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How I Learned to Love Being a Party of One

Some of my favorite pursuits are things couples or friends do together — by myself

By TJ Butler
A woman sitting at a tasting table smiling. Next Avenue
The author enjoyed a window seat for one during her wine and chocolate pairing  |  Credit: T.J. Butler

The twists and turns of the last few years have changed our lives. We've aged. Family and work arrangements are different, and many of us have new health concerns.

Time spent with friends and family is on a vastly different social landscape, and this has revealed something unexpected to me: Where I previously enjoyed leisure time in small groups or with my husband, you can now find me as a happy party of one.

Where I previously enjoyed leisure time in small groups or with my husband, you can now find me as a happy party of one.

Some of my favorite pursuits are things couples or friends do together. After spending too much time at home waiting for organized get-togethers, I decided to try going solo. I wasn't afraid of spending time alone, but I worried I'd feel awkward without a companion.

Who would I talk to? Would it look strange to be single at couples and group events, or would people wonder why I was there alone? I had no answers to these questions. However, I had a long time to ponder them. Too long, in fact, while I stayed home and missed being out.

Relishing My Solo Status

I discovered The Choco-Vino Challenge, a wine and chocolate pairing class offered by Little Washington Winery near Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains. It felt like the perfect experience to begin flying solo.

It would be my first time learning about wine, and I love both wine and chocolate. I convinced myself that if I didn't take the initial step to going out alone, I might never do it. With wine and chocolate's romantic elements, I felt awkward as I entered the shop. However, I only missed my husband for a few moments.

The sommelier who facilitated my tasting was so kind and knowledgeable that I relished my solo status. She discussed the wine pairings in a friendly conversation rather than a group lecture, and I didn't have to share my treats with anyone. When you have a platter of beautifully crafted truffles in front of you, being alone is a bonus.

Out of habit, I reached for my phone for something to do. I put it back into my purse just as quickly. Then, I paused to absorb my surroundings. I was in an adorable boutique shop. I had the window seat, and four wine and chocolate pairings to enjoy.

A table with wine glasses overlooking a mountain range. Next Avenue
The winery's scenic front porch  |  Credit: T.J. Butler

I could linger over each one and savor the atmosphere without wondering whether my husband was enjoying himself as much as I was. At that moment, I began to realize what going places by myself would come to mean.

Soon, I'd finished my pairing platter. The sommelier volunteered that Little Washington Winery had two other locations, including a brewery and a main winery. The day was gorgeous. I was eager to try more solo activities in places traditionally thought of as for couples.

However, I wondered if wine and chocolate were a delicious anomaly and if a brewery would be different. I wasn't sure how the rest of my day would go, but I decided to take a chance.


A Solo Outing on a Gorgeous Day

The brewery overlooked a vast lawn with mountains in the distance. I sat on the porch with my beer flight a few tables away from a boisterous group of friends. I realized I enjoyed sitting alone and didn't wish to be with my own friends.

I sampled each beer, enjoyed the view and soon, I decided it was time to leave. This brought on another revelation about solo experiences; I could leave whenever I wanted. I did, and it was freeing to be on my own schedule.

I was a little nervous driving to the winery. Everything I've heard about wineries included friends or romantic partners. I envisioned sitting alone with a sad glass of wine among happy couples, texting my husband because I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't shake the uncertainty despite the fact that I was going there alone on purpose.

I realized I enjoyed sitting alone and didn't wish to be with my own friends.

The winery is located in a mansion on a hilltop overlooking rolling hills. It has a gorgeous view of the mountains in the distance. The sommelier made me feel comfortable when I ordered a wine flight for one. She guided me as I selected five wines from their extensive list, and then she walked me to the main floor.

Each luxuriously decorated room had ample seating, with every space in the mansion available for guests to use. I toted my wine flight from room to room exploring before I found the wrap-around porch.

I settled into a cushioned lounge chair on the porch and took in my surroundings. Hummingbirds visited a feeder hanging from a ceiling beam, then whizzed into the air, wings like tiny engines. An occasional butterfly landed on a flowering bush nearby.

My shoulders relaxed. I sipped a crisp Chardonnay and gazed across the fields toward the mountains. I didn't need to text my husband. Just then, the benefits of going out solo became evident.

Enjoying Myself at Every Turn

During my wine and chocolate pairing, I realized I could enjoy the experience for as long as I liked without worrying about whether my companion was ready for the check. At the brewery, I recognized that I could leave at any time, rather than stay because the other person wasn't ready to go.

Wineries are the epitome of couples' events, yet I'd enjoyed myself at every turn. After my initial nervousness, asking for a table for one wasn't as intimidating as I'd expected. In fact, the endeavor felt like freedom.

Asking for a table for one wasn't as intimidating as I'd expected. In fact, the endeavor felt like freedom.

I considered future solo experiences as I took tiny sips of each wine in the flight. With my new ideas about pursuing activities alone, I'd no longer have to stay home waiting for friends to work out their busy schedules.

Now, my time would be my own. I'd get to linger in some places and breeze through others, considering only my own whims and desires.

I've spent decades tending to other people's needs. At my age, a second act, if you will, it's time to allow myself the freedom to enjoy experiences that will not only enrich my life but allow me to learn about myself.

Recently, I've looked at a few vacation cottages and wondered about taking a long weekend alone. While I value time spent with friends and loved ones, a solo day at a scenic Virginia winery made me realize my own company is as fulfilling as anyone else's.

TJ Butler lives on a sailboat on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay where she writes and photographs landscapes. She is the author of a new short story collection for women, “Dating Silky Maxwell.” To connect with TJ and learn more about her collection, please visit Read More
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