No one cares that you’re by yourself
I remember being in the eighth grade, reading S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” (as eighth graders do) and coming across the line: “When I see a movie with someone it’s kind of uncomfortable, like having someone read your book over your shoulder.” It always struck me as strange that the main character, Ponyboy, engaged with movies the same way he did with books and that he found it to be a more solitary activity than a social one.
Now, whenever I go see a movie with friends, I always have that quote in the back of my mind, and I’m more aware of my friends experiencing the exact same thing at the exact same time. It’s not like finishing a book by yourself and finding someone to talk about it with. You and your friend have started and finished this moving storybook together.
Although it’s fun to have someone to talk to during the previews or when the credits start to roll, I often don’t have time to formulate my own opinion before my friends tell me theirs.
What Ponyboy and many others prefer is to go to the movies alone. For many, it may seem odd to pay $10 to sit by yourself in a large theater, surrounded by couples or loud groups of friends. We are so used to regarding cinema as a hotspot for dates or hangouts. Movie-going has become its own social culture. The idea of walking up to the ticket booth and saying “one ticket, please” seems far more daunting than it actually is.
Often, when we see people seated alone at the theater, we assume that they’re either lonely or weird. It’s like when someone is eating by themselves at a restaurant — you can’t help but feel bad and assume that they’d rather be seated with someone.
But in the past couple of months, there have been many times when I’ve walked past Regal Cinemas on my way home, looked at the movie posters and felt tempted to walk in alone.
We shop, go to the gym and get coffee by ourselves — why should going to the movies alone be any different?
There could be a specific movie that you’ve been wanting to see, but none of your friends want to see it. Not everyone wants to spend their Friday night watching “Little Women” or “Frozen 2.” With busy weeks filled with class and work, sometimes your schedules never match up. But if you keep postponing your movie dates, you might never get the chance to see it before it leaves the theater.
You often don’t get the chance to fully digest a film before your friends tell you what they think. On numerous occasions, I have left the theater feeling satisfied and excited to talk about how great it was, only for my friend to tell me how much they hated it. Then, I either have to pretend to agree or try to convince them otherwise.
Also, if you go alone, you don’t have to feel responsible if the movie you picked was bad. Whenever I convince someone to see a movie with me, I’m hoping that they aren’t bored the whole time. If the film ends up being a flop, I always feel a little guilty that I wasted my friend’s time and money.
Most of all, some of us harbor an underlying fear of being seen alone. We watch Netflix or Youtube by ourselves all the time and have no problem with it. It’s the part where we stand out as a loner among groups of people that give us the most anxiety. Reading books or playing video games is designed to be a solo activity. Physically driving to the theater, buying a ticket and watching a movie is marketed to be social. The last thing we want is for people to make inferences about our social lives.
Watching movies at the theater is a more intimate and solitary experience than you’d think. It might not be your friend’s reactions that you hear, but you’re still surrounded by a crowd of people experiencing the same film as you. You’re able to spend quality time with yourself and watch a film that you’ve been wanting to see. And most of the time, no one is even looking at you — even if you think they are.
Written by: Julietta Bisharyan — firstname.lastname@example.org
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