Wednesday, April 25, 2007

COLUMN: Independence

I'm an independent person. Well, either that or it's what I say to defend my long stretches of bachelorhood.

But I AM an only child, and an only child who grew up out in the sticks. There were no kids my age within walking distance to my house. My parents were great companions, but, y'know, they're PARENTS. Parents aren't into D&D or rock music or video games or kid stuff. This meant that from a young age, I had to become fairly adept at keeping myself company.

Nowadays, the independence that I cultivated as a kid still comes in handy. I've got a great set of friends, but they live their own lives. I'm seeing a girl now, but she's all the way up in Chicago and about to leave on a mission to Africa for most of the summer. This kind of relationship would probably make the average mortal's head snap, but I'm kind of okay with it. I mean, I want to see her 24/7, but if I can't, I can deal with it. I'm used to flying solo.

And who better to be my friend than myself? We share the same sense of humor, we always show up places at the same time, and we never quibble over what radio station to listen to. (Actually, I often DO get in fights with myself over radio stations. This will probably prove important in a therapy session one day.)

The point is, most of the time I'm perfectly okay with hanging out by myself. Some folks out there can't seem to exist on their own. I relish it. I've known people too self-conscious to walk into a restaurant by themselves; I eat out almost every day, and usually by myself. To me, it's no big deal. I've gone to clubs by myself, concerts by myself. Heck, once I even went to Colorado by myself.

But there's one thing that freaks even ME out. One place where I have a HUGE problem going by myself: the movies. For some reason, I can't imagine strutting into a cinema with a party of one. But for the sake of journalism -- well, and boredom -- I'm going for it.

As I type this, I'm on vacation from work. By the time you read this, they'll have found me and re-chained me to my desk, but for the time being, I'm a free man.

Problem is, my friends aren't. They didn't have the common courtesy to vacate en masse with me. I'm not at work, but all my friends ARE. Besides, most of my friends are into more highbrow ways to spend the day. In fact, one of my best friends has plans tonight to go see a lecture by a survivor of the Holocaust. That's an admirable event to attend, and certain to be a rare emotional glimpse into one of the most horrific moments of humanity.

I, meanwhile, have opted for flatulence jokes. Sadly, that's MY infantile brain's idea of a well-spent night out. So I'm off to conquer my fear of seeing movies solo by checking out the new Will Ferrell flick, "Blades of Glory." And I'm bringing my notebook to record it all.

- Gulp. Well, I did it. I marched right in the front door of the theatre, went up to the booth, and confidently announced, "One, please." In a swift glance, the ticket girl knew. Her mouth might have said, "There you go, enjoy the show," but I KNOW her brain was pointing and laughing.

- The theatre-plex is nearly empty except for lots of employees and some stragglers, all of whom are likely pointing and laughing at me in their brains. Inspiration hits: I take out my notepad. Now it looks as if I'm a Very Important Movie Critic. I'm not here alone because I'm a loser, I'm here because it's my JOB! Of course, why would a critic be writing in said notepad BEFORE the movie starts? This won't work.

- A better plan is formulated. Before I go to into the movie, I will stand in the lobby and make a big production of looking at my watch, seemingly frustrated. This way I will not appear to be by myself, I will simply be the responsible guy irked at his late slacker buddies. Wait, no. That looks more like the pathetic guy who's getting stood up for a matinee. That's worse than coming in by yourself to begin with.

- Joy! I have slunk into the theatre to find it COMPLETELY EMPTY. Will I have a private screening of the movie? Grrr, no. Just before the movie's scheduled start, a high school couple comes in, heads to the back of the theatre, and giggles. Probably because they're cool and I'm not. I bet they're gonna make out, too. Just two hormonal high schoolers and ME, the de facto lonely pervert. Please let the trailers start soon so I can melt into darkness.

- Trailers. Well, first an ad for Pepsi. And then Hot Pockets. They're not dimming the lights. And then a PSA telling you not to smoke pot, which is pretty pointless in front of a Will Ferrell flick. The lights stay on. And a trailer. And another trailer. Still lights. I bet they're snickering at me. A third trailer. A fourth. Now I'm self-conscious, awkward, AND all I can think about is how badly I want a Hot Pocket.

Finally, the lights dim and the movie starts. Soon, my awkward fears dissipate in a sea of figure skating, bad jokes, and that hot girl from "The Office." I did it. I conquered my Everest. I went to a movie by myself, and I had fun. Granted, I picked an aisle seat 2 steps away from the door, and by the time the closing music swelled, I was already a dust trail making a leap for the exit.

Still, it was one giant leap for Shanekind. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a vacation to attend to.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Wow! I can totally relate to this! I'm an only child who grew up so far in the country that there was nothing anywhere around also. I found your site searching the word complacency after my long long overdue realization that complacency defines my life.