I am an extremely sociable person…But I also like to do certain things alone, especially watching movies. This solo movie watching, it seems, is “abnormal” behaviour as a friend observed. He is not the first. He will not be the last, for people find ‘solo-activists’ weird.
When I lived in Chennai, my landlord once mockingly asked me with a Tamil accent “Lone wolf ahh ni?” and then continued ranting. Later his grandson explained to me that his grandfather had heard that I was going to movies alone and also sitting in the nearby bar drinking alone so he thought I had some problem!
Yes, it seems doing certain activity alone is considered socially unacceptable. And it’s usually fun activities like eating or watching movies. And for the most part this mindset exists because people are scared that if they do fun things alone others will think that they do not have friends, and if you don’t have friends you are not normal. The worse is when people pass judgemental looks and even throw a pity smile at ‘lone wolves.’ So today if you do something alone it has to have some value, a utilitarian value, a purpose; like you can shop alone but if you sit for a movie alone you become abnormal!
Like many other ‘solo-activists,’ I like doing certain things alone. For me personally movies and grocery shopping are activities best enjoyed alone. The reason is the people who usually tag along with me to do these activities don’t allow me to enjoy them, especially movies. The first person to ruin my movie experience was my father and now my wife. They both are what one would call the “over-reactors,” the type of people who laugh with you, but laugh so loud that soon you stop laughing and hide with embarrassment.
I once watched Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ with my father. Yes, Chaplin movies are funny but my father found it so funny that he first started with a snort-laugh. Then he started slapping his thighs. Then he started howling and clapping his hands. Then he started slapping the person next to him while tears of joy wet his face. I was the person sitting next to him. I was a fragile 14-year-old. After this I decided never to go for a movie with him again.
But a few years later I joined him for a movie called Khamoshi. This movie was a fund-raiser event of Rotary Club and I went because a girl I had a crush on was coming too. And lucky for me she happened to sit a row below me. As the movie progressed and the story about the dumb and deaf couple unfolded, my father started unfolding his handkerchief and wiping his eyes. Then he started whimpering. Then just before the interval he gave a sudden but dramatic muffled howl. Just then the interval lights came on and everyone turned to see who this emotional wreck was. In truth I was the emotional wreck because my girl-crush turned and saw my teary-eyed father and gave a cruel mocking grin only a teenage girl can. It said, “cry baby’s son? No thanks.” I have not gone for a movie with him since.
But just when I thought I was done with an over-active family member, I got married and my wife out-laughs a Dolby Surround Sound System in the best of multiplexes. Sometimes I fear the projectionist will stop the movie out of fear that she may laugh herself unconscious. Such people are everywhere, in every family. And so you need to learn to go for movies alone if you ever want to enjoy one.
There are also the friends who are terrible. I have a bunch of them and I don’t go to movies with them either. There are the ones who wait only for the action scene and until it comes they like to discuss the ongoing cricket match.
Then there are the guessers: The people who shove their mouth near your ears to tell you what will happen next like they are Nostradamus of cinema. Then there are the prompters, the ones who can’t help but think that you don’t know English and find the need to explain every scene and dialogue to you in a patronising whisper. Then there are the over-enthusiastic franchise followers who have to tell you the back-story of the characters, even after you have told them you don’t care when Logan became Wolverine.
The worse are the munchers, the ones who get that smelly buttered popcorn and decide to chomp nosily just when the important dialogues are being exchanged. But by far the most irritating are the fault-finders, the ones who suddenly want to become rational and logical while watching a fantasy movie. And all these people exist. They are in every group. And they need to be shut down. If you can’t, then do as I do — watch movies alone on Tuesday afternoons. And I am not ashamed of it, even if others consider it abnormal.
Indeed, we human beings are social creatures and are designed to communicate and share experiences, but everyone needs ‘me time.’ Solo activities make you self-aware and self-confident. After all, grabbing a cocktail you love in a bar alone, watching a movie in solitude or relishing a dessert alone without your husband, wife or child digging into it and destroying its visual appeal, shows a degree of confidence. So let people think you’re a loser, because it is they who are the losers losing out on the joys of undistracted fun. Let them sport that pity smile at you…you smile back and keep flying solo… it’s good for your soul.