In June, I published a post about enjoying life and going out there and doing whatever you wish, even if you are alone.
I joined friends for a drink after work yesterday wearing white jeans from Chico's with a navy Portofino shirt from Express.
The Cole Haan bag is from T.J.Maxx. The fringe sandals are by Steve Madden, and they are from Macy's.
This week I received a wonderful email from a reader named Karen. It is full of more great tips I wanted to share with those who are often alone.
Karen writes, I never married, by choice, so I've spent my entire adult life largely alone, mostly without any regrets. (I will confess to becoming weary, over the last several years, of attending some events and making long drives solo. But if I were newly alone, I'd probably find these refreshing.) I do many of the things you suggested in your post -- the breakfast out is a good one, although I actually prefer an old-fashioned diner if I can find one -- but here are a few more ideas for your readers:
It has to be the right kind of place, but I prefer to eat lunch or dinner at the bar vs. a table when I dine alone. A practiced/friendly bartender will chat with you if not too busy, other people at the bar will often chat with you as well, and you don't have that "everyone is looking at me" feeling that a big, open room creates.
While traveling, if you would like to go out for a drink but don't want to feel like a middle-aged barfly, seek out small "back bars" in upscale or small, out-of-the-way restaurants. When the bar isn't the main attraction, the vibe is low-key and relaxed. The other patrons are likely just waiting for a table, so you don't feel like you're waiting for a pickup.
Attend outdoor festivals and talk to the vendors. My favorites are arts festivals, where the artisans are often making their creations right there and are happy to talk about their work. (You can learn amazing things!) I also like antique fairs and flea markets. Farmers' markets, too, are great places to find wonderful food and talk to the fascinating people who grow and produce it.
Do dress the part -- a stylish hat, dark sunglasses, artisan jewelry are all good -- so you feel less like a "woman alone" and more like a "woman of mystery."
Find a group working for a cause or interest you care about and volunteer. I've made new friends, gained free admission by volunteering for film and music festivals, and found great reward for working in soup kitchens and with animals in need.
Speaking of animals, if you don't already have one, adopt a loving animal companion. Dogs, of course, allow you to get out and even mix with others at the dog park, but cats can be devoted companions who make your at-home hours a genuine, tactile pleasure. (I'm a cat person myself.) If you adopt vs. buy from a breeder, you also do a very kind thing on behalf of animals who will otherwise be euthanized.
Consider activities that really might better alone. For instance, I walk along a scenic trail by a river almost daily, and I relish the sounds of the water lapping, birds singing, cicadas humming, and farm roosters crowing.
If you don't already, learn to love to read. Not only is reading an immersion in other worlds and lives (and necessarily solitary), but libraries are also lovely places where a companion is only a hindrance.
Take a class to learn about something that intrigues you. Learn to make jewelry or soap, speak Italian or French, take amazing photographs, or start a new business. You can attend a class through local community centers or college adult learning programs or enroll in an online course.
One of the things I always refused to do alone until recently went to the movies because I just HAD to discuss the film at length afterward. Now I go alone, and when I come home, I go to online review sites where plenty of folks are commenting and discussing, and I can join in.
If you try something alone and have a bad experience -- you just don't feel comfortable at all -- try again at another time. Sometimes it's not that you were alone, but other factors were in play (timing, other people's moods) that detracted from your adventure. I try to give a place 3 strikes unless I'm overwhelmingly repelled.
Thank you so much for offering your experiences to help others get over the hesitation to go out and do things alone, Karen. I appreciate all of you who have offered to help out with future blog posts. More to follow! I love it when we join together to help and inspire each other. I believe we have one of the best communities on the net!
Another reader made this great suggestion as an option for single folks to join in activities and meet other people. Meet-up groups are in every city in the world. It started in NYC right after 911, with all the people who lived there alone were frightened to get out and be around others. They have every interest group from A-Z. Dining groups, wine groups, adventure groups, sports groups, book club groups, movie groups, political groups, hobby groups, spiritual groups, knitting groups, music groups, exercise groups, and singles groups. You name it, you'll find it. Just go to www.meetup.com and pick your city to find the offerings. You can even attend a group event in a different city or country you're planning on visiting.