I’ve been invited to a dinner party. A fancy sit down dinner party with a cocktail hour preceding it. It’s a happy occasion, celebrating the wife’s successful battle against cancer. I still remember her tearful message on my voice-mail, canceling her son’s lesson because she had found out she had cancer, “I just want to see my boys grow up,” she’d said.
But after multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she’s been cancer-free for ten years, hence the party. I’m not usually invited anywhere, let alone a society-like dinner party. And even though I often avoid social settings, I decided that I would go.
The pink invitation was addressed to me, “and Guest.”
I immediately started to think of who I might bring, though no good choices came to mind. It was a bit of a stressor, still, I fantasized about what it would be like to bring a smart, well-spoken man who knows his way around a dining room table. My old college friend (with seldom used benefits)? No, too complicated. As I was pondering my situation, I eventually checked my voice-mail. Cheryl had called to make sure I’d gotten the invitation. She was afraid I’d gone away on vacation and would miss it. She added that she didn’t know whether I was seeing someone or had someone I take to events like this but she wanted me to know that she’d be happy to see me come alone. She said I should feel totally comfortable coming alone and that would be just great. They’d just be thrilled to see me, and I could come alone.
That was nice.
She wanted to make me feel comfortable about COMING ALOOOOONE.
I delayed in responding. I’d recently attended her son’s graduation party alone and though it was nice, I was a bit uncomfortable and felt very conspicuous. See I Almost Crossed One Off of My Bucket List of Men to Do.
As I continued pondering, a possible potential date came to mind — a man I’d met through group therapy. He’d recently quit group so it was completely appropriate (if freaking weird) to see him outside of the therapeutic context. I was going over in my mind how I’d introduce him. “We used to work together,” sounded plausible. (Yes, we worked out our tortured psyches, but no one need know that part.) It would be weird, maybe too weird, since he knows much more about me than a casual friendly date would need to know. But he’s a smart guy who, I have no doubt, would be able to talk to the people at this dinner. I tweeted a random query about it to my friends who live in my phone about whether that would just be too weird. I received a response that I should just go alone because being single is awesome.
There it was again, “Go alone.”
Suddenly I felt that it was some sign of weakness that I even considered bringing a companion.
In the end, I left a message for Cheryl saying that yes, I would love to attend, but that, “As it looks now, I’ll be coming alone.” I guess I just wanted to leave the door open, even just in my mind.
Shortly after, I happened to be outside when Cheryl drove by my house (in her very nice Jaguar convertible). She stopped and exclaimed how thrilled she and her husband were that I would be coming. Then she elaborated. She said she thinks it’s just great for me to come alone, that she was single for a long time and she became so tired of bringing someone she’d have to entertain. She started going places alone, she explained. “I can’t tell you how many weddings I went to alone. I’m just like you. It’s better not to bring just anybody. If it was somebody special, sure, but there’s no need to have to entertain somebody else. Plus, there will be plenty of people you know. Some of the folks from the graduation and The Martin’s and . . .” She proceeded to name couples.
The one couple I did, in fact, know, but I’ve ever had any meaningful conversations with them. At the graduation party they extended a warm hello and then walked around the pool hand in hand. I can’t fault them for that, I mean, it’s not their job to entertain me.
Then Cheryl said — again, “I’m just thrilled you’re coming and I think it’s great that you’re coming alone.”
I know she meant well. I do not fault her at all. But it had an effect on me. I abandoned any thought of bringing an escort.
But why wasn’t I encouraged to bring a date? This is a dinner party! It’s not a wedding, Baptism or Bar/Bat-Mitvah. For family religious ceremonies it doesn’t really make sense to bring a rent-a-date. Those occasions are sacred and there will be pictures that the family will look at forever — and I don’t want them looking at a picture of my random date and think — “Who the hell was that?”
But a dinner party? Why not bring a companion, even if he’s not someone special?
I know why. It’s the new black. It’s the new black for women to go alone.
Well, it’s not so new for me. I’ve done it for years, both before and after my divorce. See, ” The Night I Became Cinderella” and “The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman, Going Out Alone.” My ex-husband hated going anywhere. I could get him to go to my work formal once a year and that was about it for those kind of events. Other times I went solo and told people my husband had to work. After we had children, I would just say my husband was home with the kids. So for me, I’ve done the new black. For me, it would be the new free to go somewhere with a man.
I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll talk to people. I’ll be my own designated driver and won’t drink. See, “My Kids Think I’m an Alcoholic.” I’ll be prepared to be seated with all couples. But truthfully, sometimes that’s just not festive. See, “I Went To A Wedding Alone.” Yes, as Cheryl pointed out, I would have had to entertain a date, but he’d also have to entertain me. If the couples are uncomfortable or just not gregarious I’d know I’d have someone to sit with. Let’s face it, this isn’t a get together with old college chums or a girls night out. It’s a sit down dinner party in the wealthy suburbs, and all that that implies.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but being single means I can have a date if I want, right? Isn’t that the bonus of being single? Choices? Options? — Even if the options put me outside of my comfort zone? But according to Cheryl, my only logical and fiercely independent option seems to be to go, bravely, alone, yet again.
Damn it. I’ve been out of the game for so long now I’m not even allowed to have a partner — for anything!
In the end, even though the invitation originally said I could bring a date, the multiple congratulatory comments persuaded me to RSVP for one. ( I chickened out.)
I needed Cheryl to say, or for me to say to myself, “You can go alone, but it’s fine if you want to bring a date, or companion, or whoever.” Oh the sweet freedom — to bring a male friend, or gay male friend, or hell, a paid male friend (not that I could afford that — heh heh heh).
But because of the new black, it has been made abundantly clear to me (in my warped mind) that I should go alone. So I will.
Screw the new black. Next time I want someone to walk in and out with, and know who I’ll be sitting with ahead of time. Yeah, yeah, I can go alone, but I don’t have to, damn it.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Or maybe Cheryl is planning to fix me up with one of the older men of means who is similarly unattached.
Just Me With . . . no date, boldly going where no man has gone before . . . or with . . . at least, not as my date, anyway.