Party of One: Dating Yourself
Columnist Angie Ebba found that dating herself was a great way to learn more about who she is and start loving herself fully. Check this out, then schedule yourself a date!
There was a time ten years ago that I stood in the grocery store aisle and cried. It was a rare time that I was at the store without my two toddlers in tow. I was recently divorced, and time by myself was uncommon and cherished. But there I stood, tears streaming down my face, face turned down to my shopping cart so others wouldn’t see.
I wasn’t crying for the grief of a failed marriage, or the sheer overwhelmingness of single-parenting two young children, nor for the lack of a job (and therefore lack of money) and all the stress that was causing me.
No, I was crying because I didn’t know what type of juice I liked.
I stood, immobilized in the beverage aisle, hit by the stark realization that not only did I not know what kind of juice I liked (apple? grape? orange? pear-guava?) but that I really no longer knew much of anything that I liked. I no longer knew who I was.
It’s easy as a woman in our culture to lose ourselves. For me, I lost myself in an ugly marriage. Every time I made chicken and broccoli tortellini because he liked it (and I choked it down despite thinking it was awful), I lost a part of myself. Every time I decided not to hang out with my friends because I knew he wouldn’t be happy about it, I lost a part of myself. Every time I put a novel away for fear of being made fun of for reading it or declined dessert for fear of being called names, I lost a part of myself. Every time I pushed down my desire to ask for a much needed few hour break for fear of being accused of being needy, I lost a part of myself.
Our society expects women to be the care-takers, the emotional laborers. We juggle careers, friends, partners, and children, often having far more on our to-do list than we have hours in the day. It is very easy to get caught up in all of this and lose sight of our own desires and needs. As I stood there that day in the supermarket, I realized that I certainly had. I had lost myself but was determined to find myself again.
When I was in college I began taking solo adventures into the world. Always a bit shy and a total introvert, I often found myself alone at the open mic or indie film. I learned to really love sitting alone in a crowded coffeehouse, sipping my latte as I sneakily people-watched over the top of my book. And while these experiences were enjoyable, there was nothing particularly life-altering about sitting by myself in a movie theatre. It was just me, being my shy, awkward, introverted self.
This practice had stopped with my marriage and the birth of my children, but when I had that moment in the juice aisle, I decided to reinstate these solitary outings. This time though, instead of just venturing out by myself because it suited my personality, I was doing it with a purpose.
I began to date myself.
What’s the difference? Originally, I was doing things solo by default. When I began to date myself, I began doing things solo by choice. I started scheduling these dates on my calendar and purposefully choosing outings that would bring me joy and enhance my life in new ways.
Much like I’d plan a date for someone I was crushing on, I began to plan these dates with the same things in mind. I’d ask myself, “Where would my date want to go? What would she want to do? Is there anything that would make my date feel extra special? What would make her feel loved?”
Falling in Love…with Myself
I took myself to meals, to movies, to the quiet corners of the library. I bought myself coffee and sat at the park, and I signed myself up for dance classes. I frequented favorite date spots multiple times, and tried out new things to see if I liked them.
Just as one starts to slowly fall in love with someone the more dates they go on and they learn about them, I too began to fall in love. With myself.
And as happens when you love someone, you care about them, what happens to them, and their well-being. You want the best for them. I suddenly found myself wanting the best for me too, and actually believing that I deserved it. I deserved to be happy, to be loved, to be who I am authentically in the world.
With every date I take myself on I learn more about myself and grow stronger in my identity. I continue to remember the things I am passionate about, the things that bring me joy, those things that are solely mine and not connected to the needs or desires of anyone else. In the process of dating myself, I’ve discovered myself again.
Today, as I sit here in this busy Portland brunch restaurant, I am committed to myself in a way I never have been before. I know I will never allow myself to get back to that point I was at ten years ago, standing in the supermarket aisle, completely lost.
“Can I get you some coffee, or maybe a juice, while you wait for your party?” the waitress asks me, glancing at the empty chairs at my table.
“Oh, it’s just me,” I say, “Party of one. And I’ll take a decaf; I don’t actually like juice.”