Do or Don’t: Solo Night Out

The other evening, I got it in my head that I wanted a Tom Collins. I put on jeans and lipstick and grabbed my wallet, my phone, and my book. As I waited for the bartender to make my drink, I texted a friend, asking if she’d like to join. No go. So I put my phone away, because that’s something that I try really hard to do, especially when I’m alone or waiting for something. It’s important to be able to just sit and do nothing, right?

I took a few sips of my drink and glanced around the bar. Everyone there was talking to someone else, I noticed, which made me instantly feel weirder. I took out my book and tried to read it, but the bar was too dark, so I put it away and made eye contact with a woman who was drinking something pink and frothy and for a second, I thought she was amicably patting the bar stool next to her, but she was just pushing her jacket down.

As I continued to drink my Tom Collins, it suddenly seemed really big, since I wasn’t getting lost in a chatty conversation. I was tempted to check my email, but forced myself not to. So I paid my tab, and left. “Have a good night, sweetie,” the bartender said to me as I left, and then she sort of smiled at me the way you smile at a mother whose toddler is throwing a full blown temper tantrum in the makeup aisle of Target. It’s a smile that says, it’s ok. No judgement here. 

Since that experience, I feel less inclined to go enjoy a drink out by myself. (I also realize that the bartender could have totally just been saying, have a good night, and not at all giving me sad eyes!) But I’m wondering if I did something wrong. Should you definitely not bring a book? Should you sit down next to a stranger and just start up a conversation? Is getting a drink solo different than going to see a movie by yourself?  (I’ve never done that, either!) I’d love to hear what you think.

Image from Beirut Prints

18 thoughts on “Do or Don’t: Solo Night Out

  1. I do it all the time. There’s a happy medium between chatting everyone up and burying yourself in the book.
    It’s my favorite date night activity.
    Minus the date…

  2. I’ve never tried it.. but if I did I think I would just end up staring at people and eves dropping :/ What book are you reading?

  3. I love getting solo drinks, but it has to be at the right place, on the right night of the week (i.e. not Fridays or Saturdays, please). I usually bring a magazine because books seem like such a singular commitment and I get even more distracted at a bar.

    Sneaky tricks: bring a magazine you’ve been dying to read so you get absorbed in it, or one that has a puzzle (NY Magazine crossword!) where someone might want to help you.

  4. I rarely get the chance so I relish it when I do. When I traveled a lot with work I had to do it all the time and eating alone at a table or sitting alone at the bar are similar. I like to have backup with a book but otherwise I look around and see what people are doing. I try to get out of my head and pick apart individual sensations like smells or specific conversations. It’s intrusive of course but I’m nosy.

  5. I think it’s different for men and women. I don’t go to bars but I go out to eat by myself all the time and sit at the bar which is nice. Doesn’t feel as weird.

  6. I do it all the time, but mostly at bars I go to regularly, and always during the week. If I’m getting a drink and not eating or meeting anyone, I usually bring a book with me. Unless I’m watching sports, I feel a bit self-conscious about doing it on weekend nights (not to say one shouldn’t, but it just feels a bit off, if that makes sense).

  7. When I traveled for work, I used to just eat in my hotel room. But, I would be so upset of what I was missing from not being home. So, I decided to start going to a nice restaurant and sit at the bar for dinner. I would just have a drink and a small app. It was a great way to unwind from a crazy day and try a new restaurant. Many times, I would strike up a convo with the bartender. I’ve had some of my most interesting conversations with bartenders.

  8. I think it’s a DO, for sure. It’s tough, but I think it can be worth it. I agree with kakes, who commented above. I think going to (some) bars alone can be strange for women just looking for night to chill out. If you’re sitting alone just… not doing anything, people give you sad eyes because they think you’ve been stood up.

    Coffee shops or restaurant bars, however, tend to be quieter, and you’re more likely to strike up conversations naturally with interesting people — or even the bartender. They are also (usually) brighter, so you can pull out your book, or bring something to write on, like a notebook or journal. Amazing how doing something with our hands makes us feel more comfortable and at ease in public places.

  9. Yeah, it’s all about finding the right place. I love being alone and find that I’m most at ease if there’s an activity — that activity can be socializing, reading a book, whatever, but since I tend to prefer being ALONE if I’m gonna be alone, I take the book route, and will choose my solo dinner venue accordingly.

    One wonderful thing about dining solo is that you often get VIP treatment. I ate at Noma alone and they showered me with affection and brought me free dessert; at Rose’s Luxury (the BA Best New Restaurant of 2014), they have a policy that they’ll send at least one thing on the house to solo diners. Restaurants/bars know that you’re there for the food when you dine solo so they often really appreciate you. I bet your bartender thought you were a badass!

  10. I love this topic because I’ve been trying to be alone with myself more lately. I agree with Remy above that it can feel pretty badass to go out alone- maybe partly because it’s a challenge for myself. I usually bring something short to read or that would be a conversation starter, but usually spend my time people watching. I say it’s a definite DO!

  11. This is so inspiring! Living in New York, I try to do things like this from time to time — but it can definitely feel intimidating. I’m with you on forcing myself not to look at my phone just to have something to do/seem busy. Even on the subway, people are always on their phones — even when there is very obviously not service or wifi. Joy you = the bomb.

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