Holiday

RSVP for one: The perks of attending a party solo

If you're on the fence about attending that fete on your own, this might be the push you need.

If you're on the fence about attending that fete on your own, this might be the push you need

Purple and pink illustration of a woman holding a piece of mail.
(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

There is rarely a time as busy as the holiday season when it comes to all the dinners, parties and events to attend.

And with all those invites, it's not always possible to coordinate plans with friends and family, or not always OK to bring a plus one. So you might find yourself faced with hitting up a party or two on your own — something that can feel scary if you're not used to doing it. You may wonder: Who will I talk to? Will people think I have no friends if I show up alone? What will I do with my hands?!

But going solo to an event isn't so rare or strange, and there are ways to get over any fears so you don't miss out on what could be a really great time. We spoke to several social butterflies who often go it alone for their best advice on why you might want to RSVP for one, and how to avoid being a wallflower when you get there.

Solo moments are memorable moments

Although attending just about any event on your own, especially when you don't know anyone else who'll be there, can be daunting at first, it can also lead to an even better experience than you might have imagined.

Initially, Toronto-based photographer Katrina Lat started what she calls "solo adventuring" out of necessity, she said. Now travelling or going to concerts alone has become something she truly enjoys. 

"I didn't know anyone else who liked the band," Lat recalled about the first show she attended alone. She felt self-conscious and nervous before going but saw the upside afterward. "If I had dragged a friend along with me," she said, "I'd have been worried about them and if they were enjoying the music. By going solo, I was able to just lose myself in the music."

Similarly, when Toronto-based journalist and filmmaker Shetu Modi recently went to the Chicago South Asian Film Festival on her own to premiere some of her work, she revelled in the autonomy. 

"I could stay at parties, events and screenings as long as I wanted to because I didn't have to worry about friends and family getting bored," she said. "I also didn't have to consult anyone when choosing a restaurant, and I spent hours wandering the Art Institute of Chicago."

Hillary-Anne Crosby, a Montana-based marketing strategist and communications specialist, often prefers stepping out on her own. "I get to decide how I want to show up in the space," she said, "and form my own opinion of what it's like, and how I want to respond to the vibe." 

How to build confidence

When you do feel anxious, it may help to remember that you're not alone. "I think most people feel as awkward as you do," said Modi — who doesn't always feel confident herself. "I'm often intimidated by people chatting in groups, but they're not as scary as they seem," she said, adding that when she encounters an unfriendly person, she moves along.

It helps, too, said Crosby, to know that you get to be in control of your experience. "I remind myself that it's all up to me," she said. "If I want to mingle, I can do that. If I want to sit back and people-watch, that's cool, too. If I want to show up late or leave early, that's my call to make." 

Being a photographer, Lat often uses her camera as a kind of buffer between herself and new people. "If I were at an event and feeling awkward," she said, "I would keep busy by taking photos of what was going on." 

Useful icebreakers

Sometimes taking photos led to people chatting with Lat about what she was doing. Another way to break the ice is to remember that everyone at the event has something in common that you could talk to them about, she said. That could be the host or the band you're seeing.

Crosby uses a similar tactic. "My go-to is just to ask what brought folks there. How do they know so-and-so, have they been to this lecture series before, et cetera," she said. "It's an easy opener that lets people take it where they want and gives you lots of ins for new paths of conversation."

And sometimes, a good conversation starter can be as simple as offering a compliment. After all, flattery will get you everywhere. 

"I have a very outgoing friend who easily makes friends at concerts and other events she attends solo," Modi shared. "She told me she compliments other people's outfits, so I've started to do that. It works! Everyone loves positive attention."

What to avoid 

On that note, Modi added that paying attention when conversing and trying to make genuine connections is important. "There's nothing worse than conversations that feel purely transactional. You can tell when someone's there just to exchange business cards or amass more Instagram followers."

While Lat said it's good to be open to new friendships, she cautioned against moving too fast. A hint of skepticism is needed at first, she said. "Acquaintanceship should come easy. Trust and friendship need to be earned."

And purely for safety reasons, don't forget to let someone you trust know where you'll be, said Lat, when attending an event solo.

No pressure

Once you're there, it's not wise to put too much pressure on yourself, said Crosby. "If you're telling yourself that you should be dancing when you're not in the mood, or you should be mingling when you're feeling shy," she said, "you're just going to get down on yourself and make it impossible to enjoy the event." 

And while the fear of being a wallflower might be one a lot of us harbour in this scenario, Lat said it's actually not always a bad thing, and can even have its own rewards. "Sometimes I'm at a party and not keen to break into a big group conversation," she said, "so I hang out at that wall and befriend the other wallflowers."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sadaf Ahsan is a Toronto-based arts writer. She previously worked at Canadian Press, Now Magazine and the National Post. She dreams of living a life Nora Ephron would be proud of.

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