The tornado hit St. Peter in the spring before my freshman year at Gustavus, and at the beginning of my sophomore year there we had a new cafeteria. It was kind of cutting edge at that time – a little like a food court with a big dining hall.
It’s a lovely place – two walls of windows and lots of space.
Friends would compare lunch schedules to see who had breaks at the same time to eat, and often wait for each other at the entrance. If I was late or ate lunch at a different time, I would just go it alone.
I had one friend who wouldn’t even walk in the cafeteria without anyone else. We’ll call her Beth, as that is her name. Beth would not be caught dead alone in the college lunchroom. It was mortifying for her to be seen walking in by herself let alone eating at a table without company.
She was shocked when she found out I sometimes ate alone. This was before the days of people playing on their phones, when we just had to eat and look around, maybe reading the newspaper or something. And it didn’t bother me in the least.
I like being alone sometimes. In high school I used to go shopping by myself and friends thought I was such a weirdo. What if people saw me alone? Umm, then they would know I can drive myself to the mall. I thought it was awesome, and still do. I can look at whatever I want without feeling like other people are waiting for me or I’m dragging them around.
Fast forward a few years from my shopping and dining alone. It was the year the Timberwolves were really good, when Garnett, Sprewell, Sam Cassell, Freddie Hoiberg, Mark Madsen, etc., played.
I was a big fan and went to quite a few games; there was one coming up that I just had to see in person – the Spurs were coming to town (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, etc.), and it promised to be a nail-biter. I asked some friends to go, but they had plans. I asked my boyfriend (now husband) to join me, but he didn’t want to drive to the Cities on a Tuesday night and drive home to work again the next day. My parents, my brothers, nobody would/could come with me.
After work I decided I was not going to miss the game because nobody would go with me, so I drove to the Target Center, walked up to the ticket booth and asked for one lower level seat. I got a Grain Belt and a bucket of popcorn and settled in amongst a bunch of other excited fans.
It was the best game I’d ever been to – came down to the wire, and we won.
You went by yourself?! everyone asked me. Yep.
I was not going to miss that game. I had the means, the time, and so I went.
Fast forward many more years.
One of my favorite authors and storytellers, David Sedaris, was going to be doing a reading/show at the State Theater in Minneapolis last Friday. He is in town every October, but I’ve never gotten to go as it was usually on a weeknight as well as in the middle of harvest.
On a whim I looked up the tickets earlier this month after seeing he was coming back, and lo and behold, there were two front row seats available. Without giving it any thought, I bought them and hoped for rain so my default date could join me.
As the day drew closer it was pretty clear I would not have a date, as he would be in the field. So I started asking people who I thought might enjoy Sedaris’ humor and a night out in Minneapolis. After six “no”s I contemplated selling my tickets. But then I thought, how many times does a person actually have front row seats to anything? I couldn’t give them up.
So I didn’t. I came home from work, freshened up, and put on my favorite leopard high heels. I made a reservation for one at a restaurant adjacent to the theater. When I checked in, the hostess asked if I meant to reserve a table for two, and I had to say no, just me. She looked confused.
I vowed to leave my phone in my purse, except to take a picture of my meal, including a delicious lemon martini and a mouth-watering ribeye. I just sat, sipped my drink, savored my food, and watched people. I was the only one alone.
When I finished I walked next door and stood in line listening to two guys behind me saying they’ve had their tickets since February (and they were not in the front row. Suckers.). I bought a bottle of water and marched to the very front of the State Theater, my seat in chairs set up in front of the fixed seats, so close to the stage I could rest my feet on it (if I were that uncouth). And since I found no one to go with me, my purse and my water bottle had their own seat.
It was one of the funniest shows I have ever seen, and one of the best dates I’ve ever had. Is that sad? I hope not. I hope people, especially my kids, know it’s perfectly acceptable to do things and be seen alone. It would be a shame to miss out on life because a person is afraid of being judged by strangers.