I am the queen of social anxiety. No, really. The mere thought of talking on the phone can make me break out in hives, I sprint out of the bathroom in my office building if I see Timbs under a stall (the hot daddy lesbian always wears Timbs), and I have a mini panic attack every time I have to share an elevator with someone. It goes without saying that I don't go on solo dates — the thought of people judging me from across the restaurant makes me nervous.
I wasn't this anxious about alone time before I moved to New York. Maybe it’s the cost of rent, maybe it’s because the M train hasn’t ran on time since I’ve arrived, maybe it’s just the inevitable feeling of impending doom my mental illness makes me feel — but my anxiety has made me feel less and less comfortable with being alone. I feel my best when I'm surrounded by my coworkers, friends, and girlfriend.
I decided to challenge myself to enjoy an evening out by myself — a solo date. I took my plan seriously from the start. I had even marked the date in my Google calendar; I decided I'd go out one night after work. In true Dayna fashion, it didn’t go so smoothly.
For starters, my day was screwed up because I was wearing an ugly outfit. (I haven’t done laundry in, like, um, a month.) My hair was in a messy bun and I didn't have time for makeup. At my office, I bounced between my actual work and agonizing over which restaurant to go to. I felt insecure about my plans for that night, so I skipped lunch. As the day wore on, my hunger pains felt more intense. If you're a babe that lives with anxiety, you might know what I'm talking about — hunger can make your anxiety twerk.
By the time 5 p.m. rolled around, I was in a sour mood. I texted my girlfriend to make plans to get drinks. I tried to shrug off the burning disappointment and frustration I felt with myself for not wanting to go through with the solo date. But then I stopped myself. I was going on this date, damn it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could.
I canceled our drinks. I forced myself out of the door of my office, onto the sidewalk, and across the street to Rainbow for an outfit makeover. I did my best to shake off negative thoughts about my body and about the fact that I probably shouldn't be spending more money. The goal was to enjoy my night. I purchased a black suede jacket, a black cropped tank top, and red platform sandals. Then I sprinted through the rain back to my office and changed into my new clothes.
It was time to take myself out on a date, whether I liked it or not. I trusted my gut instinct and took an Uber Pool to Lua, a bar in Brooklyn with a cool, relaxed vibe.
In the back seat of the car, I silently prayed that the bartender would not be a hot, intimidating lesbian. Lo and behold, I gave the bartender a once-over when I arrived: Keys clipped to her belt. Tattoos. BDE. Hot, intimidating lesbian bartender.
My heart pounded out of my chest as I ordered my drink. “May I please have an Espolòn and seltzer, please?” I asked. I winced at saying "please" twice and felt beads of sweat run down my forehead.
As the bartender made my drink, I practiced saying "thank you" in my head. I got frustrated with myself. I mean, despite my anxiety, I'm the girl that wears pasties in public and is the first to volunteer for karaoke — why was I having so much trouble ordering a drink?
I said thank you. It was fine. I could’ve sworn she smirked at me when she noticed my "dyke" nameplate necklace. I smirked back.
The second the tequila hit my system, I felt completely at ease. Powerful, even, like a sexy, mysterious girl out by herself. A girl who doesn’t need anyone else to have a good time. I sipped my drink, smiling to myself, observing the trendy Brooklyn décor, and swaying to a Charles Bradley song. What was I so anxious about? This was fun!
Then I saw it: a cash-only sign.
I almost spit my $10 drink out. I fingered the plastic cards in my phone wallet case. I panicked, wondering if I should give the bartender my license as collateral while I went outside to find an ATM, or if I should call my girlfriend, call my mom, or even the police. As my thoughts continued to spiral, I noticed an ATM in the corner of the bar.
Duh. There’s always a simple solution. It's anxiety that makes life feel like a complicated catastrophe.
After I got money from the ATM, I took out the book I had brought with me, and like true magic, I was instantly lost in its pages. Time seemed to disappear around me as I ordered more tequila and kept reading.
I couldn’t help but laugh that an hour ago, I was vibrating with anxiety in Rainbow, positively hating myself. And now, I was happily alone at a bar. I was having so much fun on my solo date. It was even erotic, just like a date-date — I felt sexy and aroused.
I ordered an appetizer, made small talk with the lez bartender, and smiled at the girls next to me. I took selfies in the bathroom. I even unabashedly took photos of my book and drink with the flash on.
I thought about how even though my anxiety had felt so real earlier that day, nothing bad was actually happening around me. Hours at the bar flew by until I felt my eyes drooping. It was time to take myself home, back to my girlfriend. I was so happy to be in her arms. I learned that I could be that happy on my own, too, even if it took a little pushing to get there.
I am now committing to take myself out once a week. My solo date reminded me that I can fall in love with myself again — or at least enjoy a delicious tequila cocktail and a good book.
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