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  • Sam Darling

A room of one’s own

It was a stressful day and I needed respite. As is my wont, I chose a dark movie theater even though it was a beautiful sunny summer afternoon. I wish I could be the sort of person who can relax on a nature walk but I can’t. It would certainly be better for me than pounding popcorn and soda in a dark room.

My partner wondered why I couldn’t go for a relaxing walk instead of a movie I didn’t particularly even want to see. A question I hadn’t really considered before. Why is a movie or live theater the only space where I can truly relax? Whether I’m on the stage or viewing from the audience. I can also manage it in a dance class or some other fitness-related activity, so it’s not laziness at work here.

Where do you go to relax? I asked him.

A long bike ride. A bus trip around the city. A pub with the crossword puzzle at hand. Sitting by a public fountain reading the newspaper. A solo walk in the woods. Going to sit on a beach.

I like being on my own but all of those options are not open to me. If I am alone in those spaces for more than ten minutes a dude will try to chat me up.

“Aw, shit,” he commiserated.

Unless the rando dude is at a theater to see some entertainment will I be sure to be left alone. In the darkness I can rest and know that I will not be bothered.

I thought back to participating in an opera competition and sitting in the wings with my friend, a pretty lass who had a tendency to also attract unwanted male attention. She was doing some stretches backstage and said, “I just feel so safe in a theater, I don’t know why.”

This was despite our conversation about handsy male directors and costars and what pests they so often turned out to be. Even that was less of a threat than just existing as female alone in a public space.

How many times had I worn a wedding ring in public as a woman traveling the world alone simply to try and fend off some of the aggression? Had it even worked? You’ll try anything to get some peace. Most often I would chat with a dude for a few minutes and try to turn him into a friend instead of an aggressive stranger. That doesn’t always work either.

Retreat into the dark theater and have a breather.

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