why every man needs to date themselves
Expert solo dater Rhys Thomas explains why taking yourself for an expensive meal is a radical act of self-care
words Rhys Thomas
This article is part of THE WOONIVERSE ACCORDING TO... Jamie Flatters.
On a warm and sunny Monday afternoon in the middle of 2022’s Virgo season, I made a reservation for one at BRAT, Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. It was my birthday, and being Welsh and very into food, I decided there was no better way to spend the day than eating beautifully cooked Welsh produce, alone with nothing but my point and shoot camera, a book, the accompanying glass of crémant, and a smile as I watched the chefs work the open kitchen.
I didn’t have dessert there: I had two starters, because I’m a pro. I did, however, pick up a donut from Crosstown (it’s the one day of the year I eat them because I love them too much to eat them every day: my only strong example of self-control) and went to my favourite pub for a pint, continuing to read my book, Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill, there. I left the pub at 5pm to see a friend, and from there I would see another couple of friends. I enjoyed it all equally: fancy dinners and pub chats are equally wonderful alone or with company, for different reasons. I think we deserve and can benefit from giving each other both in life.
But yeah, let's call it 'masturdating'. The idea of dat(ing) a(lone): masturdating, if you can avoid the obvious sexual connotations. An expression of self-love. I’ve been solo-dating for a while, perhaps a decade. Despite being a pretty extroverted person - always the last to leave a party, always keen to see people - I really enjoy my own space. Avoiding people for a bit, sure, but mainly, just enjoying my lovely company. I now go solo dating once a week at least, from a long walk home after work, through to dinners or a couple beers while reading a book. It’s an integral part of how keep balance in my life.
While I might be comfortable wandering around spending time alone, some people would say that spending a few hours of my birthday at a posh restaurant and eating on my own within a sea of couples and groups is a bit strange. I would say that honestly, it’s a wonderful thing to do on any day, and that people should solo-date, or masturdate, as I’m calling it, more often. These dates aren’t reserved for my birthday. Recently I took a week off of work and went for six solo meals, a trip to the seaside, and visited a gallery alone. I plan to go abroad on my own soon, too.
I’m not always an expensive (or hungry) solo date either: walks through the park with my camera - even without my camera - are wonderful. Getting a takeaway coffee and sitting on a bench or dry grass watching the world go by, maybe journaling; also wonderful. When I’m at home, the coast of southwest Wales, taking a drive to the beach, looking out into nothingness, hearing the waves crunch against the sand and nothing nor nobody else; joyful.
But let’s go back to the birthday meal I treated myself to. I enjoyed it so much partly because this was an occasion where I got to reflect, alone, on the year I’d just had. The milestone is generally a time where people so often are swamped in company they can't begin to sit and think. It was also me doing something I love; eating a great meal at my own pace and without annoying people who cover the already well-seasoned food in salt and pepper before trying it. I could sit and contemplate the textures, flavours, ingredients; I could pick apart various combinations from the dish and eat them in specific orders. Levels of geekery and enjoyment for the moment I cannot indulge in with others present.
At the end of the meal, I also enjoyed knowing that I’d dedicated time (and money, what can I say: I like to be lavish sometimes, and love to gift people nice things) giving and gifting myself an experience that I would remember and think back to often. I’ve since decided that I’ll treat myself to lunch or dinner alone every birthday. Arguably, fancy meals on a birthday leans closer to a special occasion in a relationship than a date, because that’s a special occasion, but you get the point. I’m doing things I want to do on my own. The donut and the pint - just as good as the meal. But why not have both!
So yes, I’m a huge advocate for dating myself. A nuance that applies to me and others, is the idea of men being stoic. A more concerning trait of masculinity that the world has: men are lonely, they don’t talk to people, they sit in silence and solitude. And yes, there are instances of this, but being alone isn’t the same as being lonely. Not speaking is very different to speaking to yourself, hearing your thoughts… being in touch with your ~emotions~.
And besides, I’m not on about a permanent state of being. You can see other people and enjoy that equally. Bliss! It’s just about the idea of making sure to spend time with ourselves and our own thoughts that we enjoy. Science says it’s a good idea too: studies show that spending (positive) time alone can help us to relieve stress, especially around personal expectations, lead to an increase in happiness, and apparently, it can boost intelligence among many other benefits.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, I do actually have a fair few friends who wanted to see me on my birthday, of course. I told them I was working. This is also why I went for lunch – plus actually, lunch is arguably the best time to go to an expensive restaurant, you’re more likely to find a spot and the menu is excellent, yet cheaper.
TIPS FOR MASTURDATING:
Do the things you enjoy
This doesn’t have to be a whole thing, you could simply sit at home sipping a coffee without looking at your phone for half an hour, staring out of the window. Thinking, daydreaming, enjoying and engaging in the conversations we have with yourself in your own mind.
Go somewhere at a time where you won’t bump into people
One of the main fears of solo dating (other than the possibility of loneliness, and being judged by the waiter) is being seen on your own by someone you know. So simply go on a solo date at a time where you know you aren’t likely to see the people you know!
… and a place!
Whether it’s travelling to another part of town or simply going somewhere you’re sure your friends won’t visit, these are good ways to keep it all pure. It’ll minimise the risk of your date being gatecrashed.
Keep the stakes low
You might not enjoy the date, as happens with other dates with other people. So start small, a cup of coffee, a walk in the park, somewhere that doesn’t trap you for hours like the cinema, or cost you a lot.
Learn to love yourself
Don’t stress, don’t overly concentrate on trying to feel anything. Just exist, look around you, remember what it is you enjoy. Life is just a load of lessons, isn’t it.
Sure, relationships with others are wonderful, friendships exceptional, dates are a lot of fun! At times all of the above are needed, but sometimes they come and go, new friends come, old friends leave. A constant we have in our lives is being with ourselves. We know ourselves better than anyone, we spend more time with ourselves (disassociating aside) than we do with anyone else. So why don’t we go for dates with ourselves and demonstrate that we love ourselves? Not in the narcissistic way, but in the “we get along pretty well, let’s go have a nice time together: me, myself, and I” way.
Welcome to THE WOONIVERSE ACCORDING TO… Jamie Flatters. In this liminal space, we provide an individual a chance to reflect through creativity how to harness their own power to make a positive change in the real world around them. This time around sees Jamie and some of our writers reflect on the idea of self-love and what it means to them. There's even a relaxing hypnotherapy session if you're struggling yourself.
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