Watching A Movie Alone Can Be A Rite Of Passage To Adulthood

I don’t know about most people but watching a movie alone was something I actively avoided growing up. 

I was forced to overcome the fear of eating alone after moving to countries where people didn’t flock together during lunch time. However, walking up to the box office to buy a ticket for myself has always felt kind of awkward. 

“I’ll just wait for the DVD,” I’d tell myself when I could not find a kindred spirit to watch a certain movie with me.  

Unlike eating, watching movies is more of a want than a need. 

Watching movies was always associated with friendship

As a teenager in the ’90s, going to the movies was the most wholesome group activity that didn’t include alcohol or gambling. It also accommodated those people who didn’t like to sweat. 

I have awesome memories of chowing down at the terraced McDonald’s outside Shaw House after watching a monster flick at Lido cinema and heading to Far East Plaza to take Neoprints after.

Then I grew up.

I remember singing Vitamin C’s Graduation (Friends Forever)  at my graduation, but little did I know how true the words would ring.

But when we leave this year, we won’t be coming back
No more hanging out ’cause we’re on a different track 

Of course, I still saw my friends from time to time, but I never knew we would grow that far apart. As a student, school was your entire world, which made you ignorant of the world beyond.

After living abroad for 5 years during university, I noticed how much Singapore had changed when I returned. 

For one, the Marina Bay area, which used to be where people flew kites, had steamboat (pre-Hai Di Lao) and went bowling was taken over by the glitzy towers of Marina Bay Sands.

But the changes on the outside were only the tip of the iceberg of the changes that happened personally. Some of my friends got attached or married, and some of my relatives passed. 

Losing people to marriage or cancer, I found myself being a foreigner in my own city. I hoped to cling onto something sentimental, like watching a movie with my friends just like we would in our school uniforms, to feel at home once more.  

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Watching a movie by myself

In my mid-20s, it was rare that I could find a big group to watch something together. If I was lucky, I would find 2 other friends to catch something we were all interested in. 

Otherwise, movies became a date-night activity. 

It definitely didn’t feel the same, lacking the innocence of 15 classmates hopping to the cinema because school ended early one day. 

But growing up means letting go of the safety of your warm memories.

As a working adult, my free time became more precious and I started becoming picky about my movie habits. For example, I didn’t want to catch Avengers: Endgame on Labour Day when I anticipated a crowded cinema, despite my friends wanting to. 

So only this year, I watched a movie alone for the first time, because FOMO got the better of me.    

Watching A Movie Alone Is Something Every Grown-Ass Adult Should Do

The death of important characters in Avengers: Endgame made me think: maybe my fear of being alone is tied to my fear of death.

Death means entering into the unknown, all alone. And perhaps that is why being alone is associated with negativity and inevitability.

But as I grew up, I had to learn to face my fear of being alone. A counsellor pointed out that we will never truly be alone nor never truly be together.

It sounds really deep and contradictory but it isn’t. Let me explain. 

When you are going through a tough time, you can feel all alone, despite being amongst friends. 

Even when your fears of abandonment and loneliness are triggered, you can assure yourself that at some point, you will have a chance to interact with people again.  

In other words, the ideas of company and loneliness are just constructs, like the idea of time. Unlike the Avengers, we cannot jump into the past or future—all we have is the now. 

The past or future are just moments of ‘now’ that we choose to label and ascribe with meaning. 

Being alone and in good company have more to do with the meanings we attribute to different situations, rather than being inevitable circumstances.

Understanding that is the key to growing up: that despite seemingly unchangeable consequences, we have the power to construct our own realities and contexts. 

Maybe that is something I could only have realised without friends around to distract me during and after the movie, so I could mull over the themes of death, loneliness and time.  

Thanos says, “I am inevitable,” and so is being alone. 

So we might as well enjoy our “loneliness”.

Cover illustration by Asher Mak.
This article was first published on 28 June 2019 and last updated on 9 February 2024. 

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