Modern Austen’s Guide to Being Alone
Learn to be alone and like it.
Whether you’re a single or married modern heroine, it’s important for your mental health and well-being to take some time to enjoy your own company. But being alone can be challenging for both married and single women.
For the married woman, there’s the trouble of her husband and family always being around and demanding her attention; it can be difficult for her to get even a moment to herself. The single woman tends to have an aversion to being alone and, therefore, seeks constant companionship, never realizing how surrounding herself with people morning, noon, and night drains her. And for all women, there is a stigma around being alone or desiring it.
Our society manipulates us to always connect. Even when you’re physically alone, your curated online self is in communication with other curated online selves on social media, which is meant to help you feel okay about being alone. We are taught to believe that being alone is sad and lonely, but viewing solitude in this way is what makes us become dependent on other people to live our lives!
It’s perfectly sensible for a woman to be alone, but it may take some time for you to get acquainted with the idea. When you’re first starting out, you’ll spend a bit of time just trying to change your mindset. I suggest starting slow. Be alone in small increments before you commit to spending a full day or longer in your own company.
This guide will help all modern heroines learn to be alone and like it.
Set Aside Time to Have Zero Obligations to Anyone
Take a good, long look at your diary. If you’re a very social person, I’m sure every minute of your week is already accounted for. But is any of that time dedicated solely to you? Even if you’re not someone whose social calendar fills up quickly, you probably do not set aside time to be alone. Worse, you might even feel guilty or pathetic that there are blank spaces in your schedule.
Women tend to avoid being alone in three telling ways: they fill up their social calendar so they never have to be; they focus all their attention on their familial relationships, because they believe their duty is to be available to everyone at all times; or they sulk about the time they have to be alone instead of enjoying it.
If you’re not accustomed to making time for yourself, start small. Choose a day you want to schedule some alone time (Important: don’t just pick a day that would be convenient for everyone else in your life) and block off a few hours in your diary. Label this block something like Me Time or I Want To Be Alone. If you know what you’ll be doing with your time off from people, use that activity as a label instead (e.g. Reading, Horseback Riding, Thrifting). And if your calendar is on your computer or mobile phone, you can set up alerts to remind you that your alone time is coming up; you’ll have no excuse to miss it!
Increase the amount of time you spend alone each week. It will soon become second nature, and you might even feel sorry when you actually have to spend time with other people.
Be Alone in a Crowd
Whenever I go someplace where I’m in a large crowd on my own, I notice that almost everyone is with at least one other person. It’s oddly empowering. There’s a great sense of freedom. And, of course, you can choose to converse with whomever you like, because being alone doesn’t mean you have to be invisible and avoid the world around you.
Some great activities for being alone in a crowd
1.) Go to the movies or the theatre. I don’t understand why people think they always need a friend to go to the movies or theatre with. It’s not as though you can talk to each other during the production, and if there happens to be a plot point that you must comment on, I’m sure the stranger sitting next to you won’t mind if you lean over to tell her about it. And you’ll probably spend the 15-minute intermission waiting in line for the loo, so you really might as well go alone.
I prefer sitting off to the side of the theatre when I’m unaccompanied by a friend or suitor — it feels cozier — but if you want to show off how proud you are to be alone, by all means take a seat in the center. And be sure to disrupt the order of large groups of friends who just want to sit together.
2.) Go to a museum (of any sort). I know some women who will give up on going to a movie or museum if they can’t find anyone to go with, which is why it’s so important to learn to be alone. The only schedule you ever have to worry about is your own.
Going through a museum, to me, seems like it’s meant to be a solitary activity. I don’t care to be rushed through a gallery — I like to take my time with all the exhibits, which is easier to do when you’re not engaged in conversation or worrying about whether your companion is having a good time.
3.) Go to a concert. Just go, let the music absorb you, and don’t worry if it seems like you’re the only one who came to the concert by yourself.
4.) Go on a tour. If the city you live in offers any special tours, they’re the perfect activity when you’re on your own. The tour guide will likely notice (take pity) that you’re by yourself and talk to you more than everyone else — it’s like getting the VIP package!
Hide Your Phone and Stay Off Social Media
Technology has made it nearly impossible to be alone. While you may be physically alone in your home on Saturday night, you still have your mobile phone close at hand to text all the people you are not hanging out with or update your Facebook status to match your mood each hour of the evening. But, I’m afraid that isn’t truly embracing your solitude.
Mobile phones and social media make ghosts of you and your acquaintances that never stop haunting each other. You know that your friends are always a text letter away when they’re not physically in your presence (and a text letter won’t take at least 3 weeks to reach them). To be alone, you need to disconnect.
I suggest hiding your phone somewhere you can’t readily reach it and logging out of all your social media accounts. Go for a long walk and forget that you even have an online presence. Shed that ghost of a self for a while, and engage with reality: people watch, overhear conversations, inhale deeply. Use this time to reflect on all your thoughts that are usually clouded from being constantly connected. It’s only when you’re away from other people that you can decide what you really think and feel about the world.
Dinner For One
Women are often made to feel that eating alone in a tavern isn’t proper. When we first arrive, variations of the question, “Are you waiting for someone?” (this someone being a man or group of your girlfriends) are usually asked by the host, and then several more times (“Are you sure you’re not waiting for someone?”) by your server when you’re finally seated at a table for two. You can avoid all this by eating and drinking at the bar, but I say you should get a table.
Your single self has every right to take up table space, and the benefits of dining alone outweigh the shame the tavern staff makes you feel: you don’t have to wait for a table since most people dine out in groups of four or more, you won’t have to make small talk between bites and can just focus on your meal, and you can order as many desserts as you like without guilt or restraint.
Tip: Bring a book with you to read while you’re waiting for your food; it should help you feel a little less awkward. In fact, you should carry a book with you everywhere you go.
Stay Home Alone
This might be hard to arrange if you’re married with children, but I say you should take a tip from Charlotte Lucas and encourage your husband to take up a hobby like gardening or walking to keep him out of doors for hours at a time. As for the children? A governess might help if you can afford the expense; otherwise, you can just send them off with their father. For you single ladies, you need to be willing to turn down invitations to things like Happy Hour.
What you decide to do at home is entirely up to you. Catch up on reading. Binge watch a TV series on Netflix. Cook a large meal for yourself. Whatever you decide, do it with great ceremony.
Feel Superior to Everyone Because You’re Very Independent
Now that you’re a badass modern heroine who can do just about anything alone, you should just feel superior to everyone else.