By Katherine Lee, LCSW
Many find it difficult to go out in NYC alone. In a major city like ours, it may feel strange or uncomfortable to go out by yourself in public. Having a movie night in with take-out often sounds like a cozier, safer option. Here’s the downside: Buying into your anxiety and choosing to stay in the comforts of home may lead to increased feelings of loneliness and depression. Venturing out into the city solo may not only boost your spirits—it can also lead to new friendships, connections and possibilities.
What if I feel awkward and out of place? What if people notice I’m alone and judge me?
One of the biggest obstacles to enjoying time out alone is fear of negative judgment from onlookers who happen to be with others. There are some simple ways to try to get around this. Going to a bar/restaurant that has live music or trivia nights, or attending a play, or movie where eyes tend to be focused on a main attraction may lessen your fear that you’ll be noticed. Bringing a book, crossword puzzle, or your smart phone can also help you to look “busy.” But going to a venue alone is a great opportunity to make new connections. At down times, for instance, many bartenders seem happy to chat, to get to know you, and to build rapport, which can decrease feelings of social anxiety and isolation. If you own a business or are involved in volunteer work, handing out cards or networking can feel empowering, and can segue into natural conversation with other customers. And fear that you’ll be judged for being alone? Most people actually think of independence and confidence when noticing someone enjoying his/her time out on the town in their own company.
Let’s say I just want a quiet evening out to myself. How can I trust that I won’t get hit on or harassed?
I hear this fear quite a bit, especially for those who enjoy dining/drinking solo in a restaurant or at a bar. I could tell you that the solution is to avoid all dive bars, or places that seem to frequent rowdy customers. The truth is, the possibility of being approached may happen anywhere, even in upscale spots that seem to bring in more of a mature crowd. Part of what can help is to address why the anxiety exists to begin with. What would it mean for you if you were to be approached? How do you imagine you’d handle it if someone were to want to buy you a drink, try to strike up a conversation, (or more distastefully), express their interest in an intrusive way. Planning and strategizing for how to deal with these potential situations ahead of time can help you to feel more empowered and prepared upon heading out.
Are there events in NYC that cater to single people/people attending solo?
One of the greatest things about NYC is that it offers tons of events for folks looking to make new friends, to engage in hobbies/interests with strangers, or find a potential date. Websites like Eventbrite, www.eventbrite.com., Jewish Single Events, www.jewishtodo.com, or Meetup www.meetup.com are just a few of many that advertise to adults who plan to come to events unescorted. Popular dating websites and speed dating events offer singles the opportunity to mingle, and find romantic interests. Lastly, there are many bars/restaurants in all parts of the city that seek to attract adults who enjoy dining alone. The right atmosphere in places like these can feel homely, and have the potential to draw single diners back in to become “regulars.”
Despite my answers, you may continue to find yourself stuck. The thought of spending time out unaccompanied seems too daunting to bear, and yet staying home doesn’t always feel so great either. In times like these, ongoing discussions with a skilled therapist may help to work through motivating factors to your reluctance to get out there. Developing the motivation and the tools for going out alone can lead to a much more satisfying (and less lonely) lifestyle.