Last night I had dinner plans with my best friend from college. In between bites of volcano shrimp, ahi tuna ceviche, and calamari (hello, seafood!) and over a giant slice of key lime pie, we caught up on giggly stories of the newly engaged (her- CONGRATS again!!!) and proud/exhausted mama bragging (me) and a general what were we thinking attitude towards our early twenties (both of us.)
As usual when we hang out, hours had gone by and it felt like there were still a million things we wanted to talk about. And also as usual, my cheeks hurt from all the laughing and gossiping and simultaneous shoveling of food into my mouth. :~D
We had planned to see The Avengers after dinner, but my friend had to leave so we said we’d go another night. And then I thought, I’ll go to the movies myself!
I’ve always loved going to see a movie in the theater. I love the darkened lights and the communal feeling when everyone laughs together or claps for a superhero or cries for a character. It feels like I’ve entered that world intertwined with these strangers for a couple of hours, leaving our own separate lives behind. And meanwhile of course, I like to dip my popcorn in nacho cheese and then put that on top of the tortilla chip with a jalapeno and munch on the whole thing at once and then take a big gulp of soda to wash it down! What can I say, I like to eat.
Anyway, the other part of my movie-going routine was going with my husband. My passion for the big screen had rubbed off on him as well, and we would go see all kinds of flicks: action, rom-com, sci-fi, cop movie, Indian movie, everything. When I became a mother and then very quickly a single mother, I found myself without a body to fill the movie theater seat next to me. And even though I chose to respect myself enough to not stay with a man who mistreated me, I didn’t know think I could go watch a movie alone.
At first, I’d wait weeks to see a movie I was really anticipating just because I couldn’t find a time when one or both of my sisters could join me. I was embarrassed to ask friends to go because I didn’t want to face the questions about Zahara’s father, where he was and why I wasn’t with him. I was really trying to give my marriage a chance, but I refused to take my newborn into a situation where I didn’t know if her father could be trusted and we’d be far away from all of my family and friends. I didn’t want to air his dirty laundry either. So I stayed away from socializing with anyone other than close family to avoid that discussion.
Then as I settled into single motherhood and started finding bits of my strength again, I started to take Zahara to a local movie theater that has special baby-friendly showtimes for moms, dads,and guardians to enjoy the newest movies with kiddie in tow. It’s a fantastic idea and they do it at all the National Amusements theaters. If you’ve got young kids who’d wail through the two hours and get you kicked out or at least glared at, you should definitely try this out instead, whether you’re single or not!
I didn’t feel awkward going to these shows because it would be all individuals with a kid or two in the stroller. So I didn’t stick out as the sad, pitiable all by her lonesome, isn’t she weird, movie watcher! I got to enjoy movies again, with Zahara right next to me making me feel like I had a partner, an ally, to watch them with. And when she was about 10 months old, I started taking her to Gymboree and Stroller Strides and playdates and just giving myself the chance to have friendships again, too.
I had to change diapers and give her bottles and rhythmically sway her stroller or rock her in my arms to go to sleep. My nacho cheese would get cold and I’d miss parts of the dialogue and sometimes things would spill, but still, I was happy. I was a movie lover once again, even as a single mom.
Then last night, I had this AHA moment when I realized I wanted to see The Avengers alone. I’d done what I had to the past two and a half years since Zahara had come into my life and her father had left it. But now, I was excited about seeing a movie by myself. No one eating my snacks! No moment of dialogue or action missed! No feeling like I was only half listening while I had to tend to other things! I love my daughter and going to see a kiddie movie with her is fun, but I need to watch a movie without her once in a while, too.
And the part that really makes it amazing is that I felt good about it. I realized I’m happy in my singledom and I don’t need a body filling that seat next to me. I can spread my too long for most theaters legs and not bump into anyone else. I can create my snack concoctions and not worry about the baby making a mess. I can watch a movie alone and not feel embarrassed or nervous or self-conscious. I can just enjoy the movie!
I was so used to always having Zahara’s father with me everywhere I went. A lot of things were relatively easy to change after we separated, but watching a movie without that other person there felt odd. I don’t know why, but I had this image of everyone staring at me, wondering why I’d go to the movies alone. And I hate to say it, but I was once one of those judgy people myself, who saw a lone moviegoer as sad and lonely, or maybe a little strange.
Maybe this is no big deal anymore, now that there are so many more people who are single and satisfied. But it still felt very difficult for me before now to be somewhere like the movies or a nice restaurant without someone to share it with. I made Zahara my honorary date whenever I could, and it felt like the most natural thing because she is my other half, my whole life. But suddenly it feels just as natural to have some me-time, too, enjoying these kinds of outings with her safely at home with my parents and me out and about alone, unabashed and unafraid and filled with contentment and joy.
My strength and self-love has grown without me noticing how much these last few months. I’m at peace with myself and can take myself out and not worry about what anyone thinks. And Melysa S. and her posts on success and satisfaction and celebrating herself inspired me in this solo adventure, too. If you haven’t already, please catch up on her blog, especially when she went to Atlantic City alone and rocked it! I think that post was in the back of mind all this time, and her confidence helped me reach this moment. This time it’s a movie. Next time it’ll be something else, and one day even a road trip like my friend Melysa. Because I can. And hell, yeah I’m worth it.
I had another single woman first last night. I took another step forward in a way I never would have imagined even 3 years ago. I went to watch a movie by myself, no friends, no man, no Zahara. And yes, this is a very big deal. :~D