By Nicole Lyn Pesce, Moneyish
One is the loveliest number.
So say the men and women whose idea of the perfect date is going out to dinner, catching a movie or grabbing a cocktail all by themselves.
“Sitting alone at a bar is chic,” Jocelyn Borgner, 34, told Moneyish. She’s been taking herself out for drinks and small plates since moving to Brooklyn four years ago. What started as a way to have some social interaction in her new neighborhood has become a personal necessity — especially now that she has a roommate.
“As I’ve gotten older I appreciate my alone time more and I value my solo dates because I’m more comfortable with myself,” she said. “I tend to follow the ‘treat yo self’ philosophy and buy the nicer wine and a fancy meal.” And she keeps the tab to just $20 to $40 by choosing happy hour spots with BOGO wine and $3 small plates.
Travel writer and “Bucket List Adventures” author Annette White discovered the joys of seeing a movie alone almost eight years ago. “The scariest part was thinking that I would be judged for being alone and wondering what people would say about me and people staring at me and feeling sorry for me,” she told Moneyish. But that didn’t happen — because everyone was too busy watching the screen to pay attention to someone sitting alone.
“After it was done, I was so proud of myself and it’s wonderful not having to sit on the sidelines waiting for a companion in order to be able to do things,” said White, 47, from northern California, who makes a point to eat alone whenever she travels. She also drops between $20 to $45 on herself, noting she actually eats and drinks less when she’s out by herself compared to dining with a gaggle of friends. “I’m in Key West right now and treated myself to some sushi and a glass of wine at a ceviche bar the other night. It was wonderful,” she said.
Actress-turned-chef Valerie Bertinelli only just discovered the joys of dining out alone last week, tweeting: “I’m eating in a restaurant…alone, by myself. It’s quite a lovely experience. I can’t believe how happy and relaxed I am.”
Foodie and social media queen Chrissy Teigen replied that she sits alone at the Frank Restaurant kitchen bar in the East Village all of the time. “Best feeling ever,” she wrote, adding, “My next big wish is to go to the movies alone.”
Plenty of folks are developing an appetite for entertaining themselves. OpenTable’s most recent analysis found that reservations for parties of one have risen nationally by 62 percent, making it the fastest growing table party size. It’s particularly popular in Dallas, Miami, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Chicago.
And White, who owns a restaurant, has observed this, too. “We’ve noticed there are a lot of people who come in that are by themselves,” she said. “People feel more comfortable doing it now and I think a big reason is because they have iPhones and iPads, so there is something to entertain themselves with and feel more secure instead of just sitting there.”
Cities offer a smorgasbord of solo activities beyond eating and drinking, including the theater, museums and concerts. “I probably take myself to Broadway once or twice a year, often to a show I know my husband won’t want to see,” Breanne L. Heldman, 38, told Moneyish. ”I feel incredibly liberated and empowered when I take myself on a date — whether it’s for Broadway or just a glass of wine. I adore my husband and being married, but it’s wonderful to be reminded what a strong, independent woman I am without him.”
Plus, scoring a single ticket to a play or concert is often easier than going for two. “You often can get a better seat than you would as a pair,” added Heldman, who recently snagged a second-row seat to “M. Butterfly” starring Clive Owen for just $90 before it closed. “I was spitting distance from Clive!” she added.
And “me dates” aren’t just a girl’s night out indulgence. Christopher Smith, 40, from Queens has been savoring solo expeditions to check out art exhibits, try new restaurants or catch live music for the past decade.
“I find it to be therapeutic,” he said. “And it helps appreciate going out with friends or on a date more. If you keep your own good company, you’ll do the same when with others.”
Relationship counselor and dating coach Samantha Burns told Moneyish that dating yourself is a great exercise in building confidence and a sense of security. “You never know what kind of adventure you’ll have out on your own,” she said. Plus, “spending some quality time alone can not only help you recharge your battery, but give you the much-needed space to reflect on what it is that you really want.”
Dating herself has given the newly-divorced Laura Pullar, 39, an optimistic new outlook on life for the past few months.
“It’s really easy to lose yourself over time. I had been with the same person for more than half my life — I was still a teenager when we started dating — and the woman I am 20 years later was a shell,” she told Moneyish. “So I started spending time with myself to get over the fear of possibly being alone for so long. And then I realized how many things that I had enjoyed doing in the past got pushed aside in the name of being a part of a unit.”
So now the suburban mother of two takes herself out twice a week. She bought a MoviePass ($9.95) and has seen “Lady Bird,” “I, Tonya,” “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Post” — flicks her tween daughters would have no interest in. (She’s taken them to see “The Greatest Showman” twice.)
“I adore the time I get to spend with my girls, but the time that I’m investing in me is helping me rediscover who I am and what my passions are,” said Pullar.
If you do feel self-conscious about heading out without a bud, these veteran me-daters suggest bringing a prop like a book or a magazine to read, or doing some work on your laptop, tablet or phone to take your mind off of your single status. Smith and White often get some writing done. And Borgner always has a book.
“It helps me feel less awkward and also avoid unwanted conversation during my alone time,” she said.
Turns out, the biggest downside to going out alone is not looking like a loser — but rather, fending them off. Borgner says someone interrupts her me-time about a third of the time.
“It does open me up to unwanted attention from creeps, or at least men who don’t understand the basic social cues of a woman sitting alone who keeps returning to her phone/book instead of engaging in conversation,” she said. “I try not to engage, or I pull out my phone to end the conversation.”