I was taught how to be afraid and how to avoid danger with the understanding that it still may not do what I want it to do. Never go to a bar or a club alone, never go home with a guy you just met because you might wind up in his refrigerator. Travel in a pack of girls and you will keep each other as safe as anyone can. You will protect each other from aggressive would-be suitors, bad half-drunk decisions and make sure no one wound up in the hospital.
And we did do those things for each other and we kept each other safe.
But what happens now in your thirties where everyone works different schedules and has different responsibilities? What happens when your pack (squad, now I guess) is overburdened and we can only manage to all get together in the same room a few times a year?
There’s sort of a semi-silent list of acceptable activities to do by one’s self in the suburbs as a woman: go to the movies, go shopping, going to Starbucks.
But what if you don’t like any of the movies in the theater currently, you don’t need anything and you’re tired of Starbucks?
When you evoke glamour, you need to be able to step outside your comfort zone. I dressed as nicely as I would if I were going on a date and tried to calm my nerves. I was going to do something I had never done before, I was going to sit at a bar and have a drink by myself.
A guy friend was dismissive of how fraught this was for me to do as a woman initially, he jokingly said I was over-privileged to have never sat at a bar unescorted. I said, It’s the opposite really. The message that I absorbed coming of age was, if you go to a bar by yourself as a woman and you are raped and killed, you had it coming because you went alone. He was like, That took an unexpected dark turn. I said, I’m serious. That’s why I’m freaking out about it so much.
I went to college for women’s studies, I was raised to be a feminist even if my mother hesitates over the word as she travels the world alone. This is such an awful message to have sublimated into one’s subconscious and I couldn’t even tell you where it came from exactly. And a ridiculous one, really. If you have a drink, you will not suddenly be incapacitated in most cases. The upscale bar at the restaurant near the mall isn’t exactly known as a crime ridden area in my town. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I was eating lobster blt lettuce wraps for lordess sake. But there’s a feeling of danger and weirdly, apology. It was just me and a bunch of random dudes and I felt really conspicuous. Like I needed to explain myself for being there alone, like I needed to apologize for taking up space instead of just going home and having a drink there and not bothering anyone.
Talking to River actually helped here a lot. She had a grueling class schedule that didn’t match anyone else’s and if she wanted to be in the outside world, she needed to go out alone a lot. She made up stories about why she was alone in case she was ever challenged (which she never was). We giggled over various ideas for me to present: intrigues about meeting secret lovers, a solo cross country road trip, terrible fights with imaginary housemates and other such silliness.
It reminded me of when I went to L.A. with a friend, years ago and we made up names and personas for ourselves so we could be someone else completely in a strange (to us) land. I was to be Violet (Vi), the aromatherapist which made me laugh and laugh. I met a boy who chased after us after the bar, calling Vi! Vi! I didn’t turn around initially because I hadn’t really trained myself to answer to the name until my friend said, Violet, he’s calling you. We were giggling like crazy and made excuses to not exchange information. The funny thing is, while I would never call myself an aromatherapist, I did become a self-taught perfumer. It’s interesting what we can sometimes step into if we open the door a crack, if we give ourselves a chance to step outside ourselves into pieces of ourselves that are foreign to us.
Glamour isn’t just about what you wear and how you present yourself (which usually winds up to be part of your truest self, even if you don’t know it at the time), it’s also about learning to assess risk and what is a reasonable risk for you to take. That afternoon at the bar really recharged me, I got to go somewhere outside of my work-home-yoga studio traveling anchorite path that I’ve been on for the last few months due to book/tax season and I got to see that I could correctly assess risk for myself. I probably had a much higher chance of someone rear ending me in the parking lot than bar-related harm in the scenario I had chosen. It was hard for me to sit there, publicly alone because it announced I was there for myself. But I cannot in good conscious tell you to learn to be brave without learning to be brave myself. It was really difficult for me to do, but it will get easier with practice and eventually it will become an unapologetic act of small rebellion and I will lounge in chair, unconcerned about the thoughts of others and fully present in the space I occupy. It’s so important to learn how to take up space, Charmers. Especially when traveling on your own, even in your own town. For your glamour magic to work, you need to learn to be glamorous in places that make you anxious: attending a party by yourself, eating alone in a restaurant, whatever triggers your introversion. Because if you can learn to truly enjoy your own company outside your comfort zone, it’s not a very far leap that others would too. Who knows what doors will open then?
* Girl here is meant gender-neutrally