I recently watched About Time (with Rachel McAdams and one of the guys from Harry Potter 29, or whichever number the last one was) in theaters.
Got in my car, drove to the mall on a Sunday night, bought my ticket, bought my small popcorn (light butter) and small Diet Coke, walked into the theater, sat about four rows back so the screen filled my vision, then spent the next 123 minutes thoroughly enjoying a decent blend of drama/dry-British-comedy/idealized-romantic-comedy while subsequently spilling popcorn all over the place every time I laughed (my apologies to the dude who had to clean that shit up).
Later that week, I told a coworker who asked about the last movie I’d seen, and when I was done they looked at me like I was drooling on myself.
"You go to the movies alone?” she asked.
You’d have thought I just told her I had terminal cancer. On my penis.
It’s not the first time I’ve received that reaction. Almost every time I tell somebody about my various movie dates with myself, I get that squinty, head-to-the-side, taking-a-step-back look, like I’m a pariah, a leper, unfit for society, a guy who shits on himself in public (except for my long term friends who know me and are more surprised when I tell them I actually went to the movies with somebody).
I’m not exaggerating this point either: it happens every single time I tell somebody new.
It’s even caused problems in past romantic relationships. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to watch a movie and received that call from whoever the current girlfriend is, a call that always starts out pleasant until she asks me what I’ve been doing for the past couple of hours and I tell her:
"Went to the movies. I saw [insert pretty much any major film from the past ten years, honestly; good, bad, whatever, I go to the movies a lot]. You should/shouldn’t watch it."
At which point I get one of two responses:
- "Who the fuck were you at the movies with and how long have you been fucking her?" (or something along those lines); or
- "What’s wrong with you? Did I do something?"
The first response is way too hostile for my taste, and usually takes multiple reassurances from me that I am, in fact, by my goddamn self (and not having sexual relations with anybody else) before the soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend finally calms down, at which point I turn it around and get overly pissed at her for getting mad at me in the first place (I feel like this blog is slowly illuminating all the reasons why I’m single right now).
The second response is less hostile but more insecure, and always just makes me laugh.
Because, I mean, really…What’s wrong with me?
Did you do something to make me want to watch a movie?
When did solitary-movie-viewing become indicative of mental distress?
When did movie viewing in general become this assumed group activity?
Why do I always get that same look from the girl at the concession stand when I walk up and place my Regal Crown Card and debit card on the counter and ask for my popcorn and soda?
Or the guy taking my ticket on the way in, giving me that head to toe corner-of-the-eye surveillance, what’s the deal with that?
Better yet, why do people always have to be around other people? (this last question’s got way deeper philosophical connotations than I care to tackle in this post, so I’m going to leave it alone).
The fact of the matter is that I am a writer, as I’ve thoroughly established by annoyingly proclaiming it to everybody I come in contact with.
This is my career choice.
Sure, I’m also a teacher, and a bartender, and a…uh…video game enthusiast, and a son and brother and friend and occasional lover, but my career and true passion is in writing. It’s my constant pursuit, the thing I’m always trying to become better at and prosper from. And in that improvement-seeking, I’m constantly following the rules/advice my former college writing professors ingrained in my head from my junior year through a sort of literary boot camp, advice headlined by the order to consume as much literature as possible while I’m on this earth.
That said, the question at hand: “Why do you like going to the movies alone, Patrick?”
Because I fucking like watching movies alone.
Because, for me, movies are visual literature. And last time I checked, I don’t need somebody sitting next to me staring at my book while I’m reading it (that would actually annoy the shit out of me and possibly invite some sort of physical retaliation. Back up, son. Personal space).
This isn’t to say that I don’t like going to the movies with other people though. I’m just saying they’re two completely different types of experiences, watching with and watching without, and I prefer the latter.
But even though I have my own justification for it, the idea that it is an issue for some people still irks me
Because—and this is in spite of my constant bitching and moaning; it is the ultimate truth, I swear—I actually love people and would like to see them happy. And most people have absolutely no idea what they’re missing out on.
For a film lover, viewing a movie by yourself is the equivalent of getting an hour long deep tissue massage. Because in both there’s nothing but total immersion in the event. No distractions, nobody putting their own slant on things, no outside forces skewing your experience in favor of another experience, no.
There is just you, and that movie; you, and that massage.
You, and yourself.
Which is the part—now that I think about it—that probably scares the shit out of people. People just don’t like hanging out with themselves nowadays. Which is a problem. Because yourself is probably the only person on this planet that you really and truly know, deep down. You should be embracing that mofo, or he/she’s gonna get lonely. And that’s when the real shit hits the fan.
And it doesn’t come down to courage, or confidence, or an ability to block other people out. It’s not about having tunnel vision or being in your head too much. What it comes down to is a true desire for happiness. For contentment.
A true desire to experience life.
There are many different ways to live in a moment.
One of mine is represented by that popcorn, that soda, and that middle-seat in the fourth row.
Whether yours is a hot dog or Skittles, front row far left or back row off-center, romantic-drama or action-comedy, you should try it some time.
I promise you won’t be disappointed.