There is still stigma around the idea of women going out to drink on their own. But, says Lucy Mangan, it’s important that we’re able to spend time alone.
I was on holiday last week and went to the posh gastropub nearby for dinner. I posted a picture on Twitter of my glass of prosecco with the message, “If there is anything better than awaiting a delicious meal in a fine pub with this and a book while husband puts child to bed, I do not know it.” And I settled back to relax and enjoy myself.
Which I would have done easily were it not for the stream of concerned comments I received online and in texts from friends and family who had seen my tweet and wondered what was wrong. Had someone cancelled at the last minute? Had my husband and I had a row? Was I OK on my own? Were people looking at me strangely? Didn’t I feel weird?
I get this a lot. Mainly because I like to be on my own a lot. And people are not meant to like like being on their own a lot, and this goes double for women. We’re supposed to be extra-sociable. Greasing the wheels of other people’s interactions, keeping everything running smoothly and generally handing round the canapes of life are still – somewhere deep in society’s collective lizard brain – a female responsibility. The maternal instinct hardwired into us makes us wish to nurture everyone.
Elsewhere in that lizard brain persists the notion that women, as the more vulnerable and needy members of the tribe, require people to take care of us at all times. Because we laydeez exist mostly in relation to other people, as girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters and maybe, if we’re lucky, as employees (of mostly male bosses) to validate us. If a woman falls in the forest – after drinking one too many proseccos – with no one around to hear, does she even make a sound?
If you’re married, then the expectation that you will never move from the family home unaccompanied intensifies. You found a man! You are meant to be in love! Why would you ever be apart? Why would you ever miss the opportunity to flaunt your great good fortune? And of course I left a child at home as well. A triple betrayal of my sex and all that people expect of it.
The incursions on women’s time and on their mental and physical space are something I think about and struggle with a lot. It’s a massive problem for many women who go out solo wanting to be fed and watered in peace rather than repeatedly propositioned or interrupted (I find a book and the profoundly disobliging expression my face naturally settles into when I read repels most unwanted advances) discouraging them from repeating the excursion.
I understand nobody gets to please her or himself all of the time, and that’s not what I’m asking for (not that I’d turn it down if it were offered). But I would like it understood that its precisely because I feel like I have to be so many things to so many people that I need to spend what free time I have alone.
Another vein of comments and texts, expressing mild-to-better envy, tells me I’m not alone. It also told me that women do often still feel weird about going for a drink, to an exhibition or off for a weekend to a hotel alone. Let me tell you this: it only feels weird once. After that? It feels GREAT. So, off you go. Grab your keys and purse now, and do it. Off you go. Let’s be alone together.