This piece is for the gyaldem, mandem, transdem - everyone in between and those not on the spectrum. Dedicated to my singletons, taken ones and ‘it's complicated’ huns, as I believe we all deserve to be dated and it starts with ourselves.
As a species that craves connection and togetherness, the topic of loneliness is often met with the solution of meeting new people, being in a relationship or spending time with family and friends. While I still love doing all of the above, I am a strong believer that when you take the time to date yourself, being alone really isn't the worst thing in the world. However, I haven’t always thought like this.
I remember the first time I went on a solo date. I was around sixteen and I’d secured cheap tickets to go and watch a production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I absolutely loved reading the novel in school so when I found out it was going to be a play and I could get tix for a tenner, I was gassed to say the least. I dm’ed all my friends in various social groups, messaged my favourite cousins and heck, I even asked my teacher if they would come with me, but no one was interested. In their defence, it was quite last minute, getting into central London can be quite expensive and it simply just wasn’t some people’s ‘thing’. But the thought of going alone was a lil embarrassing and somewhat shameful. Ready to write off the night, I put on my bonnet and went to bed. But as I did, an overdue library book caught my eye. It was a copy of the novel. I looked at the book and the book looked at me and it was at this moment, I decided there was no way I was missing out on this rare opportunity to use cheap West End tickets. (Also, I wanted bragging rights in my GCSE English class the next day.)
The decision to go to the theatre alone was nerve-racking, I can’t lie, but much to my surprise I really enjoyed myself. From the fancy crisps in tubs to the historical interior and a performance that enhanced my imagination and sense of adventure. I think the best part of it was doing something for me and allowing myself to have fun completely on my terms.
I even made a friend for the night. She was a middle-aged, middle-class white woman (typical theatre crowd) who did this sort of thing on a regular basis. She was a vibe and encouraged me to have these experiences more often. (I was on free school meals and definitely didn't have money like that, but I appreciated the sentiment and later learned that solo dates don’t have to be a costly ordeal.)
Now at 23, I try to take myself on a date fortnightly but once a month at the very least. Sometimes I dress up and sometimes a tracksuit and a bit of lip balm will do. Budget wise it can be as cost-effective or expensive as you like. Warm homemade picnic in your local park? Yup. Dinner at a restaurant you’ve been preeing on TikTok all month? Go on then. First class solo trip to Europe staying in a five-star hotel? F it, why not? Personally, I take trips to Whole Foods because it’s a place I can’t afford on a regular basis. It allows me to romanticise my life and fulfil my future rich aunty fantasy. Your idea of a solo date can be as simple as you like.
The great thing about dating yourself is you don’t have to compromise. You can go where you want, how you want, without the need to worry if the other person is having a good time… and if you aren’t enjoying yourself, you can always just leave.
I know dating yourself is easier said than done and sometimes I still get a little nervous to take myself out, but I really want everyone to try it. If you are feeling a little anxious, here are a few things I do to help. Firstly, document how you feel. This could be through journalling or even speaking to a loved one who is willing to listen. Secondly, I would recommend listening to some music and preparing yourself like you would on a date with someone else. Sometimes I dress up and sometimes a tracky and a bit of lip balm will do - anything to make me feel good prior. Lastly, honour your feelings. You know those butterflies you get before a date or meeting someone you are connected with? This is very similar. Yes, it could be nerves but could also be excitement and there is no shame in feeling the way you do. It takes bravery to do things alone for the first time.
The phrases ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love often get dashed around and can sometimes fall into the ‘toxic positivity’ narrative but trust me, dating yourself truly does wonders. Figuring out what you like, dislike, love and loathe alongside taking care of yourself is crucial, because if you don’t, who will?
HAPPY SOLO DATE NIGHT <3
Zakiyyah is an actor, writer, voiceover and all-round storyteller. She has previously written for The Guardian and BasementApproved. She also has her own blog, Zaks Wri(tings), and can be found on instagram @zakiyyahdeen.