The numbers are in: Eighty-five percent of us really just want some "alone time," according to the Pew Research Center.
It pays to distinguish, of course, between a few different types of alone. There is alone as in "not with others" — the default state of existing, the unremarkable time spent grocery shopping, picking at blackheads, commuting to and from work. Then there's lonely alone, the result of unanswered texts or friends who bail — things you can't control. Lonely alone is wishing, wanting, sighing and FOMO.
But the loud whine of lonely alone often makes us forget the third and best type of alone: active alone. Active alone is "feeling myself." Active alone is a good selfie. Active alone is what people hint at when they wax poetic about hiking. When you are actively alone, you carve out a space for solo pleasure, instead of accepting the alone time foisted upon you.
If you want, you can call it masturdating, because put simply, active alone is dating yourself: one of the best kinds of dating we can choose. In fact, a recent study suggests that people who occasionally spend time alone have just as much fun as those who do the same activity in pairs. Sara Eckel at Role Reboot speculates, "The main thing that prevents people from going out alone is their concern that others will think they're unpopular." One take in the Washington Post suggests that we suffer culturally from fear of missing out.
Whatever our fears, it's scientifically proven: Once we get over the insecurity, we realize how amazing spending dedicated time to ourselves really is. You are not a princess locked in a tower of Law and Order reruns, and the public sphere is not reserved for those in couples or those who roll deep with squads. Your reservation for one is calling. Here's how to answer it and date yourself.
1. Go slow.
You might feel nervous or embarrassed about masturdating, so take things slow. Like other activities designated as shameful, first time solo-dating is easier when you do it with the lights out. Take yourself to a movie, where people have paid money to look at a thing that is not you.
2. Take you out to the ballgame, or wherever.
Venture further out of your comfort zone to haunts with other lone wolves like yourself. Libraries and museums are obvious choices, but you may be equally comfortable by yourself at a concert or sporting event. The lesson in "dance like nobody's watching" can be hard to internalize, so it might help to start by treating your masturdates like an affair. Choose a place where you can be reasonably certain you will not encounter anyone you know.
3. Embrace your weirder interests.
A benefit of alone time is that there isn't an obligation to entertain anyone but yourself. Use this fact as an opportunity to explore the most niche corners of your interests, especially Internet-based fascinations you haven't yet pursued in real life. If you find yourself up at night trapped in a particularly deep Wikipedia well, climb out and try to find a way to satisfy the interest offline.
4. Make it feel special.
Perhaps you will want to dress up for your solo date, though this is not required. What matters most is that it feels special. If you are not the type of person who enjoys fancy dress, then pull on your favorite sweatpants. If you like to listen to music in the park, then bring your finest headphones to your town's lushest green space and enjoy, from start to finish, the album of your choice. (If you are so inclined, a little weed might serve you well here.) Solo time is best enjoyed when you have it your way without holding back.
5. Don't be afraid to go big.
The Super Bowl of masturdating is the solo dinner date — but if you have followed these steps carefully, then you should be ready. Whether it's White Castle or a swanky steakhouse, get cozy at a table for one and prepare to feast. You can bring a book or headphones to occupy yourself, or just watch the other people and take comfort in the fact that they probably aren't watching you.
And hey, if they are, cool. You're busy. You're on a date.