Societal Solitude: Part III

In years past, I approached solo ventures with a desire to explore and overcome the insecurities that surround them. Simply going to a restaurant without a companion paralyzes some people with fear, and others claim it’s a great personal experience. I've been to the movies by myself and taken myself to dinner, but I wasn’t afraid of those things. I was interested. I wanted to experience it, and generally just know and understand what the big deal was.

I’ve been lucky enough to see live comedy a couple times in my life, which is a fascinating experience in itself. The stages and scenarios were big enough that I got to play my favorite part—a fly on the wall—and avoid being called out by anyone onstage. However, the most recent time I went to a show, it was stand-up open-mic night, and the only available seats were in the very front row. Please note there is no size, boldness, Italic or other form of text I can use here to stress how terrifying it is for a shy and quiet twenty-three year old girl to be sitting so close to a stage that she has to rest her feet on it, where ten or fifteen comics will perform three-minute bits and at least half are bound to call you out on something. Introvert’s worst nightmare.

It ended up being worth it. Despite getting spit on, accused of using the paper seat covers in public toilets, and asked out for drinks under a spotlight onstage, I made it almost nearly to the end and was glad I did. I managed to fall hard for the last routine I sat through and the comically confident guy who delivered it. Since it is 2015 and I am an Internet human, I Googled him as soon as I got home and did what anyone else would do. I clicked every link, listened to every podcast, sent half the photos to my friends and followed him on every social media channel. It wasn’t until the weekend rolled around that I realized he was doing a full stand-up set at another comedy club in the city.

I vacillated between going or not all day, because I knew I would end up at the event alone. Half of my friends were out of town, and the other half were busy. Come to think of it, another half of them were at weddings. I had it in the back of my mind that I would go no matter what, because my desire to watch his full routine was massive. The only thing holding me back was that it was a comedy show.

Stand-up comedy is well-known for being an excruciating endeavor for the introvert world. Performing it obviously, which I have clearly never done, but attending can be just as intimidating depending on the level of anxiety you get in the public eye. I was able to talk myself into going; I would go early to make sure I had a seat at the back, I would avoid eye contact with as many people as possible. The day had even set itself up well: I was showered, had just done my nails, and had been forced to leave my bed only like three times. I was in a good place for this. It was going to be just like that movie I went to by myself. It would be dark and I would be watching something...only in this case, someone could pick on me from a spot-lit stage. Still, I was confident walking into the bar where the show was held. I was in the scariest place doing a scary thing: a stand-up comedy show, in attendance alone. My strong desire and positive mood set the stage well.

The irony found me as the featured performer before my headlining hunk began his bit. He launched into a terrifically funny story about a book he received as a gift once, the point of the joke being total discouragement from ever doing anything that scares you. “You do one thing that scares you every day, until one day you’ve got a cop in your trunk driving down the wrong side of a freeway and realize how much better off you were before living in perpetual fear.” (Maybe you had to be there? I'm still laughing...) This event was one thing I said yes to, even though I was afraid, and it was helping me. I was growing somehow. Throughout the two hours and time I was sitting there, I was aware of the positive experience happening around and in me. This ain’t so bad, I convinced myself, sitting at a corner table with steaming black coffee. In fact, attending a comedy show on my own might have been the least frightening thing I’ve ever done, but the conditions were pristine. I got to stare at a handsome man making me smile nonstop for forty-five minutes, even after laughing until my cheeks hurt at his opener.

I had done my research and knew what I was getting into, and as such I can’t say I recommend grabbing a ticket to the first comedy club you can find if you’re afraid of going out alone. Comedians can be scary. I got lucky enough to find the tame ones, and maybe that’s a Minnesota thing. But the outcome, or the aftermath, has been the third big concept for me in developing my public aloneness skills. Where I’m at mentally when I leave and how I feel about the experience in hindsight does a lot to affect how I go about my next opportunity to go out alone. I left the comedy show smiling, not only because jokes but because I was proud of myself. Maybe I would have felt differently if one of the comics had heckled me and left a bright red flush of total mortification across my face, but would that have negatively affected the grand scheme of my enjoyment enough to keep me from ever going out alone again? I’ll never know.

Still, I’m not writing this to tell you a big arcing story of how I’ve “overcome insecurities” and why “going out alone is the best” and “everyone should do it” and “conquering fear” and what have you, because I’m not sure I believe all that. In fact, this whole series started merely with a thought toward the amusing irony of showing up to do something that scared me only to be dissuaded from ever doing something that scares me. I don’t know that there will ever be a point in my life when I’m suddenly game to go do all the things by myself, happy as a clam. I might find other ways to broaden my horizons and conquer my fears, but only to a point; I don't plan to find myself on the wrong side of funny business, or the freeway. For now, I’ll take my public aloneness opportunities on a case by case basis...all jokes aside.