It's not that hell is other people. (Well, not just that.) But sometimes a gal just needs to eat a dozen Malpeques/drive to Amish Country/see The White Ribbon/catch the Acrylics show by herself, y'know?
Pole-dancing, sky-diving and other feats of confident derring-do are great. But that's not what this is about. I'm talking the small, everyday things that we, for whatever reason, don't tend to do solo. Why? I don't know. But just for starters:
1. Dining Out
Yes, everyone eats alone sometimes from necessity, but there is something extremely self-loving about treating yourself to a good meal with your own company — or maybe that of a good book. Dinner is bonus points. The legendary food writer Elizabeth David was all about this - she writes about being offended when waiters always offered her half-bottles instead of full ones. While "drinking" and "alone" are generally, nowadays, not two things that spell "confidence," what she was getting at holds true: being alone should be an occasion, and a woman diner is a serious diner. Of course, the world is not always ready for this: part of why some people feel uncomfy dining solo is that they get shunted off with crap tables and lackadaisical service. So, yes, you have to choose your venue with care. Cosmo would doubtless say the place full of single businessmen (then they'd tell you to offer them a bite of something off your fork, or mention that oysters get you in the mood, or gratuitously bring up the Cosmo-Sutra, or, you know, be naked) but I say go for stuff you don't want to share, where absolutely zero birthday parties are going on. Brunch, which Dodai occasionally essays, is particularly bold — but the morning-after couple-watching is always good.
2. Movies. Maybe this is a no-brainer for some, but for others being alone in the dark is still unthinkable. To the convert, there is nothing better. Not only can you choose the movie and the seat (if the movie starts and they're free, I like the single handicap-accessible seating some theatres have), you can - wait for it - walk out. And it can be relaxing to form your own judgments without thinking about how much your companion is guffawing at something stupid or checking his watch. Especially good during the day, when there are a lot of solo viewers, and if you're at the Film Forum in New York, they'll be weird and they'll be there really early. Said Jessica, "Going to the movies alone was a terrifying prospect until I did it. Now I think I prefer it! What's the point of going with a friend? You meet, sit silently next to one another for a few hours, then maybe talk about it after, depending on your already overcrowded schedules."
3. Rock Shows
I got into going solo to shows when a friend bailed on me at the last minute for a Built to Spill gig and I couldn't find anyone else free who was harboring sufficient 90s nostalgia. So I gave the ticket away (good karma, and I did not have the balls for solo scalping) and ended up having an amazing time. I hate the word "empowering" but the girl alone at the show is, I realized, kind of who I wanted to be. Plus, literally no one is looking at you. This principle also applies to opera, theatre and any other kind of live performance, but something without an assigned seat ups the ante.
4. Travel When I asked my fellow 'belles what they liked to do alone, this came up again and again. This combines all the virtues of every other solo activity, really, plus language challenges. And the upsides are many. Says our intern Madeleine, "I can keep my own pace without having to worry about anyone else, and you blend in a lot more if you're by yourself...I feel like I saw and noticed a lot more than if I'd had friends with me." While, yes, not everywhere is an equally wise destination (I have sad memories of a solo $5 RyanAir jaunt to Milan and a hostel with an in-room urinal), the sense of absolute independence - not to mention, as Jessica points out, financial independence - is intoxicating. (Jezebel-approved women's-travel site Jauntsetter has been an invaluable resource in this regard, by the way.)
The getting-there aspect is even better. Anyone who has dealt with a dilatory or neurotic companion at the airport can appreciate Dodai's commendation of solo flying: "you get to do everything at your pace, never have to wait for anyone, or get pissed that someone is late or has bad plane etiquette. You can read or listen to music and really zone out." And says Anna North, I love flying alone. It makes me feel like nobody knows what I am doing or where I am going, and I could be a high-powered international spy." Added bonus: zero judgments of your in-flight movie or reading choices. And maybe you do feel like taking a cab to your hotel even if it's ten times more money! Well, no one's arguing.
5. Road trips.
Call this a subset of travel if you like, but it's really its own experience. Anna Holmes defines this for herself as "a car trip that goes from 4-10 hours" and it's the ultimate in badass, know-thyself, listen-to-what-you-want, free-spirited independence. Even if you're just going home.