Ticket for one: The joy of going to the movies alone

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During the past week, I have watched in awe as people around me slowly lost their minds trying to get tickets to Taylor Swift. For a generation regularly dismissed as fractured and lazy, we Millennials proved to be both united and motivated.

All it took was the world’s biggest pop star releasing a limited number of tickets to a handful of shows available in only two cities.

Having previously assumed those who go to the movies alone were weirdos, I now find myself part of that lonely, lovely club.Credit: Marija Ercegovac

While the Swift presale was derailed because demand far outweighed supply, I faced the reverse issue at my local cinema. There was an abundance of tickets available for the Monday 8.30pm session of Jennifer Lawrence’s new romantic comedy No Hard Feelings, but I only required one.

The time had finally come, a ticket for one.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve avoided going to the cinema alone in the misguided belief that only psychopaths do so. Like most mistakes I make in life, this can be traced back to the idiotic social conditioning of my youth.

When you’re a teenager, going to movies is strictly a group activity. In fact, it is less about what you’re seeing and more about who you’re going with, and what are the chances that you may a) hold their hand (unlikely) or b) perhaps give them a little kiss (so slim).

Because you’re in a group, you adopt a mob mentality, and anyone not doing what you’re doing, for example, an innocent person trying to enjoy a movie on their own, defaults to being “that weird guy up the back by himself”.

If I saw someone by themselves, I assumed that was a reflection of their entire life. They ate alone, lived alone, cried alone and most likely, killed alone.

Thankfully I matured, leaving these views in the past along with all the other regrets from my teenage years, including blonde tips, long denim shorts, a collection of Jay-Jay’s slogan tees, and a shell necklace I wore for all of year 8.

But despite growing up, I could never grow out of the feeling that to see a movie alone was to declare myself a social pariah.

Strong chance me and my jean shorts are somewhere in this 2004 stock image of people going to the movies.

Each time I considered it, I was haunted by the idea of bumping into someone I vaguely knew and then having a long conversation about how excited we were to see Magic Mike: Last Dance, before they inevitably asked the obvious question: “Who are you here with?”

I committed to my solo cinema excursion after the stars aligned: an empty schedule, a free evening and a movie no one wanted to see with me. If there was ever a time to face my fears, it was Monday night at 8.30pm.

However, my fears were not without reason. Having made my plan, I told a few people and was met with mostly universal confusion. One friend, in particular, was convinced the idea was a call for help: “Is everything OK, man?”

Perhaps the response makes sense; we live in an always-on world that thrives on connection. Social media has wired us to be constantly updating, sharing, commenting and engaging.

Add into that our instinct to treat being busy like a badge of honour, and free time is rarely treated as me time. Instead, we find ways to fill our spare moments. There are always catch-ups to schedule, errands to run, or Taylor Swift tickets to queue for.

Alone time has gone the way of my long denim shorts, out of fashion and slightly concerning.

Not that I was alone at the Monday night session of No Hard Feelings. It was me and one other guy, a bald man seated one row behind me and slightly to the right. I’m ashamed to admit that my first thought upon seeing him was, “What’s with that weird guy up the back by himself?”

Of course, he was just like me (except bald), two weird guys by themselves, except I didn’t feel weird at all.

As soon as the lights went down, my vibes went up. There was no need for polite conversation during the trailers, no obligation to share my snacks and no pressure to answer questions from my easily confused wife about Who was that guy? Had we seen him before? Wait, was that the same guy from the other bit? Or another guy? Those guys look the same.

By the time the end credits rolled, the conversion was complete, and I looked forward to treating myself to more solo dates. Films, dinners, perhaps the odd concert. On that note, is anyone selling a single ticket to Taylor Swift?

Find more of the author’s work here. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Instagram at @thomasalexandermitchell and on Twitter @_thmitchell.

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