Of all the aspects of being single in world where everyone else is not there is one that I hate the most. It's the moment when you walk into a crowded room of couples. When you stop in the doorway and scan the space looking for a friendly face and an empty chair, all the while hoping that nobody notices you standing there, a fake smile plastered across your face as you shake in your boots and try to stop yourself from turning around and walking back out.
It's always awkward, showing up alone. People who are couples don't get that. There's a fine line between showing up too early, not having anyone to talk too, and showing up too late, when everyone is in the middle of conversation and the only seats left are the ones on the end or, worse yet, the one that doesn't exist at all and needs to be brought in from another table, causing everyone to have to make room and for you to never quite fit in- both figuratively and literally. But you sit there, smiling. Trying to add to conversations that don't involve you. Hoping nobody sees you dying inside. Counting the minutes until you can leave.
Going it alone in social situations has been the hardest thing I've had to do, in all of this. Putting one foot in front of the other and heading out the door has required more strength than, lately, I have been able to muster. Because, really, what's the point? In a world of twosomes what difference does it makes if one doesn't show? And, so, for the second time in not so many months, I can't do it. I just can't force myself to go.
I used to live for such nights, looking forward to them for weeks, making notes of them on my calendar. I have calendars from over the years, full of such things. Night after night of events. Pizza after ball games. Wing nights and BBQs. Football games. Drinks after work. Calendars that were once full... are now empty. When I transferred birthdays and anniversaries from my last calendar to the current I noticed the emptiness of it all. I didn't go 'out' save for 3 times. Three. All year. Two of which were work related. Sure, there were card nights with the girls and trips to the book store for coffee with friends. But I miss being 'out'. I miss being busy and popular. And wanted. I miss being part of something.
I know things change. Everyone is home with their kids. Nobody goes out anymore. But I try. I really have tried. I went to Vegas and New York to meet up with people I barely new and attend events I really wasn't invited to. I forced myself to laugh and tell stories and to keep going back, hoping one day the friendships and invites would be genuine. But nowadays when I try to go to things that are new to me, whether it be a work Christmas party or a fundraiser for a ball team, I find I can no longer do it. It's just too tough. The rooms are too hard to walk into alone.
I know I'm missing out on things. I've met some perfectly nice strangers who have become really great friends by forcing myself to go out and stand alone in the crowd. I have good intentions, I do. I put on earrings, I did my hair and I even put on actual makeup (if you knew me you'd know this really means something). I thought, all week, of how great it would be to go 'out'. To eat at one of my favorite spots and have a beer (a beer!) with people. To be part of it all, even if I'm not part of the mix. Because there's something about being 'out' that revives me. That makes me feel like I have something to show for myself when people at work on Monday say "how was your weekend". So I'm heartbroken when I don't go... I think of the money I've wasted in unused tickets and the potential fun I could have had and how I've let myself- and perhaps others- down yet again. I'm sad if I don't... but I just can't bring myself to go. The one foot just won't go in front of the other these days.
And I just can't bring myself to be as brave as I used to.