Shared Solitude

This is the story of how I almost cried at the movies.

This is not the story of how I did cry at the movies, although those stories do exist and are, in fact, numerous. I didn’t use to be so emotional. I have to say I was a pretty fucking stoic teenage girl. And then sometime in my twenties I turned into Rita Wilson in that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where she’s explaining An Affair to Remember except way less coherent. Here’s a short list of movies I ugly cried during:

  • Wall-E
  • Everything Pixar since Wall-E
  • Frozen (Specifically during Do You Want to Build a Snowman? For years I couldn’t even think of this song without starting to cry, and I have to stress my sister is not only alive but lives forty minutes away)
  • Arrival (I don’t have kids, but the couple who gawked at me the whole out of the theater must have thought I did)
  • Avengers: End Game (no, not Infinity War, which didn’t make me cry but did make me feel hollow and depressed for a few weeks and gave me nightmares about Tom Holland. I cry more at things that are beautiful or awesome than at things that are sad, so I started crying at ‘On your left’ and didn’t stop until sometime after ‘your dad liked cheeseburgers’)
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Totoro (Saw it at my local Alamo Drafthouse surrounded by a bunch of kids. This was less one big ugly cry and more a continuous trickle at how effortlessly Miyazaki captures the innocence and wonder of childhood)
  • Little Women (I don’t usually cry at sad things but I cried when Beth dies because I’m not a monster)

I cried three times just writing this up. I don’t know what happened to me, but I’m, like, 87% sure it has to do with working night shift for five years. Pro-tip: it will fuck you up.


On Saturday, March 7th my husband and I went to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire. At this point things were getting…weird, but not precisely bad. In my lifetime there’s already been SARS, Ebola, and, like, three different pumped-up flus and nothing ever came of them (in the USA. I recognize Ebola was A Bad Fucking Scene in some countries). I was pretty slow to recognize the reason nothing ever came of them wasn’t just fast-acting scientists but also a competent government which we no longer fucking had, but I digress.

The following Wednesday we bought tickets to see Emma on the 14th. We refunded them the day before, because in the space of a week it finally occurred to me I didn’t want to be sitting in a confined room surrounded by forty strangers breathing in recycled air.

March 17th is the day it really clicked for me that things were going to be stunningly, balls to the wall, dick-in-a-blender terrible, thanks to one single announcement: Las Vegas was shutting down the Strip. I stared at that headline in complete horror for roughly five minutes. If this shit was starting to scare the casinos enough to close their 24-hour money machines, then it was serious.

My husband and I used to go to the movies once a week. We didn’t go to the movies for over a year.

Introverts vs. Extroverts

There’s a lot of bullshit pseudoscience out there about personalities – bullshit I happily use to explore and define my characters, but bullshit that doesn’t work out here in the real world.

Side story – the first day of orientation for my nursing program they made everyone take the Myers-Briggs personality test. For a lot of people it was their first time hearing about it but I already had an English degree and, again, I used it all the time for my characters. I’d taken it a few times here and there for myself and always got a different response so I didn’t put much stock into it and didn’t think anyone else would, either.

I was the sweet, summer child. These women I was pursuing a bachelor’s of science with thought they had unlocked their entire minds with a single sixty question quiz on the internet. For the next sixteen months I couldn’t go a week without hearing something like, ‘I’m an ENFJ so I really need to be in charge of this group project,’ or ‘I can’t handle all this stress because I’m an INFP and therefore very sensitive,’ or ‘As an ISFJ I’m sure I’m going to be great in pediatrics.’ I don’t even remember why they made us take it, but it mostly became the excuse everyone used to excuse their shitty behavior. I bet if I had brought up enneagrams I would have blown their minds.

The problem I have with these personality quizzes is that nobody should expect or be expected to fit nicely into a single category their entire lives. People change, between the years and even just between a morning and an afternoon. The only personality categorization I have ever put any stock in is just ‘Introverts vs. Extroverts’ for three reasons: It’s simple to explain, it’s a spectrum, and you can move around in it.

Extroverts gain energy from social situations and drain energy by being alone.

Introverts gain energy from being alone and drain energy from social situations.

That’s all there is to it. Some people are more extroverted than others, some are more introverted. You can be more or less of either depending on the time of your life, time of year, or time of day. Hell, even depending on the situation. There’s no neat little box for anyone to fit in, just a measurement of your reactions to the world around you.

So, When I Say ‘I Hate People,’ I Mostly Mean What They Do to Me

This is going to be hard for some people to understand, and I know that because I know some of these people personally.

I’m an introvert. To me (specifically me, not every introvert) about 85% of human interaction is exhausting. Mostly mentally and emotionally, but sometimes physically. About a month ago I hosted a tiny little event at my house. About ten people were invited and I knew all of them to one degree or another. I wanted to have this event and I was very excited about it.

I was shaking from nerves before people showed up. After everyone left I wanted to sleep for fourteen hours and I didn’t want to see another human being for roughly three weeks.

It’s work to interact with people. What are they going to say next? What should I say next? Oh, I said something funny! Yay! They’re telling me a story. They told me this story already. Should I say something? No, I’ll just listen to it again. How did I laugh last time? Should I laugh the same way?

On and on and on for the whole interaction. Yes, I recognize that a certain amount of that is social anxiety, but while introversion and social anxiety aren’t the same thing they can go hand in hand.

People are just tiring, I don’t know a better way to explain it. The only person who doesn’t exhaust me at all anymore is my husband. He’s even more introverted than I am. All those memes and jokes people made about not getting along with their s/o anymore while cooped up together in quarantine were clearly made by extroverts.

The Sort of Social Interaction I Do Like

The only sort of social interaction that doesn’t drain me at all – and, in fact, energizes me – is being surrounded by a bunch of people all enjoying the same thing as me. Not concerts, because there’s too much potential for other social interaction, like singing along or moshing or getting angry because the idiot next to you keeps rubbing her arm against yours, and apparently she shaves her arms and its stubbly and you go home with razor burn.

This is one of the many reasons I did so many Disney marathons. You’re surrounded by people who worked so hard for the same thing you did. You’re sharing reactions at the entertainment that Disney has set up to distract you from the fact that, statistically speaking, you should have died by now. And, most importantly, everyone is too tired and out of breath to talk to each other about it. So you enjoy it, side by side, in a shared solitude.

Movies are the best for this. Especially movies at the Alamo Drafthouse, I cannot stress enough how much my husband and I love it there. Ever since we’ve moved to Colorado we have only been to movies at the Alamo. The food is fine and being able to get beers is the cherry on top, but our top reason for going to the Alamo is their strict Shut the Fuck Up policy. We love their Shut the Fuck Up policy, and as far as we can tell everyone else who goes to the Alamo does, too, because in close to two years of seeing movies there I’ve never had an issue with someone on their phone or talking too loud.

When I do hear someone talking in a movie at the Alamo, it’s about the movie and honestly, that sort of thing isn’t even a disruption. It’s a highlight. It’s exactly what I’m talking about. When someone makes a remark about the movie, or yells at it, or is clearly enjoying the movie at full blast, I feel like I come to life. The room is filled with different people. We don’t know each other. We’ll never know each other. When it’s over we’ll all ignore each other and go back to our lives. But for a couple of hours we all shared this piece of art. It made us laugh together, and the sound of the others laughing made us laugh harder. We cried together, even if we tried to hide it from each other. We all sat together and had our emotions pulled in mostly the same way through tricks of light and sound. We shared those two hours of our lives and then we left.

Shared solitude.

If I Had Been PMSing, I Definitely Would Have Cried

I didn’t think I’d be ready for movies until later this year, but we’re all vaccinated and the science has shown its safe. One year, four months, and three days since we had last seen a movie, we went to see Black Widow. As I’ve mentioned a couple times before, I’ve missed going to the movies. I guess I didn’t realize how much.

The trailers finished and the Alamo Drafthouse started playing their welcome video which is usually only about ten seconds long. Their current one is about a minute, featuring a slide show of people at the movies. First, people in movies at the movies. And then regular people. At the movies. Having a good time. Dressed up. Eating their snacks and drinking their beers and ready to share an experience with strangers.

It ended with a message that didn’t just say Welcome, but Welcome Back. ‘God, What a Fucked Up Year’ was left implied.

I was getting emotional but managed to keep from getting teary eyed. What a nerd move, being moved by a Welcome Back message, right?

Welcome Back faded, and something else came on the screen.

We Missed You.

And then I did get teary. Just a little. Because I have been extremely lucky for the duration of the pandemic, and seeing that message made me realize the number one thing I’d missed during that whole shitshow of a year was the movies. The shared solitude.

And then the Marvel opening sequence started.

Look, I know people have opinions on the MCU, but this isn’t about them. This is about me. These movies have been a major part of my adult life for thirteen years now. I’ve seen almost all of them in theaters, some multiple times. I rewatch them regularly on Disney+ as a sort of comfort food. The day after my husband and I flew into Hawaii for our wedding we found a theater to watch Black Panther on opening day. Yes, the Disney+ shows also include the Marvel opening, but seeing it on a big screen again brought something back.

I honestly can’t believe I didn’t fully cry, but I was close. So close.

This Is the Part That’s About You

I don’t know you. As you may have gathered from the above, that’s fine. I don’t need conversations, just vibes.

Maybe you like movies as much as I do.

Maybe you like something else. Something just as small. Something also perceived as a frivolity. Something that, if you explained how much you missed it, an unkind person might sneer and tell you that compared to other losses its nothing and you’re selfish for even bringing it up.

You’re not selfish.

We all need our stupid things. The stupid, little things that make us happy.

Because really, if they make us happy, they’re not stupid.

So, whatever it is you’re finally getting back, allow yourself to feel emotions over it.

Because it was your thing, and it was taken away from you and now you can have it back so fuck anyone who tells you that relief isn’t worth crying over.

I spent a lot of time talking up the Alamo Drafthouse so I just want to say I have not been paid by Alamo at all for this. I just really like their theaters.

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