Like most Americans, early on I was socialized to believe that doing anything by yourself was, well, weird. This included pretty much most aspects of life: clothes, beliefs, interests, etc.—you know, be one with the herd. The problem for me was that I didn’t work that way. I didn’t mind being alone for hours on end, reading and thinking, and I found quite a bit of pleasure in consciously (albeit quietly) deviating from accepted social norms. At the same time, I did learn to fit in, by which I mean I learned to be a social creature, if for no other reason than the stark realization that willfully ignoring and contravening social conventions carried far more social costs than merely being a loner. And, with time, these attitudes expanded to include other age relevant elements of my life, like beer in general, and drinking in specific, once I became of age for such pursuits.
The conforming public extrovert and rebellious private introvert went on until I was in college, when one day, when I was meeting friends for a beer, I ran across a professor of mine, who was drinking a pint by himself in the bar and reading a book. I remember this moment very specifically for two reason: 1) I had skipped class that day, and 2) he is the first person in my memory that I actively recognize as drinking alone in public. And he was most certainly enjoying himself doing it. I was so shocked that I walked over to ask him what I had missed in class that day. He looked up, happily answered my question, and then returned to his book. Clearly, company was not needed. The feeling I experienced at that moment can be best described as a combination of being impressed coupled with cognitive dissonance—here was someone who was not afraid to display his introversion publicly. So simple, and yet the thought had never crossed my mind. And thus was born my embrace of public introversion. Over the course of the next couple of years, I experimented: bars, coffee shops, restaurants, movies. These quasi-public, quasi-private endeavors allowed me to realize that, on occasion, these events were more enjoyable when done alone: I could focus on enjoying the task at hand, be it reading, eating, mulling over a pint of something specific, or enjoying a film. Yes, all of these experiences can, at times, be enhanced by the company of others. But not always. So here’s to the times when drinking alone is its own reward.