I am going to duck off soon to watch my twentieth movie in a cinema this year. Alone.
It wasn't always like this.
No, what I mean is, I used to never be able to do anything in public by myself. I would never be comfortable going to watch a movie alone and I would never be caught dead eating in a restaurant by myself.
If friends wouldn't join me, I would rather wait for another time to watch a movie. If I have no one to eat with, I take away to eat in the quiet of my home, even if it means having to wash up later.
I think upon reflection I was probably quite insecure when I was younger. I didn't want to be seen alone because I was afraid of what strangers would think of me. 'Oh look, what a loser. Eating by himself in a restaurant. No friends, eh?' or 'Gee, lone guy by himself in a cinema. Freak alert.' Why their opinions should even ever matter, I see the errors of my youthful thinking now.
The older I grow the more I realise this truth - strangers really don't give a damn. They may see you, maybe make a five second opinion which does not matter about you, and ultimately forget about you. Everyone is ultimately caught up in themselves.
I think the older we get, the less we care about other people's opinions of us. We stand to be our own judges, secure in our own identities and choose whose opinions we listen to. I think being in a safe and secure relationship has served to underline my confidence as well.
It was not always easy, though. This ability to be alone in public requires a brave first step. Mine was taken when I had free tickets to Something's Gotta Give about five or six years ago, which were about to expire, and my Asian practicalities overwhelmed my self-imposed embarrassment of going to the movies alone. It was a Sunday evening, the cinema was almost empty apart from a few couples, and so I watched a chick flick. All on my own. It was a little awkward but I survived.
The boldness slowly grew, and now I comfortably watch movies alone. I join the ranks of the retirees who fill the Nova cinema whenever I have Mondays off, and I have laughed out loud alone at The Diary of a Wimpy Kid while the groups of schoolkids around me try and remember my face in case they need to give a descriptive sketch to the police later.
I am unafraid to be seen alone enjoying my brunch in a Melbourne cafe on a Saturday morning. I must admit that like most people who are at restaurants by themselves, I still feel the need to reach for my phone and look busy, and I hope to overcome that one day.
Learning to love and accept your own company are part of the beautiful perks of growing older.