Do you ever request a table for one? Do you like going out to a concert or a bar with no particular need for socializing? Are you perfectly comfortable when you’re all alone in a crowd?
Not me. I don’t like to be alone in social situations. I don’t like to eat alone at a restaurant. I don’t like to sit by myself at a bar. I don’t like going to a concert by myself. So when I do find myself alone in such circumstances I very quickly try to remedy the situation. And usually I have no trouble striking up a conversation or even making a new friend or two in the process. But every once in a while I strike out. And I gotta tell you, it is pretty unsettling.
The last time this happened I was at the Electric Factory to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Now the Factory is a vast concrete barn and does not lend itself to the kind of easy connection you can find in a club or at a bar. Once I walked in and found a decent vantage point I immediately started feeling anxious about the prospect of going through the next few hours on my own. So I started scanning my neighbors to see if I could make eye contact in the hopes of striking up a conversation. No luck there.
My anxiety was rising. I decided to go for a beer. To keep my place I set my jacket down on the bleacher and decided to use this a chance to speak to the woman standing next to me. I asked if she would watch my jacket and she agreed. Then overcome by a moment of desperation I turned and asked if she wanted anything from the bar.
Her grimaced “NO” made it clear that she had probably mistaken my attempt at politeness for a pick up. I was kicking myself for allowing my anxiety to get the better of me as I waited in line. I finished the beer back at my seat then took the change of act as an excuse to relocate .
I wended my way closer to the stage to await Nick. What followed was one of the greatest concerts I have ever seen. The man was like Elvis having a psychotic break- grinding his hips, kicking over the keyboard just so the roadie would have to come out and fix it again and menacing the crowd with snarls.
Yet all the while I would find myself distracted by that same nagging discomfort. Between songs I would glance around me in hopes of making eye contact. More than once I tried to insert myself in someone else’s conversation. In the end the elation of an amazing show was cheapened by the fact that I felt just as alone as when I went in.
Pretty pathetic, I know. What about you? Are you at home when you’re all by yourself at a show or at a table for one? If not, how do you cope with those feelings of anxiety? Do you avoid going out by yourself altogether? Do you go out of your way to make friends? What’s the most awkward thing you’ve ever done to try and strike up a conversation? Did it work? I’d love to have some new strategies to try the next time I find myself all alone in a crowd.