Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash

Loneliness Leads to Taking Myself on a Date

It seemed like time for the next monthly meeting of my favorite book club, but the announcement had not yet landed in my in-box.

When BLK + BRWN Bookstore opened its doors on Juneteenth this year, I was smitten immediately. I liked the clean modern lines. I liked seeing the entire inventory as soon as I walked through the door. The space would hold thirty people if they were on good terms with each other. It felt intimate, yet airy. The owner, Cori, greeted me — everyone — with infectious good cheer. Her mother was helping stock the shelves. I’m head-over-heels, when a mom is involved. When I bought a book at my initial visit, Cori and I talked about our favorite reads. Starved for conversations about words, hungry for companionship, I signed up for her book club. Could BLK + BRWN become the place where everybody knew my name?

For each book club selection, Cori hosted an in-person session; and as soon as it ended, she convened a virtual meeting. I attended online. I got a kick out of popping into a literary shindig, without the stress of driving there. I met fellow book lovers, without the embarrassment of walking solo into a room full of strangers. And because Cori prepared questions in advance, I got to talk about books, without fumbling through awkward chatting. After two meetings, a few of the regulars did know my name.

I found Cori’s newsletter in my spam folder. I clicked on the book club RSVP. Shoot. The meeting was last week. Had I missed it accidentally on purpose?

There was something new. In this edition of her newsletter, Cori had included the dates and times for all future meetings. I could RSVP in total, add the meet-ups to my calendar, and never miss another.

There was something else new. She’d changed the scheduling. She’d assigned two different days for each book. A Sunday evening for virtual, the following Sunday for in-real-life. The in-person session was coming up in three days. I hadn’t missed the meeting after all.

Oh yeah, oh yeah. We’re going.

In person? By myself? No way.

Going.

Not.

The Dawn Downey Decision-Making Method: Burst into initial enthusiasm. Second-guess the enthusiasm. Third-guess the second-guessing. Continue The Method for every waking minute until time to leave the house. Stay home.

I turned to my official arbiter, a pendulum — an inch-high stack of stones affixed to one end of a delicate silver chain. “Dear Pendulum/Conflict Resolver/Resolution Producer/Magical Gut Feeling Revealer, Is it in my highest good to attend the in-person book club meeting?”

The answer didn’t matter. The point of the exercise was to stop the torturous assault of thinking-thinking-thinking.

The pendulum swung in the direction of yes.

Yes felt good. And bad. I might get lost. I might get COVID. I might get tongue-tied.

In spite of anxiety, there was no question I wanted to go. Yet there was also a sense that I had to go. As though I’d made a commitment to someone. If I were a no-show, someone would be crestfallen.

Oh.

The someone was me.

A month earlier, I’d made a commitment to date myself. The book club would be my second date.

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Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes about love and pain. Her latest book is Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room. DawnDowneyBlog.com.