I’m going to guess that almost everyone went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the cinema at least once? I did too, three times actually: twice with friends, and once on my own. Yes, I went to the Vue Lancaster, on my own. At the time it seemed like a very proactive decision as I thought to myself ‘Well, I can either stay in on my own and be bored, or go out on my own.’ And, for about an hour, I felt empowered, independent, a one-man wolfpack, surely oozing confidence as I sat on the bus with only my handbag for company – but this sensation swiftly disappeared as I asked for my ticket and popcorn for one, sandwiched between couples and groups of friends in the queue.
I suddenly felt very self-aware, knowing that if I saw someone queuing to see a film alone then I would be nudging my friends and briefly pointing out the weirdo with an empty chair on either side. So what did I do? Salvage my dignity and go home? No, I ‘subtly’ followed a group in front of me: shamelessly latched on to the back of them, and hoped they wouldn’t notice as I acted like I was member of the gang, looking for ‘our’ seats before perching on the end of their row; this awkward charade, just so other people wouldn’t guess that I was on my own
So why is it generally considered a social taboo to be seen as a lone wolf in public? Aside from shopping, activities such as going for a meal or (as demonstrated by myself) to the cinema are less easy to do solo. Some people find it horrific even to enter the toilets by themselves on a night out, so going to the loo becomes akin to a team-building exercise.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why, as a society, we tend to think this way and instinctively judge the loner in Starbucks to be a social reject, rather than accepting that they may have just fancied a half-hour on their own. Perhaps it stems from our caveman pack instincts; nobody wants to be the lone neanderthal, risking getting clubbed by nearby tribes. As my experience goes to show, some things just aren’t easy to do alone, due to some unwritten social guidelines.
But, I think, it is not just the fear of looking socially awkward that stops us doing things alone. It’s just some things can be so much more fun when done with friends; a chat over a coffee offers a chance to bond, a film gives the opportunity to discover a shared interest or debate opinions. Of course, if you are confident enough to roam the bars of Lancaster alone at night or order a table for one at Bella Italia, then be their guest. But personally, the next time I decide to indulge the Vue Cheap Tuesday offer, I’ll avoid having the fun of the film being overshadowed by my cloud of self-consciousness and add a couple more guys to my wolfpack – for fun’s sake, as well as appearances.