learn how to swim. It’s like, “I could take swim lessons or go to a pool and say I made it to the other end but I wanted to prove to myself that I learned how to do it and conditioned for it.” I signed up for half Ironman to do that portion of it. I already bike and run but I had never mastered the swim part. It was nice because I couldn’t be too lackadaisical about learning it. I can’t be like, “I have a whole year. I will do that in the fall.” I had to get on it because I signed up for an event and once I did it, I had to prove to myself It wasn’t like, “I went and puttered around in the pool.” You’ve got to go swim 1.2 miles in open water with people crawling over you. Either you learned or you didn’t. It will be telling. That was how I got into that. I wanted to prove to myself I did it. I was slow. I was one of the last ones out of the water but I made up for it on the run. I passed people.
I’m thinking you told me the story. You went to South America to do a half Ironman.
I did it in Buenos Aires. It sounded like a great celebration goal. I thought, “I’m kicking off my trip with this. I’m going to hit one of my goals.” It was early in the year, too, which is awesome. I’m going to go out there, celebrate and drink after doing all this training and indulge myself in food all over. Let me tell you, I haven’t thought through all of the logistics. Despite my last name being Martinez, I am not versed in Spanish whatsoever.
What do you tell people when someone starts speaking to you in Spanish because your last name is Martinez?
I say it’s my married name so they don’t judge me. Two things happened. One, they were like, “She’s not a real Martinez,” which is true. Nobody can see me on this show but if you saw me, I’m white. Number two, it makes them like you more because they stopped judging you for not knowing it and they were like, “She likes our people. She chooses to be within the Martinez clan.” It’s a lie and I know it’s terrible but it also stops people from shaming me for not knowing Spanish. I worked building materials for a couple of years so I was always interacting with people speaking Spanish. It became my line.
I hadn’t thought it through when I planned to do this. The half Ironman in Argentina that I had never done a tri. I’m down there and everything is in Spanish. There are no bilingual signs. I didn’t realize it was a qualifier race that I snagged a spot for. There were a lot of people with intense gear trying to hit their times. They were trying to get to that next stage. Here was me with my little crappy road bike, pedaling along, not knowing what the instructions are being yelled at me in Spanish. It was a lot. I should have probably done one US side first but it was a good experience and I did it.
You’ve got this great story and you went off and traveled through Patagonia. You had this amazing adventure.
It was guilt-free. I was on vacation and I was like, “I worked out so much you feel great going into it.”
For anybody reading, we can appreciate why I chose Christina to be one of the remarkable singles that I wanted to investigate solitude with. Not only is she living a remarkable life but she embraces one of the principles of Solo that I haven’t talked about in a long time. It’s that idea of living on your edge. Sometimes, as a result of trying to live on your edge, you go a little too far but that can spur some growth and as a good story. When you think about your time alone, it’s clear to me that you think about it with the idea of, “This is an opportunity for me.” You have what you call your old man activities.
I would like to say that I coined saying my old man activities after you one time told me what an old man was. I am after catching up with you. Anybody reading knows me. They know that I spend a lot of time in my garage and with my dog. One day, Peter, I was talking about what I was up to and you were like, “You are hanging out in your garage with your dog.” I have an old van that I work on, which I’m restoring and doing some customization, too. You add up all these things and you were like, “I do sound like a 60-year-old dude.” I’m in the garage by myself working on my van with my dog.
It’s refreshing. I said it with affection. You have a 1968 Dodge A108 that you are restoring and people can see this van if they are on Instagram, @RusticRoaming. This van is popular. It’s more popular than you are on Instagram.
Nobody cares. Every once in a while, my girlfriends are always like, “Why don’t you post a picture of yourself? It’s your page. Talk about your story and stuff.” I always tell them, “Nobody cares. They want to see my van.” I post pictures of my dog and myself. People are kind to interact with them but no matter what I post, if it’s my dog, maybe it’s something else, I can post a picture of myself feeling cute. The comment I will get is, “Did you change that out? What did you do with that wiring? Do you remember last week when you were talking about wiring?” I was like, “You are right. I haven’t posted an update about the wiring. How dare I post this picture of me feeling cute in front of my van? I’ll put a picture up of the wiring.”
That is funny. I didn’t even know that I helped you with your old man activities moniker. It’s funny because I’m the opposite of this. I spent as little time as I could. I don’t even want to own a garage. That’s how different I am. I want to be able to park my car in the basement of a high-rise building.
Also, throw your keys to a valet.
I don’t do that but that’s an inside joke. Let’s step back. I know I follow you on Instagram. I certainly follow Rustic Roaming.
You follow it but I don’t know if you follow me personally.
I do but I know that even I care about this Instagram is fabulous. How did it happen? You were in your twenties when you started this. How does a late twenty-something decide to buy an old 1968 Dodge A108 and restore it?
It was random. Sometimes, I’m a little impulsive. You can’t tell by randomly signing up for swimming in another country. Two things happen. One, I saw this thing and I don’t know what it was about.
Where did you see it?
I saw it online listed for sale randomly. I came across it and I was like, “This thing is so adorable. I have to have it.” It’s also this green. That’s a total ‘50s green. The condo before the place I have had this green bathtub when the whole bathroom is done in one solid color. On each floor of this building, when it was in the mid-century time, one floor had pink tile, one floor was the green bathroom, one floor was blue. I had a green one. I always loved that color and it was iconic a little bit. I saw this van and I was immediately drawn to it.
With me being a little impulsive, I was like, “I’m going to get this all figured out. This would be fun. I’m going to turn this into a tailgating machine. I’ll YouTube it.” These days, you can YouTube anything. There was that part of it and there was the second part of it, which I have run into a little bit at work. Being in marketing, I feel that my whole job is creating things and other people editing them down. It’s never what you initially envisioned it and not saying that it isn’t better. It’s a team effort and usually, for the business, it’s the correct way to go.
Someone is messing with your baby.
This was an opportunity. I was like, “I’m going to get to design something. I have my own page. I can post whatever I want.” It’s a creative outlet where nobody was editing me. It got to be my own thing so that was exciting. The combination of the two and where I was at that point in time, mentally, I took it on.
You are being kind because I phrased this somewhat differently and that is, “I don’t like people telling me what to do.” I like the idea but I don’t like people editing me or editing your work, at the very least. I can appreciate that and a lot of Solos can appreciate that. Solo activities and especially solo creative activities, you do feel, I understand how a team can make something better but there is something about the freedom of creating the thing that you want. You get to live with the consequences of it, good or bad.
It’s seeing your whole vision play out and to your point, it is a solo. I’m going on a tangent but that’s basically what relationships are. It’s compromised and you are constantly editing yourself in situations. When I choose to do something by myself, whether it be any kind of relationship with a friend or someone I’m dating the whole time, if I bring them to the event, I’m hosting them. I’m trying to be thoughtful if they are integrated into the group and making sure what I say isn’t going to make anybody uncomfortable. There are all these other elements. Whereas if I go do something by myself, I get to do it however, I want to do it and you are not having to take into consideration everyone else’s opinion.
That’s wonderful to know. People need to know that, Christina. That matters because too often, people are shamed, looked at sideways or treated as a curiosity because they want to do things alone. The norm so much is you are supposed to be this dyad going off in the world and doing it. I talked about the Single Person’s Guide to A Remarkable Life but technically, you don’t have to be single to appreciate the conversations that we were having.
Some of it is about freedom, autonomy and moving through life at your pace in the way that you want or, as you say, not being edited because of someone else’s vision and their compromise, whether it be professionally or personally. I have a solo entrepreneurs club on Clubhouse now and a lot of the solo entrepreneurs struggle because they could stand a team in some ways but in some ways, they like the freedom of being the maker, the delivery and the editor along the way.
The last thing about Rustic Roaming but this has taken on another level. You impulsively buy this van, “I can fix it up.” You start fixing it up but where has it taken you? Do you have new friends because of this? I know that your garage is nicer because of this. I want to know about that. Now it is a public figure of sorts. Talk a little bit about that process because what started as this impulsive decision has now turned into something that’s a big part of your life.
It’s funny because it’s not like I have some crazy amount of followers but the people that interact with me on my page all the time, a lot of them have the same making model van and there are not a lot of them out there. It’s not like a VW.
It’s way cooler to be, to be honest.
I think so. I’m biased
You don’t have to say, and I will say it. It’s way cooler.
It’s a little nichey and it is hard to find parts. People are trying to figure things out. The few people that follow me and are interacting with me are not like, “Cool van.” That might be my comments here and there but I cannot believe the amount of detailed direct messages I get. First of all, I get so much help. I will post something in a minute and someone will send me pages and pages of notes and pictures. They were like, “I ran into this. You mentioned this but something else might be going on.” It’s impressive how helpful people are willing to be without me even necessarily directly asking for it.
In turn, it has also been fun. A woman reached out to me that she bought one and she couldn’t figure something out. She saw one of my photos in how I dealt with it. I was able then to go ahead and help with that. It’s interesting because I only have 900 followers or something like that. Someone wrote to me I didn’t even know. He doesn’t interact with me all the time and he was like, “I saw you in Fort Collins.” I was like, “That’s me. I’m driving by.”
There are only three of these vans running in Colorado and mine is bright green. There are not that many in that color. He was like, “I waved but I don’t think you saw me. It’s great that you are out there. It’s beautiful and I hope your cruise goes well.” It’s funny. I had another guy reach out to me. His name is Michael and he has been so great. We ended up meeting up and that’s the number one thing you get told, “Don’t go meet random people off the internet, especially to go jump in someone’s van.” It’s the total stereotype.
At least these vans have a lot of windows.
Mine does. My model is a sportsman. You can get an A100 or A108 without but they can be all paneled.
The child molester versions.
It’s too cute via that but it could be incognito on the inside. Not the one I have. I had this guy that was like, “I’m local. I know there are only three of these running in the area. I saw your post. I would love to meet up.” I went and met up with him. He had spare parts. We exchanged things. He has become one of my good friends. We reach out every couple of months about personal stuff. It’s interesting. It has become a big part of my life in a way I would never have thought of. It started out as a fun outlet.
You are part of a community.
That’s totally what it is. It’s a community that I would have never tried to be a part of or expected to be a part of. It has been great to me.
It’s wonderful. I had joked about your garage.
The garage or what I like to call the van showroom. I do a lot of house projects. My house was built in 1890 and my condo before this was built in the ‘50s. I like the old charm of all of this but I also like the idea of being able to take care of something and invest in it. I have drywall at the garage so far. I have mud and tape. I have not sanded it down to do the next finishing steps. I have insulated it and this is a four-car garage. If it was a normal-sized garage, I would be done.
It used to have carriages in it.
I’m painting the rafters and putting wood paneling in. It’s going to be more designed out but I joke that it’s my van showroom even though I will have other things in there. I’m building a woodshop in there, too.
You are such an old dude. “I’m putting in a woodshop.” It’s fantastic.
I got into woodworking. This is another thing. I pick things and I’m like, “I’m going to learn about that.” That was another one of my things a few years back. I went to an estate sale one day a few years ago and bought all of the equipment. Now, I’m trying to lay it out so it’s a little bit more functional for me to use at all.
I tease you but only affectionately because it’s great. I hope this is inspiring to people because you are a DIYer as your bio says. I remember you saying, “I figured how hard it could be. I’m going to look it up on YouTube and I will figure it out.” The last thing about the van is as a result of this. You now do some solo travel. You take your dog, Snoop, who also is popular out there. You are the third most popular part of your Instagram.
That’s not about me. It’s about the van first, then the dog and then me.
You now go off on road trips, camping and you do those sometimes solo.
That was also the peel of the van. I have thrown a bed in the back and it was an opportunity where you wouldn’t have to plan out. I work a normal 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday and that’s limiting if you don’t take a Friday off. If you want to go up into the mountains and get there early enough to find a spot, pitch a tent and all that. This opened up an opportunity for me to leave after work one day, crash in the back of the van wherever I want along the way, get to use it and spend more time throughout Colorado doing more of what I wanted on the weekends that are a little more impromptu.
I want to pivot now to our last set of subjects and this is something that we have talked about offline. It’s some other solo activities that sometimes people struggle with. I’m often surprised that they struggle with it, only because I tackled some of them earlier in life. I want to talk about 3 and 3 of those 2 of which I’m good at and one of which I’m not but you are good at all three. The first one is going out and eating alone. I’m good at that. The second one is going out and doing some activity alone like going to a museum alone but the prototypical one is going to a movie alone. A lot of people struggle to go to a movie alone, which is ironic.
You are not interacting the whole time anyway. It’s the perfect solo activity.
It’s the ideal solo activity, in my opinion, except for the fact of not being able to talk about it afterward with who I saw it with. The last one is cooking alone. I want to start with that one because that’s the one I’m not good at.
As soon as you listed it, I was like, “I know which one he does.”
I’m good at heating food up alone but I’m not good at cooking alone.
It’s a special skillset.
You described your cooking alone process. It almost felt like a rom-com movie thing. You were like, “I pour myself a glass of wine.” You make your cooking alone in an event. Is that fair to say?
It became a thing. I would do it here and there. I’m sure like everybody else during COVID, you start investing in more of that stuff. It became a thing where I don’t have anywhere to go. Why wouldn’t I cook myself a nice dinner and learn how to do something new and fancy. If I’m going to do this, I would light a candle. I’m going to put on some music. I’m going to take myself on a date night and it’s me walking around my kitchen with my glass of wine leisurely singing along to something and figuring out as I go but it’s been fun.
This is inspirational. I’m not quite ready to do that yet, but I like the idea. I don’t mean to keep referencing Clubhouse but I opened cooking for one room in there for the Solo Club. It was early in the app and maybe 50 people dropped in. It wasn’t a huge room there. The way that these people talked about cooking and the passion in terms of the pan, the butter and the spices. They sounded like artists. I had this guy jump on and I asked about cooking meat because I’m trying to live forever.
I have been eating these huge salads but there are not enough calories in a salad and I don’t want to douse it in dressing. That’s not good calories. What I do is I often put a protein on it. I was experimenting with how you quickly and do a good job quickly cooking a steak with a frying pan. It’s a simple thing. He’s like, “Peter, this is what you do.” He’s talking about leaving the meat out to get it to room temperature and putting in the pan and putting the butter around the meat not under it and salt and pepper. He’s like, “It’s super easy and super-fast. It’s going to be incredible.” What struck me was how excited he was about this and I realized this man has turned cooking a piece of steak into an art form.
It has been the challenge of perfecting it and each time, you are getting the reward. It’s even more fun because you’re making it better and better for yourself. That’s the best part about being for one. I’m going to make it exactly how I like it.
If you were to give someone some advice, suppose someone is reading this and they were like, “I want to take myself on to a home dinner date, so to speak and make something,” what advice do you have for them? I assume one of them is, “Don’t have too much wine.” How do they go on approaching it?
You’ve got to make it to the end of the recipe.
How do you make that work for you?
Do you mean, how do I approach it? How do I decide what I’m going to make that night?
You do this a lot. If you were going to say it’s your first time ever, you were not now. The idea is you are making a meal for yourself. You are designing it as an entire experience.
I always make myself appetizers. It’s probably hard and that sounds elaborate. It could be a nut and cheese play or something. I always give myself something to snack on so I’m not getting frustrated with how long it’s taking me. No matter what, these recipes will be like, “Difficulty level average. It should take you 30 minutes.” It was an hour and twenty minutes later when I first started. How am I chopping so slow or whatever else it is?
You have all these built-up expectations and that’s the beauty of not doing it for someone standing there waiting on you. You are doing it for yourself but get yourself something excited to start with. The first time I did this, I was craving something. You know me. It’s like the van, “I can figure out how to do that. Look at fancy little things. I could drizzle something on there.” I wanted to spend the night figuring that out but another thing that I would suggest is those meal kit boxes like Blue Apron or HelloFresh.
First of all, I hate grocery shopping. I always thought I didn’t like cooking but I hated grocery shopping. I don’t want to be in the store. I don’t want to wait in line and for you to pass by. This sounds harsh after I said I’m opening up my idea to kids but I don’t want your kid touching things around me or pushing the cart into me. There are so much chaos that goes with it. When they ship you the ingredients, that takes off the stressful part of it.
You already get to pick a recipe out ahead of time. They layout everything. They do all the hard stuff that’s the non-fun part and you can do the fun part and learn what you are doing. If you are starting from scratch, they will tell you how to cut your carrots fancier or make ribbons out of them. It’s those little foundational stuff. I don’t know. I have had friends be like, “Once I did that. I thought it looked so hard but then that bowl came out good.” They were more interested in trying something more intense.
If anybody is reading and they have a contact at one of these meal kit companies who want to do a sponsorship for solo cooking, I know a guy that they can do it.
Are you trolling for advertising?
I want some sponsorships, people. What’s funny about those meal kits is I want my calories a lot of times so I would be perfect for the 1 for 2 people. Whenever you make it for two people, I’m like, “Where are the rest of my food?” I could take a two-person one and make it for a single person. That’s my solution.
I will think of it as, “I spent the night having fun cooking myself a meal and I have lunch to bring in tomorrow so I don’t eat out.” Maybe you are hungry and you could have it as much I am you.
To recap this, you make yourself a little appetizer so you don’t get hungry along. You start out finding something that is going to ease yourself into this and you start to get a sense of mastery. It sounds like picking the music matters to create an ambiance.
At the start of COVID or a couple of months in, there were a lot of the musicians doing Instagram Lives and they were doing stuff to try to boost the morale of their community and stay relevant. That was about the time I started cooking all the time. I would put my laptop screen up and watch or stream one of those live things and that was fun. It felt you were doing something on that Friday night rather than cooking alone.
We are not going to be locked away forever. Let’s pivot to eating out alone. I do that a lot. If I don’t cook, you know I eat out a lot. I love dining with someone and I love conversation. Conversations are one of my favorite things to do. I also like my solitude. This is an exploration of solitude. There is something about being alone in a crowd that I find incredibly appealing.
First of all, I pay attention to things in my surroundings that I would normally miss. Honestly, that’s how I meet people and have interesting conversations. I’m going to sit at the bar in different places, I started eating alone more when I started traveling heavily for work. I wasn’t usually with anyone else. I would be in all these cities and I’m like, “I’m not going to stay in my room and order room service.” I want to go see something if I’m going to these different places and I’m only here for a few days.
I would go plop down at a bar and try to find something local or something I have never heard of. First of all, I try things because I would take whatever they recommend talking to the bartender that I probably wouldn’t if I sat in my room and ordered. I also met people that are also sitting alone and it’s interesting to see why people are there by themselves. I also notice things happening around me that I have missed often when I’m distracted by someone else in front of me.
That’s part of the reason that people don’t like to dine alone. They feel what’s called the spotlight effect. They think everybody is looking at them and judging them for being alone and no one is doing that. No one is ever going, “That poor alone person.” If anything, they were like, “I wish I was not with the person I’m dining with now.”
They were like, “Look at that person over there sipping on their wine and having such a great time in peace.”
I want to get your reaction to these things. I do have what I would call best practices or ideas about how to go about dining alone. The first one is related to something that we have covered in previous SOLO episodes but never have had I feel a satisfactory answer to that. A host or hostess will say, “Just one?” There will be a tendency to want to apologize for that or to be embarrassed by that because that, “Just one,” thing feels like, “Aw,” or whatever because the norm is not to dine alone. I always wanted to come up with a snappy comeback to that. I have realized the best response to that. Do you know what the best response to that is?
Thank God? It’s like, “Just one.” “Yeah.” “Thank God.”
I simply say, “Yes.”
I go to the bar a lot when I’m by myself. It feels weird to take up the whole table if I don’t need it, especially during COVID. Their tables are so sparse available but I don’t know that I run into that whole lot because I usually walk up and say, “Is the bar available or can I go sit?”
That’s a perfect segue into number two, which is one of the great things about dining alone. It’s your preference for tables and places to change. If you are in the dining room I certainly want what I call the Mafia Table. I want a table in the back or in the corner with my back against the wall where I can see everything going on. I’m always looking for the mafia table. For people who don’t understand why it is called the Mafia Table, you should watch gangster movies. No one can sneak up on you and put a cap in you. You see your attackers coming. The other one is at the bar. I have a particular spot at the bar that I like if it’s the right bar. Do you know what this spot is?
Yes, the corner.
Many bars have two sides to them and there’s that corner where it meets. I would like to sit at the end of the long part of the bar so I can look all the way down the long bar. What that does is, your people-watching is much better. You are not looking at the bartender. The other one is it does allow for more degrees of freedom if you do or want or you have an opportunity to chat with someone because you have the person to your right to your left and another extra person up the bar. Could you tell that, “I thought about this?”
I already knew the first two. We have gone there more than once but one time when we met maybe more than once, you immediately said what people we were not going to sit at. I was like, “I didn’t have a preference but that’s fine. We don’t have to sit there.” I know you are going to have a strong opinion.
The reason I say that I do this as a solo is you don’t have to negotiate with someone else. You don’t have to worry about which way they are facing and all that stuff. This brings me to the next one and this might be the thing that you have noticed also. You get to dictate pace a lot better. I find this happens a lot if I go to brunch alone. The server wants to get your entire order, get it to you as soon as possible and all this stuff.
I’m like, “I’m going to have my cappuccino.” I order my cappuccino and they were like, “Are you ready to order?” I’m like, “I’m not ready to order.” The cappuccino comes and I enjoy it and then I’m ready to order. You get the pace the light the way if you get an appetizer, how it comes out having a cocktail. I’m not much of a drinker these days but when I do, I never want to be drinking a cocktail while I’m eating an appetizer. It’s weird but it doesn’t matter when I’m alone.
You do whatever you want.
It’s worth considering what you are going to do with your time alone since you are not going to be having a conversation most of the time. Are you going to sit and think? Are you going to read it? Are you going to journal? I often like to bring a book and a journal then I can decide whether I want to read or whether I want to journal or whether I want to do neither of those things. That’s my sense.
I usually like that time because I feel especially living alone, doing most stuff alone. I’m always doing something because you are building your own schedule and you are getting your own lists done or that’s me, that creates a list every morning. Sometimes, when I go out to eat alone, it’s my moment to do nothing. Whereas at home, I would never do that. I have a project going on. I have something I’m going to get done. It’s a moment to enjoy the drink in front of me and taking in the atmosphere.
The one thing is I tried to not be on the phone. It’s such a stereotype of sitting there alone scrolling through a phone. Any other ideas before we get into going to the movies alone or other places?
I don’t think so.
As you can tell, I have been formulating some opinions since this started. What I want to do is I want to normalize this for people. If you are a reader, I would like to gently encourage you to try it if you don’t do it. It may seem a little strange at first but you might find that you like it, especially if you develop your own style. I’m not suggesting my style is going to work for everyone like movies alone. Do you remember when you started going to the movies alone?
I’m not a huge movie buff. In general, I’m more likely to cook something elaborate or even do a puzzle by myself than to put on a movie at home by myself. I’m not a huge movie-goer but I have gone to the movies a handful of times alone and it was when something specific came out that I was interested in and maybe other people weren’t interested in that topic.
I’m scared to ask what that was.
I don’t know if it was anything specific. It was like, “This looks cool.” I probably asked one person there and they were like, “I don’t know.” I’m like, “Screw it. I will go and try it by myself.” To your point, you are sitting in there, you are not talking to anyone, there are no reason for you to need to arrive with someone and walk out with someone. No one is going to notice.
No one cares at all. I have this experience. I remember when I started doing it a lot was in graduate school. When I find that I go to the movies alone, here is something I want to see that I feel it’s going to be enhanced by the big screen and it’s going to be an experience. The problem with watching a movie alone at home is there are too much temptation to get on the phone, get up, get a snack, move around and pause it. There is something about being so fully present in a movie theater that you don’t even want to get up to pee. There is something provocative in that in that way. For me, it’s oftentimes a spur-of-the-moment decision.
That’s the best part about that. You feel like you are getting out and doing something, but you don’t have to plan for it.
You can decide minutes sometimes before that you want to do it. For me, it was when I was in graduate school. At the end of a long week, I was wiped out. I’m an extroverted person but I didn’t want to go and hang out. I was poor. There was a dollar theater. It was a little bit of a drive. It was a twenty-minute drive. This is how this freaking old school but I would get out the newspaper and see what’s going on and what’s showing.
The movie was $1 and on Friday nights, it was $2. I would pick a time. Here is the other beautiful thing because you are a single person. It’s easy to walk in a little later and get a good seat. That’s the other one that’s nice. To me, it’s about freedom of choice. How many times have you gone to the movies with someone and you both compromise and end up seeing something that neither of you is totally excited to see?
I feel that I’m always a compromiser because I’m not a movie buff. I’m like, “I could get into that,” or whatever. I will be twenty minutes in and I would be like, “I’m not into this.”
That’s too bad. There is optimizing that thing.
You can walk out. Going by yourself, I have had that experience where I thought I was going to love something and I normally would have stayed the duration because someone else was there and I wouldn’t have wanted to walk out and not get to see the rest. I have done it now when I’m by myself. I’m like, “I don’t like this. I’m going to go get my ticket changed.” I have gone out and got something else.
I don’t do anything special. I don’t get popcorn. I have done this and this is so embarrassing, where I will go to Chipotle and I will get a burrito. I will sneak it in, I will get in early, and I will eat the burrito.
It’s the messiest thing to eat in the dark. I picture your laugh.
This is before the movie starts. I go in and I have my dinner because I get a choice in the middle. I research the best place to sit in a movie theater. I get this choice seat, I get in there early, I eat my burrito, now I sit, watch the movie and digest it. I know that was terrible but I do it sometimes.
I would fall asleep. That was a lot.
It’s a lot of calories sometimes. I know it’s true.
How are you sneaking this in? The Chipotle burrito is not a small item. It’s this giant thing in your pocket.
They were not checking the way you want it to. We grew up poor and my mom used to pop popcorn and hide it in our hoods in the back of our hoods when we would go into the movie theater as kids. I was always scared that we were going to get busted. No one ever cares.
I have been that person and I know I’m going to get judged for saying this. When my dog was a puppy, he was tiny because he is a dachshund. I brought him everywhere for those first couple of months. I didn’t have a big bag but I threw him in there. He would sleep at the bottom of my bag on my desk at work everywhere. Nobody even knew I had him. I brought him into the movies. I remember meeting my mom and she was like, “Someone is going to check your bag.” I’m like, “Why?” threw a protein shaker on top of him. It was empty. It wasn’t heavy. Don’t worry. He was fine and the guy glanced in my bag. This kid does not care. He’s making however much an hour. He’s barely making eye contact with me. He’s waiting for a shift and he’s going to take my little ticket stub and send me my way.
He was probably high at this point.
He did not even glance at me and my bag was moving so you can bring in whatever you want.
What I hope people should get out of this is a bit of inspiration because you are an inspiring single, Christina Martinez. Even if you don’t remain single your entire life, this is a wonderful example of using the opportunities. I have this whole list of things that people can do. They can make art, travel the world, get fit, they can simply sleep in when you want to. If we were going to do this for you, we could say, “An opportunity to run marathons and do half Ironman’s in order to cook delicious meals alone. To be able to restore 1968 vans and create intensely interconnected communities around them to refinish one’s garage and start a woodworking station and so on.”
That’s a wonderful way to do this and it’s the reason why I chose you to be one of the characters in this exploration of solitude. Do you have any other last thoughts about your time and the solitude that you have in your life? I want to be clear that Christina has a vast array of friends and works with others. She’s not a hermit. What we have been focused on is your time that you spend alone. Do you have any last reflections on that solitary time that you have?
We have covered it all. I would say I am a super social person. I get a lot of energy from being with other people but I get more from my time out of spending it with other people after I have had my time alone. It’s that recharge time and back to the editing to know what you want and get what you need out of yourself first before you give it to other people.
Christina, thank you for your time.
- Scott’s Liquid Gold
- Neoteric Cosmetics
- Christina Martinez – LinkedIn
- Relationship Escalator – Past episode
- @RusticRoaming – Instagram
- Clubhouse – Solo Club
- Blue Apron
About Christina Martinez
Christina Martinez is an outdoorsy DIYer living in Denver. She’s the Marketing Manager and Strategist at Scots Liquid Gold and Neoteric Cosmetics. Christina holds a degree in Marketing and HR from the University of Colorado. She is the creator of the excellent Instagram account @RusticRoaming.
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