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Company not strictly necessary – how to have fun on your own

Posted in Life & Love, and Women's issues

A lovely lunch at the Malibu Pier
A lovely lunch at the Malibu Pier

As a high school graduation gift, my parents shelled out the money for me to spend a whole month in London with a girlfriend. A few days before our departure, my friend Cinzia came down with pneumonia – without thinking twice, I decided to proceed with my plans, terrified at the prospect of spending the whole of August at the seaside with my parents. To their credit, in an age when communication was limited to long-distance phone calls, my parents agreed, with some trepidation, to let me go.

Everything had been arranged: I would be staying at Mrs. Sanders, a sort of guesthouse a family friend had recommended. What could go wrong? I took my charter flight to Luton, a small airport a million miles from the city, and  managed to blow off half my money on a taxi fare to Swiss Cottage, where Mrs. Sanders lived. The house turned out to be large and beautiful: Mrs. Sanders, married to ancient and blind Mr. Sanders, tried to make ends meet by renting her three spare rooms to young ladies like me and providing them with breakfast and dinner. Her 40 year old spinster daughter, Fiona, and two yappy dogs, completed the ambiance. It was there I discovered salted butter and marmalade and vegetables boiled into oblivion. I also discovered the BBC and the pleasure of doing things on my own.

Borough Market
A perfect day spent picking at food in Borough Market – London

The city, which I had briefly visited three times before, was mine to be had. I set the timetable, the visiting hours, the destinations and when and where I would stop to eat. Guidebook and tube map in hand, I trekked to smaller museums that interested me; I sat in St. Martin’s in the Fields for an impromptu midday concert; I ate sandwiches in St. James’ Park on a sunny day and struck a conversation with a Buckingham Palace cook; I traipsed around the docks that are now gentrified and yuppified but, at the time, still reeked of murky water and were filled with the ghosts of Victorian times gone by. I made some friends along the way but I also went to clubs alone, I had lunch at restaurants alone and fell in love with a city in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had I had to mediate my experiences with a friend. I also had to ask my parents to send me more money, after the taxi debacle, and negotiated with a stuffy bank in the City to withdraw my funds. This was all before credit cards and ATM’s.

Most of all, the experience left me with a lifelong habit of organizing my free time regardless of whether someone could be with me. During college, if no one was interested in the concerts I wanted to go to, sometimes I would go alone. Last night, I didn’t let two tickets to a free screening go unused just because none of my friends could make it. Took the car and drove to Westwood and enjoyed the movie. I routinely go check out exhibitions or unusual parts of town by myself – by choice. I don’t always want to share art or a meal with someone else, like I don’t share in the act of reading a book.

Caravaggio
A little known Caravaggio I enjoyed on my own in Rome

It would be so easy now to succumb to the lure of tv, Netflix, the net and just stay home when friends or husband are unavailable but why rob myself of an experience? A few years ago, passing through London on the way to Italy, I stopped for a few days and enjoyed a 3 hour meal at Gordon Ramsey’s three Michelin restaurant in Chelsea. I was there from nine to midnight and had a great time. Sure, it might have been nice to chat with a friend while eating and drinking, but my solitude heightened the gustatory experience and Jean-Claude, the maitre d’, paid extra attention to me in a way he might not have had it been two of us. For sure, I would not remember his name now.

LA Indian temple
Looking for Indian temples in LA

Pushing myself, at a young age, to do things alone helped me get out of my shell, mitigated my shyness somewhat and, above all, made me a little bit more fierce and gave me trust: in myself, my abilities and my coping skills.

It also taught me that I am enough, that for life to be entertaining I don’t need a posse or a companion. Not even an i-Pad.

Tomorrow I will be heading to the Petersen Automotive Museum for a couple of hours, because I have never been. I couldn’t think of anyone who might  be interested in looking at cars so I haven’t asked anyone to come along. But, if you are in the area, and have a passion for engines – well, give me a holler.

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14 Comments

  1. […] My Botanical Garden Interesting Literature Raphael Legacy By Barry Hardy The Wandering Postcard Camparigirl Lakshani Suranga The War in My Brain Bullying Prevention The Belmont Rooster So Many Blogs, So […]

    October 17, 2013
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  2. True, not interested in the Peterson museum, but you never called me for the free screening… 🙂 Maybe my teaching night? Hope it was fun. I look forward to a few hours alone exploring LA Sunday, and then even more when we meet up 🙂

    October 10, 2013
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    • Not sure he did but, about a year later, I met his boss, Gordon Ramsey, who came to cook in the kitchen where I used to work. We talked about that meal extensively and he explained me the intricacies of some of the dishes. And he volunteered his company next time I was in London dining alone. Yeah, right – fat chance of that

      October 9, 2013
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      • Mr Ramsay can live in hope! Incidentally I saw that Caravaggio on my own in a church off Piazza Navona earlier this year and lit a candle -a proper one – for a departed Catholic friend.

        October 9, 2013
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  3. silvia
    silvia

    Don’t care about engines but how I loved to be able to pick up the phone and make arrangements. It would mean being geographically close enough.
    I don’t understand people who can’t be on their own. I mean I understand there are reasons for not liking it and usually are significant ones.
    But there is such a pleasure in being on ones own that I would compare it to self erotism!
    Of course sex with others can be very amusing…

    October 8, 2013
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    • Soon enough my friend. Geographically close I mean. Already planning

      October 8, 2013
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  4. “Why rob myself of an experience?” – exactly! I have the same attitude as you, and I would have missed out on some great things if I didn’t.

    October 8, 2013
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  5. Sylvia
    Sylvia

    I frequently find myself in your writing, here again, couldn’t more agree on the subject. Always a pleasure to read you.

    October 8, 2013
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    • My “adult” version of salted butter is wonderfully rich french butter with fleur de sel sprinkled on it. Amazing!

      October 8, 2013
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  6. My encounter with salted butter was rather more traumatic than yours, by the sounds of it. EEEEEEEK! 😉

    October 7, 2013
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