For some reason, there's still a stigma attached to going out alone. But that may soon change.
As someone who goes out frequently by herself and genuinely enjoys it, I occasionally forget what others find so off-putting about one of my favourite ways to experience life. My best guess is that they're afraid that other people will see them alone and judge them, assuming that they are so pathetic or repulsive that no one will appear with them in public. In reality, though, no one notices or cares if you attend Oyster Happy Hour by yourself or with a table full of rowdy companions.
I'm not suggesting that you shun your friends, family members and co-workers in favour of living as a public hermit, but there are certain circumstances where going out alone is truly the best option.
Don't Wait for Other People
For starters, have you ever wanted to try a new restaurant or activity but ultimately never got around to it because no one would go with you? Starting now, miss out no more: If there's something you want to do, do it - regardless of whether you find someone to go with you. Getting in that mindset is liberating.
And it's more than conflicting schedules: Friends are great, but they don't always share your interests. Sure, you can wait around until you meet someone who is also into the history of sideshow and fermented foods - but why wait to do the things you enjoy, regardless of whether another person is involved?
Travelling for One
This is especially true about travelling. When exploring new places with a group - or even a partner - chances are, each person has a different idea of what constitutes the perfect day. The beauty of travelling alone (or going on "me dates") is that every day is (potentially) the perfect day because you get to do what you want, when you want. No more suffering through a river kayaking excursion when what you really want to do is spend the afternoon perusing the collections of the historic cookbook museum.
If going out alone still sounds intimidating, your best bet is to start small, like going to a coffee shop, getting your drink to stay, and sitting alone for 10 or 15 minutes as you sip it. Sure, you can bring a book or look at your phone, but also try just sitting there with your thoughts, or people-watching for a while. It really isn't that bad.
Seeing a movie or play by yourself is another way to ease your way into this lifestyle, because regardless of whether you're a party of one or 17, the entire audience (ideally) watches while sitting in silence. Besides, how many times have you gone to a show with a friend and planned to go out for a drink to "talk about it" afterward, but end up either going home because you're exhausted, or completely forgetting to talk about what you just watched? Exactly. Might as well skip the whole coordinating-schedules ordeal, and go by yourself.
Other solo outings can be downright therapeutic. Every few months I make an appointment at a local karaoke - the kind that has individual rooms to rent. I always start with an hour but end up staying for two or three - by myself, singing my favourite songs at the top of my lungs, to an audience of zero. You haven't lived until you've sung "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid soundtrack three times in a row to make sure Sea Witch Ursula's spoken parts are just right.
Get Lost in a Crowd
Another option is participating in a large group activity where you'll get (have?) to interact with others, but won't stand out for being there alone. For example, a few months ago I attended an antiques auction in a small town in upstate New York. I only intended on staying for an hour (I had never been to an auction before I was curious), but ended up eating homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner from their snack counter, making friends with the auctioneer, and accidentally purchasing a baking cabinet from the 1830s over the course of six hours. And it isn't just something I do while travelling: I regularly go to a local showtunes piano bar, because when you're standing shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder in a packed basement with strangers belting out the opening number of Rent, it doesn't matter whether you walked in the door alone.
How to Deal With Other People
Unfortunately, some people see a person alone and take it as an invitation to come up and talk to you, or - worse yet - try to join you. My standard response to these usually-well-meaning strangers is "No, thank you." As in:
Stranger: "Would you like some company?"
Me: "No, thank you."
Stranger: "Hi, my name is Kevin!"
Me: "No, thank you."
One of my other regular moves is to put the bulkiest, most obvious period product I have with me - typically one of those giant overnight pads or a super-absorbent tampon - and place it on the table or bar beside me. To date, no one has ever approached or bothered me using that strategy. Sure, it may be a little vag-centric, but there's nothing precluding non-menstruators from carrying a product or two.
For the most part, though, I don't have to resort to any of these tactics because most people are too caught up in their own lives to notice me sitting there by myself. And if you feel uncomfortable at any point during your me date, you can always pick up and leave, guilt-free - no excuse needed.