A new piece of research suggested that people would rather have an electric shock than be left alone to think. So, I decided to see how I fared on the 'being alone with yourself' front, and took myself out quite deliberately, for an evening of pure, self-directed enjoyment.
The pleasures of a boat trip up the Thames on a sunny evening.
This was not just because of this sad and ludicrous research, but because, after allowing myself to be taken out by a series of men over the last couple of years, I trust myself to be a perfectly entertaining companion. Being single is such a taboo these days when we are all meant to be partnered up, that if the deadly secret that taking yourself out was enormous fun was known, there might be a riot.
These are the keys to taking yourself out.
Tip 1 - Like yourself. You are born alone and you die alone, so enjoy being alone. The inside of your own head is interesting. Explore it. You won't let yourself down now, will you?
A glass of wine at the Tate Modern. Unthinkable freedom for a woman by herself in many places in the world. I never take my blessings of time, place and circumstance for granted.
Tip 2 - A 'man' or other prospective 'partner' is completely irrelevant to how much you can enjoy yourself, whatever the world would like you to think. Work out what you like doing, and revel in the fact that you don't have to compromise for the sake of some other person.
Being taken out by others can be less enjoyable....
Man 1. He talked about his dead wife and his live mistress constantly (they ran concurrently when the wife was alive). He did not appear to see this as a problem, or the fact that he had 'never loved his wife'. The mistress, who sounded like a right piece of work, drove him into frenzies of jealousy and thwarted desire, which he was happy to tell me all about.
Man 2. He was retraining to be a psychologist after a successful career in industry. Bit boastful, but not too bad. Until his description of his fun evenings with his male friends. Football, fine (a man needs an interest) and COCAINE (lots). Ah, I mentioned, do you know anything about the supply chain, and the extreme human suffering that lies behind your little toot? I prefer not to think about that, said this 'psychologist'. Cue me exiting stage left.
Man 3. His idea of entertaining me was to denigrate people we both knew who had become rather well known. This famous beauty 'took a good photograph'. That interesting intellectual, was 'not that clever really'. The other disabled writer 'was not nearly as disabled as they made out'. Envy seeping from every pore.
Tip 3 - Try something new - I had never been a groundling at the Globe before. Know what you enjoy and do it often. Dare to be different and banish any lingering self-consciousness.
Where would I be without books?
Tip 4 - Take a good book. To ward off any last lingering desire to reach for the electrodes, I recommend you have something wonderful to read. I have my Kindle, and I had a glorious Persephone novel with me last night called The Blank Wall, a Raymond Chandleresque thriller written in the 1940s about a woman who will do anything to protect her children, even conceal a corpse. I identified strongly with that.
Dinner at the Tate Modern. The pleasure of being outside, delicious food, people watching and general wellbeing.
So, last night I took a boat on the sunny river from Canary Wharf to the Globe. I booked a groundling (standing) £5 ticket for Julius Caesar and went off to the Tate Modern for supper beforehand, where I ate Portobello Mushrooms and Goats Cheese flatbread and drank Spanish white wine and black coffee.
The play was a beautifully produced delight, and standing wasn't a problem in comfortable flat shoes and with something to lean on. Then I went home, pausing in the middle of the Millennium Bridge to admire the beautiful city in which I am lucky enough to dwell. Fireworks went off behind Tower Bridge, completing a perfect evening.
Musicians at the Globe, London
I wasn't bored for a moment and the virtual electrodes remained untouched in my handbag. I enjoyed every sip, all my own thoughts and reactions, every Shakespearean word, every mouthful, without having to compromise even once. I did not have to worry about anyone else being bored, or pander to anyone else's peculiarities, or think of something to say or do anything at all but please myself. It was delightful. And all it cost was £22. You see I don't have to impress myself with lavish spending either.