I’ve never let that stop me from going anywhere on my own. Concerts, terraces, museums, the cinema, restaurants: if I felt like it, I did it.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Danced until I couldn’t anymore in a small club. Enjoyed a special restaurant without a newspaper, book or telephone on the table. What was on my plate was enough for me—and the joy with which it was prepared and served. Watched two or three movies in a row – and in the intermissions I mused over what I had seen over a latte or a glass of beer.

I’m not always in the mood for others, I enjoy myself just fine. I have a child, two bonus sons, a spring sweetheart who will continue to blow by this summer, many friends. But it’s also nice to have my own company. To be able to do what I feel like, at a time that suits me and without having to take another person into account.

Selfish? New. headstrong? Yes maybe. But wasn’t it Aristotle who said, “Happiness belongs to those who are self-sufficient”? I feel happy when I can unravel my own thoughts. And a more pleasant person too, if I have time and space for a life of my own.

Until corona arrived – and the one and a half meter economy became a reality. Suddenly I became painfully aware of the place I occupy on my own. And especially the expense that I cause as a headstrong single person.

The first time it happened was when I reserved a ticket for A couch in Tunis and discovered that there was only one single seat available in the cinema room. The rest was reserved for pairs. And when I wanted to eat out a few days later, I noticed that it was impossible to make reservations for one person in my favorite restaurants. While that was never a problem before corona. Not for the restaurant, but not for myself either.

being alone sense

It’s a wonderful feeling. Suddenly I begin to feel ashamed of my sense of being alone. I feel left out. Uncomfortable. As if I’m claiming a privilege that is no longer in these times done is. And at the same time I find myself a huge nag, because hey: none of my loved ones is sick, I have a job and endure the corona time well.

Yet the trepidation shudders. And I lose a little empathy for myself. Exactly what shame does to you.

I sit down in the cheerful duct taped hall – you can only take a seat on chairs without tape.. After all those cinema-free months, even the advertising of Europe Cinemas me. To my surprise, and also with some relief, I see that I am not the only soloist. “People who go to the cinema alone can also reserve another seat,” explains Sjef Stelling, who owns the Louis Hartlooper Complex in Utrecht together with his sister. Sober: „Then they occupy two places. And yes, that will give us even more loss.”

swallow. It comes in. I cost him real money

He says they briefly considered forcing visitors to go to the movies together. But they quickly dropped that idea. “We think hospitality is more important than money and turnover.”

swallow. It comes in. So I cost him real money.

And since the one and a half meter economy, I have also been such a loss-making guest for concert halls and restaurants. Koninklijke Horeca Nederland says it is not a policy to keep out alone eaters. And advises to call the restaurant if you can no longer reserve a table for one person online.

But then again, how welcome are you when you have to beg for a table for yourself? Do you want that? Not me.

Not uncomfortable

It is also not recommended to me. Paul Metzemakers, economist at ABN Amro and specialized in retail & leisure: “The catering industry complains stone and bone and then you occupy a place for two on your own. Why would you want that?”

He touches a nerve. This is exactly why I am ashamed. In the eyes of Paul Metzemakers I behave antisocially – and I cannot blame him.

He also wonders why you would go out to dinner on your own at all. “Isn’t that much more fun to do together? Eating alone is uncomfortable.” I read on various websites for singles that this is a common opinion. There are tips everywhere on how to go to the cinema alone without stress. To concerts. To a restaurant.

The discomfort and sorry-that-I-exist is dripping from it. An embarrassment that I didn’t know at all until corona.

Because no, I don’t find it uncomfortable to go out on my own. And it has never been obvious to me that it is more fun to do things together than alone.

For example, I once started living alone with my then lover because a foreign life became accessible: it was simply cheaper to share a house. I had always resolved never to do that. And no, that’s not fear of commitment, but fear of losing myself. Unnoticed and unintentionally adapting myself to the other in such a way that I fade and slowly dissolve into a large common we.

After the foreign adventure I went to live alone again. But living in two different cities proved not very practical, so I gave in again after a few years. There was a child and – luckily for all three of us – a divorce a few years later. I left, bought a house and felt liberated.

And that’s how I still feel ten years later. I now know that I need my own space to remain myself. A place of your own to be autonomous.

But because of the loneliness I’ve been feeling recently, I’m starting to doubt that choice too. I live on my own for half the month in a house that could accommodate an entire family. The other half of the month I co-parent. Should I also feel concerned about the space I occupy on the housing market? Embarrass me for my fulfilled desire for a place of my own?

No, that’s going too far. But all the stories about impending bankruptcies in the catering and cultural sector touch me. It feels very uncomfortable when I hear that, according to Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, almost half of the catering industry is now technically bankrupt.

without shame

“Don’t let that stop you from booking a table for yourself,” responds Herman Godijn of Rotterdam restaurant Dertien. “Sometimes a single person spends more than a couple who only orders two main courses and tap water. So what are you worried about?”

His words relieve my loneliness somewhat. And I also see opportunities to feel less guilty, although that may also be prompted by my Catholic background. That is why I am not asking for my money back for all concerts that have not taken place in recent months. I support the canceled festival alternatives that are being devised. Buy work from artists. Only reserve solo seats in the cinema. Eat and drink generously.

And those corona kilos? I’ll be sporting that again. Sans embarrassment.