Archives for category: Doing things on your own

I really love going to the cinema, in fact it’s one of the few activities I actually prefer doing on my own. It’s an experience I can completely own for myself.

I love that my local cinema sells home-made cakes. I love that you can buy a cup of tea, and take it into the actual room they show the film. It feels like the most exciting thing, like settling down in front of the telly at home, but your telly has suddenly grown exponentially, and it’s now in a huge room that smells like popcorn and darkness.

I love going in the daytime, because it still feels like I’m skipping work, even when I’m not. On those rare occasions it’s just me in the cinema it feels like a private showing, and it feels special. When I go through the doors, and there’s no one else there my heart sometimes skips a beat because I know there’s a chance that this magical event might happen today.
I then stare at the door, willing people not to come in, until the room goes completely dark and the screen lights up.

When that light first bathes my face I can’t help but squint sometimes, but then I force my eyes open wide, because I don’t want to miss anything. I even like the adverts.
Years ago, I used to go to the cinema with my then girlfriend at the time, and we’d play this game when the adverts came on.
She’d look round to me, her face half flushed with light, and whisper “the next one is you”.
We’d both sit there waiting for the next advert, like softly shining fortune tellers, bathed in celluloid light, waiting for the runes to show themselves in the medium of the next advertisement.
She’d laugh if I got a car advert. We both knew they were the worst thing to be, artificial, shallow and filled with machismo.
Even now, when I go to the cinema on my own, I still play this game, whispering to myself “the next one is you”, hoping for something beautiful to reveal itself on the big screen.

I love the sound. I love how loud it is. I love how it makes my bones vibrate, my heart squeeze tight. I love how I sometimes find myself holding my breath as the glorious, enveloping noise covers me, like a crashing wave, overwhelming and yet fleeting, leaving me wishing for more.

You could get all this by going to the cinema with someone, and a shared thing can be something amazing, but there’s a bit of me that doesn’t want to share this with someone.
I want to feel my hairs stand up on my arms, my breath to become shallow and held, my eyes to feel like they can’t take everything in fast enough, my ears to become numb with the sound. I want this, and I want this to be for me alone.

You can ask me to go to the cinema, and I will love going with you, but once those lights go down, and the images flicker across the screen, there’s a good chance that although I’ll be in that seat next to you, I won’t actually be there. I’ll be hurtling through space, sailing the seas, leading the charge, saving the world, one lost moment at a time.

I know, from gigs to sexual health clinics. It’s quite the jump, yeah?
Never let it be said that I don’t like to keep you on your toes.

So, lets get our cards on the table. I’m going to tell you something, and you’re going to judge me.

I’ve never been tested for any STIs.

As I’m a big fan of context, allow me to explain.
Most of my life I’ve been in long term relationships, and when I’ve not been in said relationships, I don’t tend to sleep with lots of people, despite any impression I give off.
My thinking was that because of these things, the chances of me having anything would be slim to say the least.

I can hear the intakes of breath and the silent shaking of heads. I know, I know. I’m an idiot.

Anyhow, I realised the blindingly obvious fact that even if you’ve only been with a few people, you don’t know their histories, and it only takes one person, with something, to pass it on to you.
And that’s why I decided to get checked out.

Sexual Health Clinics are pretty much like every clinic I’ve ever been to. Looking around there are a few people, mostly looking fairly anxious, sitting on chairs.
I have to fill in a form, and I’m immediately on guard, because forms and trans people often do not mix well. Luckily, it’s relatively trans friendly, in that it has pronoun boxes, and a box to tick if you choose to identify as trans. It does still assume all male identifying people have penises and all female identifying people have vaginas though, which is a problem for me, and a post for another day.

I wait for a bit, looking around, listening to the radio that’s playing in the background. An advert comes on for a car insurance company called Drive Like a Girl. It’s probably the most patronising and offensive thing I’ve heard them play so far, and they’d just played Blurred Lines.

I get called by a nurse to come to a room, and it’s a man. I ticked a box saying I didn’t mind who saw me, but now I feel like I do mind. Suddenly I feel like my identity is under threat, as he’ll ask what bits I’ve got, and I feel uncomfortable about telling him, because he’s a man, and my experiences of men are nearly always negative.
I don’t know what to do, because if I say I’m not comfortable after all I’m going to feel like a jerk, and also, I’ve been waiting for half an hour now, and I can’t stand to wait any longer with that radio station playing its horrible songs and incessant adverts.

In the end I do what everyone would do, I go along with it. The commercial radio was the clincher if I’m honest.
We go to a room, and I start saying how I’m actually kind of nervous, and that I didn’t bring a friend, because I thought it would make for something good to write about if it was just me, but that now I regret that because I didn’t think it through, and how that is pretty standard for me.
He smiles and says it’s alright, everyone is a little nervous sometimes. He is reassuring and kind, and I feel like I let my preconceptions and past experiences get the better of me. Not for the first time I also think I’m an judgemental jerk.

He does ask me what bits I’ve got, but he does it in a way that’s so matter of fact, yet sensitive, that it’s okay.
He then asks me if I’d like to piss in a jar.

I’m very keen on this offer, as I’d been holding it in for about two hours now. He also took some blood, and did a throat swab, because well, y’know, oral?
We chat whilst this is all happening, and he tells me about how Syphilis is one of the biggest STIs affecting the area where we live. I have an overwhelming desire to tell him about how everyone thinks Henry VIII had Syphilis, but that actually there’s little evidence to prove this. I’m about to blurt it out in a oh my god I’m nervous so I’m going to say anything sort of way when he asks if I’d like a leaflet about it, and I forget all about Henry’s sti issues, and instead say it’s okay, I don’t need one, even though I’m interested in reading about it. I do this because I’m trying to be polite, and don’t want to put him out.
He gives me two Syphilis leaflets anyhow. This guy is good.

He asks me about the last couple of times I’d been with someone, and I tell him about the French woman I slept with once, and the friend I was with for a bit. For some reason I feel the need to go into detail about both these times. I have no idea why, but he seems to be happy to listen, and offer useful commentary on what I tell him.
It strikes me that I really misjudged him, and I did it entirely based on his gender. When people do that to me it really upsets me, and once again I feel like a jerk.

After all the tests are done we start to wrap things up. He tells me they’ll ring me if anything shows up, and text me if it’s all clear. I get up to go, and I want to give him a hug a say how lovely he’d been. I didn’t because boundaries but I wanted to. In the end he gave me a double hand shake, and I told him he was awesome and that I’d happily come back for more check ups if he did them. Maybe I need to work on verbal boundaries a bit more.
I leave feeling happy, and feeling that I’ve learnt something about my own preconceptions, and also about Syphilis.

A week later, as I was sitting in a cafe, being a writer, my phone buzzed. A text message from the clinic had come through with the all clear. I smile to myself, and think thought as much. Maybe I’ll hang onto those leaflets though, just in case.

Being single is all well and good, there’s the endless Netflix marathons, the having whole pizzas to yourself, the glory that is not sharing a double bed, but hold on a minute and back that truck up, cause suppose you want to do stuff?
I know what you’re thinking, eating whole pizzas is doing stuff, but what if you want to stuff that’s not in your home? What if you want to go to a gig say, and all your friends are busy being in relationships?

Well friends, fret not, because there is a solution. You just go, ON YOUR OWN.
I know, it’s revolutionary, but it can be done. There are loads of things you can do on your own, that traditionally are group activities, and in this new, semi regular feature I’m only going to go and do them!
Today’s feature presentation is about going to a gig, on your own…..

I’m feeling a little nervous about this, if I’m honest. Gigs are normally filled with groups and couples, so I’m not sure how it’ll be going on my own, especially as I’m normally in a group when I do go to see bands.
Let’s have some details shall we?
I’m going to see Marika Hackman, and it’s the last night of her 2014 tour, so it’s pretty busy when I get there.
As I’m walking up to the door, a small mouse runs straight at me. It’s not even a bit intimidated by the huge size difference between us, and I take this to be a sign that too should be like that mouse. I also make a reasonably loud squealing noise, because well, a mouse ran at me and I wasn’t expecting it.
There’s a lot of people inside, but I manage to negotiate my way to a reasonably good vantage point, and then I wait for the band to come on.
This bit, if I’m honest, isn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. If I was with someone I’d chat with them, but looking around, I can see lots of people, just standing quietly, waiting like me.
Listening to the people around me talking is interesting. Someone is talking about the Belle and Sebastian gig he went to, where everyone looked the same, another is discussing what they had for tea. (Rice Krispies, which was a popular choice, if the reaction was anything to go by)

After about 10 minutes the band come on. They’re really good, and honestly, I get so lost in the music that it doesn’t matter that it’s just me. It would be nice to be able to exchange excited glances at the awesomeness of it all with someone, but it doesn’t matter enough to make a difference.
It is very warm, I’m guessing because there are like 100 people crammed into a little room with no windows, but even that doesn’t dilute the pleasure I’m getting from being here.
The band plays, people clap and whistle for more, and I think to myself that going to gigs on your own is okay.

At the end of the night, as I walk back home, I reflect on how it’s been a good experience, and think about how to summarise it best.
Would I do this alone activity again? Yes, yes I would. It wasn’t that scary, and I had a good time.
Yeah, at times it was a little awkward, squealing at a mouse, then being judged by people in the smoking area for said squealing, stands out as a particular example, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. It was fun, and now it’s got me thinking about what to do next time………

Freiya Benson

Writer & Photographer.

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