I Went to a Dinner Party Alone, Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6
A good six years ago I wrote about being invited to a party with a plus one but being strongly encouraged to come alone. See You Don’t Have To Bring A Date, Come Alone! Come Alone! COME ALONE! The party has become an almost annual thing and I have gone a few times. Always invited with a plus one, always attending alone. See I Went To A Dinner Party Alone
This year was no exception.
I fleetingly considered asking a male acquaintance to come with me, but that may have meant more than I wanted it to and I figured, this is what I do and it is what I have been encouraged — emboldened to do.
I boldly go where no man has gone before — meaning to a public event with me.
So I went. Did my thing, walked in unaccompanied and alone. I confidently approached strangers standing in clumps and joined their conversations. Like a boss. Well, like a politician, more accurately.
The hostess greeted me, the same woman who repeatedly lauded my decision to go alone back in the day. “Come alone!” She’d exclaimed. “No pressure to bring a date I would have to entertain,” she’d reasoned. “I used to do it all the time when I was single,” she’d shared.
But not this time.
This time she hit me with,
“One of these days you are gonna have a date!”
“I want you to come with somebody next time!”
To which I awkwardly, jokingly, painfully responded,
“Oh yes, next year for sure.”
You get the drift.
Apparently coming alone was brave and practical and cool back then. But now? Six years later? Now it’s just getting ridiculous.
Enough is enough.
Adding awkwardness to awkward, when it came time to take our seats for dinner, the hostess loudly pointed out the three tables that had seating for nine, rather than eight or ten like the others. “You can sit here, or there, or, let me see, there.” You know, the ODD numbered tables, for the odd men (or ladies) out. There must have been two other singles there, though I never found them.
I settled at a nine top table, with four couples I did not know.
Four couples, and me. But this ain’t my first rodeo; I’ve gone to a wedding alone.
Also, I was the only other person of color there, except for the Latina housekeeper and anyway, she brought her husband. Come to think of it, there was a slightly accented slightly brownish man in one of the clumps of people I invaded. But he blended, and, you know, he had a wife.
I felt as though I did not blend quite as well, though I may have been a touch paranoid.
Also, knowing the family and talking with some of the guests, their net worth was likely substantial. I’d guess that during cocktails they probably earned more in interest than I make all year.
Conspicuous and out of place as I felt, everyone was friendly and it was a pleasant evening. I have known the hostess for years and I truly admire her. Though she doesn’t have to think about money (or lack thereof) and is happily married, she has weathered personal challenges that others have literally not survived. To see her smiling and laughing is a gift. I’m happy to have been included in the event, and appreciative of the option to bring a Plus One.
But dang it even if I have to rent one, I will bring a man next year. I will be conspicuously coupled, if only for the night. I will casually drift to a table with even numbered place settings. I will introduce my date by name (if I can remember it) and gently caress his arm. I will ask him to fetch me a drink. I will allow our photo to be taken together and — wait for it — posted on Facebook.
As God as my witness, I’ll never be dateless again. Not to this party.
Just Me With … out a Plus One for this particular event since 2013.
RIP Mary Tyler Moore. She was still with us when this post was first published.
I have written a lot of posts about going out alone. Huh. There are more coming, because I have some thoughts about it . . .
The New Walk of Shame For The Single Woman — Going Out Alone
Pissed: Parking and Dining Alone
You Don’t Have To Bring A Date, Come Alone! Come Alone! COME ALONE!
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 only 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 thoughts 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 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. It’s a sign of strength.
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 than that I went places solo and told people my husband had to work. After we had children, a.k.a. the built in excuses I’d birthed, I would just say my husband was home with the kids. So for me, I’ve done the new black. In fact, I’ve always been black. (Pun intended) For me, it would be the new free indeed the new ME to go somewhere with a man.
I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll talk to people. As usual, 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. 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.
Damn it. I’ve been out of the game for so long now I’m not even expected or allowed to have a companion — for anything!
In the end, even though the invitation originally said I could bring a date, the multiple encouraging and congratulatory comments persuaded me to RSVP for one. (In other words, I chickened out.)
After so many years of marriage and experience going places alone, I probably needed Cheryl to say, or for me to say to myself, “You can bring somebody, anybody, if you want.” 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, in my warped mind it has been made abundantly clear to me that I should– I must — go alone.
So I will.
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.
And this is what it was like:
The New Walk of Shame For The Single Woman — Going Out Alone
On Twitter I dubbed it “The New Walk of Shame for The Single Woman — Going Out Alone,” though there’s nothing really shameful about it. It’s just not something that I want to be so . . . obvious, or frequent for that matter. But of course it is what it is.
Still, as I walked out of my house in the ‘burbs, wearing a little black top, jeans and heels on a Saturday evening right before nightfall, I felt the little ick. Perhaps under cover of darkness I would have felt differently. After all, I was just going out. I wasn’t turning tricks or anything. (Ironically, even prostitutes are usually getting into a car with someone. Not me. Solo all the way.) Still, I felt weird, exposed.
In the first place, I hadn’t felt like going out at all. I was exhausted and frankly, tired of going places alone, tired of driving. I also hadn’t been sleeping well and had forgotten to eat — again. See, Confessions of a Skinny Mom. Additionally, I tend to be “melancholy” (sounds so much better than clinically depressed) and it’s hard for me to get out — yet that is exactly what I must do, or so I’m told. Plus, I really hate driving and this was going to be about a thirty minute ride. On the other hand, had I stayed home, well, there may have been tears or chores or nothing special, followed by guilt and anger for the tears, chores or nothing special. See Weekends Off. I would have beaten myself up for not going out on the one of two nights a month when the kids are gone and when this time, coincidentally– luckily, there was actually someplace where I could go — alone. Oh yeah, there was a whole carnival fun house of competing emotions going on my head. So I forced myself to go out. This again is where it is helpful to have people with you. When required to meet someone or when a friend is picking you up, you can’t bail. That little voice that says “just stay home” is naturally squelched. But when going out alone, well, a woman can change her mind at the last minute. A woman’s prerogative. No one would be disappointed, no one would be left waiting, no one would be the wiser. I confess that I have driven myself places, or attempted to drive myself places and gotten lost, not found parking, etc. and ended up turning around and going home without ever having left the car. This has happened, more than once.
On this particular night I got the ick walking to my car. It probably hadn’t helped that I’d just watched the Season Five Sex And The City Episode where Carrie does not have a “Plus One” for her big book release party and admits to loneliness, Charlotte admits to not liking the sound of talking about her divorce and Miranda avoids telling a man she’s become a mother. All three of those hit home for me.
So as I walked to my car to go out, my feeling was somewhat reminiscent of the traditional “Walk of Shame” home that a woman makes in broad daylight, wearing the same clothes from the night before. That look screams: “You had somebody last night, you were doing something all night, but now you’re on your own, and everybody knows it.”
I felt like the walk to my car in daylight and heels screamed: “Single woman, all alone and trying to get some action.” It’s my own paranoia, fueled by the fact that I’ve been known to “people watch,” and I know that if I saw myself going out like that in daylight — alone on a Saturday evening— I’d say,
“I wonder where she’s going?“
I just wanted to get in my car as quickly as possible.
I realize that the fact that I play music gives me a huge advantage for going out alone. Music provides me with night-time activities, like jam sessions, or going out to listen to other musicians I know play, where I can have a really good excuse for being alone, even in bars. This particular event was a jam session/fundraiser for a music studio run by a guy I’d gone to school with many years ago. I’m on his mailing list and get impersonal invitations all the time. I’d never gone before. I’d never really seriously considered going. But this was going to be the night that I would actually go, damn it. I felt obligated — not to him — but to me. It was a timing thing. It was a night I could go, and a place to go.
The studio was at a location I’d never been to, in the part of the city where I’ve gotten lost more than once. But it is a new world now. I wasn’t really traveling alone, not anymore — now I had my new best friend Miss GPS, who right now is a very polite British woman. Let’s call her Emma. Emma tells me when to turn and when to “take the Motorway.” I programmed Emma and she guided my journey. Once I “reached my destination” and parked, I checked in with my Twitter friends, who were giving me the thumbs up for going out alone.
Okay. Lipstick on, glasses off. Valuables (meaning Emma) hidden, car locked. I retrieved the entry code for the security door from my email invitation and was ready to go. Following the prompts, I entered the code on the door.
Unfortunately, the call went directly to voicemail, which was full! Crap. No one was answering to buzz me in.
I tried again, repeatedly. This is when having someone with me might have been helpful. You know, someone to complain to, bounce ideas off of . . . someone to make me not look so stupid. I mean, picture it, a woman alone, dressed for going out, in an iffy neighborhood, standing in front of a building and —– no one is buzzing her in!
Tragic, I tell you. Tragic.
I went back to the safety of my car. Safe, that is, from the public humiliation of being rejected by a security entry door. I was about to tweet about my epic failure of the night and go home, when, out of the corner of my eye I saw that someone had opened the door. It was my Knight in Shining Armor (or, more accurately, some guy in a Lucky Brand Jeans Tee-Shirt)! Yay! Someone had been sent down to let me in! My calls were not unanswered! I was not going to be left alone in my car to do the drive of shame back home. I was going in!
The Lucky Brand guy whom I’d never met showed me upstairs in the not completely renovated warehouse type building, walking me down long narrow hallways of exposed brick. We took the freight elevator up. I wondered for a moment whether I should have told someone where I was going so that if I were to say — go missing — my loved ones would have a general location to give to the police for questioning.
But no worries, I safely entered the studio, full of people who were not scary. I panicked for a split second when I didn’t see the only guy I expected to know. But he was there, and when he saw me, he gave me a hug and said,
“What a nice surprise.”
First part of my mission had been accomplished. I had arrived, alone, albeit slightly overdressed. But I was there. Doing the visual room check it appeared that most people came with someone, of course. Some were couples, some were related, some were friends. While the people were open with introductions, they mostly talked to each other. I immediately joined the jam, avoiding the standing alone awkwardness. When I wasn’t playing I parked myself in an area to watch and listen (and where, by design, I didn’t have to talk). One other good (or bad) thing about music events is that a person can be there and never really have a conversation at all and, more importantly, the lack of conversation is not so obvious. This makes my attendance “minus a Plus One” a little less alone, and it comes as quite a relief to my road dog, Ms. Social Anxiety, who is often with me, even if no one else can see her . . . bwa ha ha ha.
In the end, though, I got out of the house, out of my neighborhood, and stepped out of the box (a different type of music, even played a different instrument for a little while). Plus, I do love music. And it is absolutely true that music brings people together without any talking at all — it breaks down both language and more importantly for me, social barriers, and really, how cool is that?
My English Electronic Friend Emma and I returned home safely — under cover of darkness.
Just Me With . . . no shame after a night out, alone.
And I got hit on . . . Where Did I Put My Fake Boyfriend?