When one of my closest friends first introduced me to the phrase “date yourself”, I found it ridiculous. I have always enjoyed my own company but wouldn’t have considered simply going somewhere alone to be on a date. It’s easier than ever in the digital age to download a dating app and swipe your way into the pub with a stranger. Hardly any of us would consider turning up alone for dinner instead.
Last Trinity – freshly heartbroken – I spent many afternoons in Christ Church meadows burning my shoulders and watching couples intertwined. I found the company of friends or a crowd on a night out or in the library a welcome distraction from the racket of my own thoughts and tears. Yet this breakup was food for thought and my friend’s advice to “date myself” came to mind. A few months later in Germany I rediscovered my love of solitude. Spending time alone is not embarrassing, it’s enriching.
I’ve enjoyed plenty of dinners by myself. Once a man stopped a wasp falling into my glass in Oxford and then showed me a poem on his cracked screen. We ended up having a burrito before he got his train back to Bristol. This fleeting and platonic connection gave me more confidence to do more by myself. The next day I stumbled into spoons alone and befriended some random interns from Yorkshire. If I’m not chatting to strangers to the people I meet I like keeping to myself but writing poems about them. There’s a section of my notebook reserved for sketching strangers.
It’s easy to rely on the company of family, friends or lovers to make yourself happy or fill a void. Lots of young people describe feeling awkward sitting in public alone. A table for one can make you question if people are staring, wondering if you have no friends. The reality is that everyone is far too wrapped up in their complex, inner lives to judge you or even notice.
In Oxford with jam packed terms it’s easy to fill every day with social events. As an extrovert I treasure time with my friends but used to be prone to bouts of loneliness during term time weekends. The libraries are strangely packed by 9 am yet college can feel eerily quiet. Learning to love your own company offers inner peace.
There is great value in the turmoil of putting yourself out there, whether that’s dating or cherishing arguably the greatest love stories of all: friendships. Invest in the relationship you have with yourself like you would a friendship, offer yourself time and compassion.
“Me time” often implies lazing around at home but why not challenge yourself to do what you would normally save for friends or dates for a change? Choose your favourite restaurant, bring your book or simply soak up the people watching.
So instead of scrolling into the endless void of tiktok for hours on end when your friends are busy, go out anyway. Romanticise the mundane and spectacular moments of your life. You can’t break up with yourself so learn to enjoy the company of the one person you are stuck with forever.
There’s no shame in a table for one.
Image credit: Adrienn via Pexels.