Going Places Alone

One of the things I’ve had to overcome in my life is the fear of going places alone. Pulling a Han. Ridin’ solo. My family often jokes about my fear of cold calling (I used to refuse to call the pizza man) but when it comes to going places alone I’m a world champ. I quite often arrive places sans amis.

Because of the vast experience I have in this field and my unparalleled ability to navigate social settings (hah!), I have created a simple tip sheet to help you navigate the world of the solo arrival:

Joan Cusack in 16 Candles. Homegirl was the world champ of showing up at places alone and rocking it. Remember her at the party? She wasn’t letting any haters get her down.

Step 1: Identify your social weaknesses. A good player always knows his handicaps before entering a competition, and the social arena is no different. Correctly identifying your weaknesses will help ensure successful integration into the setting. Ask yourself…

Am I a little quirky?

Do you frequently bring up the fact that groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal? Did you already know that groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal? Are you able to casually slip the date of Luther’s 95 Theses into conversations? If you answer yes, congratulations! You are brilliant and a real individual, but realize this can be a little intimidating. It might be best in these types of instances to reign back your nuggets of wisdom. This quality is social gold once people get to know you but unleash it too quickly and it can be unsettling. Believe me, I know…

Am I kind of a stalker?

Are you really good at remembering names, faces and/or personal details? This is a gift but be careful with it. Before assuming a level of familiarity with a person, remember where you know his/her name/face from. Is he the boyfriend of the girl everyone was talking about yesterday? Is she the one in the Fackbook pictures you were creeping on? Or did you meet her last week at another club meeting? Remembering where you know the name/face is crucial. Assuming familiarity can be unsettling for all parties involved, especially if you have to admit it’s from Facebook.

Am I hyper-opinionated?

Are you the one who is arguing with the hostess/lecturer/bartender by the end of the night? If so, kudos, speaking your mind is a surefire way to get people’s attention at a gathering. But this is a fine line to walk. Too much antagonism and you’ve put yourself in the corner. Poorly articulated antagonism and you’re “that guy.” Just enough and you’re everyone’s new favorite social aggravator.

Some other questions you may want to ask yourself are: Do I tell lame jokes? Do I monopolize conversations? Do I smell sometimes? These questions are not to make you feel bad about yourself, but rather to realize that first impressions are important when riding solo!

Emily lacked the confidence to ride solo and confined herself to a life in her attic. Don’t be an Emily.

Step 2: Know how to enter the room. The following is a good three step plan to entering the situation:

1. Make Eye Contact: As soon as you enter the room do a quick scan. It’s usually easy to find someone involved with the meeting. Make direct eye contact and do a fidgety body movement. This gives the recipient of your eye contact the signal that you are slightly uncomfortable and he/she will usually approach and tell you where to sign in/go. If she is really good she will introduce you to other people at the gathering. If this is the case, skip to part 3.

2. Find Another Loner: This is especially crucial if you are shy. Infiltrating a group of people who already know each other and have personal jokes is for advanced levels only. More times than not infiltrating groups (especially of females) is just asking to be Regina’d. Rather, find someone else standing alone. Ask if he/she is there for the meeting and strike up a conversation.

The loner greet has four possible outcomes:

a. He/she is really cool and actually alone. You now have a buddy for the night.

b. He/she is waiting for friends. Friends arrive and you are folded into the group. This is the optimal outcome.

c. He/she is waiting for friends and kind of sucks. This gives you the perfect opportunity to get away.

d. He/she is not waiting for friends and kind of sucks. This is the least optimal outcome as you are obligated to be her buddy for the night unless a polite way out arises.

3. Post Up: This works the best in casual settings where people are moving around a lot. Find a table or an area of the room and stay there. Try to be witty with those you converse with. People will notice the laughter coming from your area and come to you. Working the room is great when you know enough people to have a fallback group when the conversation you’re engaged in stagnates. If you don’t know enough people you may end up wandering around looking helpless until you are able to gravitate towards a new group. Establishing your space means people will come to you, avoiding the awkward wander.

Step 3: Establish means for post-event communication. If you find you really like someone you have met or plan on attending the next week’s meeting don’t be scared to ask for her/his number. Hopefully, he/she will become your buddy for the next meeting. If he/she ignores your social advances, screw it. She probably sucks anyway.

So there you have it. Now you don’t have to be afraid to rock your next solo outing!

Remember Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink? She rocked the prom solo, ended up with two suitors and making out with Blane. Talk about results.

(Everything I ever learned came from a John Hughes movie…)

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