Books as Companions

While reading the book Table for Two by Marla Miniano, I was struck by something a character said:

There is an unmistakable vibe independent people give off, an enviable confidence that allows them to eat alone and sit alone and hang out at a coffee shop alone without looking pathetic. I am not an independent person. I do not give off that “I’m alone and I’m okay” vibe. What I give off, clearly, is an “I got stood up by my boyfriend so now I’m loitering and trying to pretend that I’m okay” vibe.

I’m bringing this up because I’m the opposite of the character speaking above although I never really gave it much thought. I’d like to think of myself as independent. I do spend a lot of time on my own – I like going around malls and shopping by myself, I don’t mind eating at a restaurant on my own if I’m hungry and I usually hang out at coffee shops with a book on hand while waiting for someone.

I usually carry around a book or my Kindle wherever I go and I whip it out when I’m not doing anything. So my thought is this – maybe book lovers look more independent because we’re usually reading even when we’re on our own so we look busy. We give off that “Hey, I’m doing something even if I’m alone” vibe. The books that we bring with us act as our companions so to speak. Do you agree with me on this? I wonder if the rest of you feel self-conscious when you’re on your own or if you don’t really mind? Also, what do you think when you see someone by himself/herself – do you feel sorry for him/her?

33 thoughts on “Books as Companions

  1. I don’t like to eat by myself when I’m out. It feels weird. I’m just going to own that. However, I love going out for coffee and reading by myself. It’s really nice. πŸ™‚

    • Oh and as far as other people, I tend to not notice them and when I do they tend to be reading or working so I don’t think much about it. I say do what you want and own it. Be comfortable with yourself. I’m glad you embrace it, Chachic! πŸ™‚

    • Even in fast food restaurants? I think people tend to be more conscious about eating alone when they’re in a nice restaurant rather than a fast food place. In cheaper places, I don’t think anyone will mind, you’re just grabbing a quick bite to eat. In general, I think it’s more to be on your own in coffee shops. I don’t know why – probably because people study or work or read in places like that.

      I say do what you want and own it. Be comfortable with yourself. -> Exactly!

  2. There was a time when I used to not like going around alone but after some time I got used to it. I can even go and watch a movie alone if I really want to. I’ve learned in the many times I’ve gone off on my own somewhere, “Be okay with being alone by yourself.” I know that sounds redundant, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it — we can also feel alone when we’re with other people. But yes, books make the perfect companion. Now that I am almost always with a book, I don’t mind being alone longer if I am made to wait for someone. Sometimes I even dislike it when what/who I am waiting for arrives especially when I am getting to the good part of the book. πŸ˜›

    As for feeling sorry for other people who are alone…it depends, really. I try not to, since I’m alone most of the time, so I know how it looks and feels when people pity others for being alone. But if a person looks truly uncomfortable being alone, I would feel the same way for them, too. I guess that’s just me being extra sympathetic because I know how it feels. ^^

    • Hey, me too! I’ve watched movies on my own when I really want to see one and I’m too lazy to ask people and set up a convenient time. Yes, I believe we can still feel lonely even when we’re with other people. When you think about it, it really is a good idea to be comfortable on your own because you spend all of your time with yourself. Does that make sense? πŸ˜›

      As for stopping in the middle of what you’re reading, this is why I’ve gotten used to pausing wherever in a book – it doesn’t have to be a chapter end. When I’m waiting in line for a cab, I can’t tell the driver to hold on while I get to the chapter end.

  3. Love that quote. It was the best day ever when I gained that kind of alone independence, something I believe everyone needs at some point. I think it happened when I was 22 and going to graduate school in London.

    It did happen to correspond with a time I really started to read again, but I don’t think you need a “companion” like a book per se. Just learning to be okay with your own company is enough. It really shows how comfortable you are in your own skin IMO if you don’t need other people to be happy in your free time.

    • Graduate school in London sounds like an exciting time for you. πŸ™‚ I think studying or working abroad in general is a great experience. I hope I’m able to do that someday.

      I love what you said. It really is a great feeling being comfortable in your own skin, isn’t it? I don’t want my happiness to depend on other people (I mean it does up to a certain extent, of course, but not all of the time). I mean if I’m hungry, why should I wait for someone else to become available just so I wouldn’t eat on my own? I like being able to do things on my own.

  4. Some people thinks that eating alone or watching movies alone is a great deal. They even put it in their “things to accomplish before (insert age here)” My mom, actually, finds it strange that I can eat alone in a restaurant while waiting for my ride.

    I love the quiet time I get when I eat or watch a movie alone. Sometimes, it gets boring, though – especially when I’m waiting for my ride, but I appreciate the alone time if I have something to do or just catch up on my reading (and other things.)

    I read a comment somewhere that others should really learn how to be “alone” for some time.

    • I wonder why they think it’s such a big deal? I think those who do that are the ones who aren’t comfortable on their own. So I guess it’s obvious when they’re alone that they’d rather have someone with them.

      I don’t mind eating or watching a movie alone, especially when I’m craving for a specific dish from a certain restaurant! Also, I like shopping for books by myself. It makes me feel like I can concentrate on the task at hand.

  5. It’s funny: when I happen to be on my own, I’m just fine eating alone or having a coffee. Usually I’ll be reading a book or magazine.

    What I don’t like is being alone because I’m waiting for someone else. So, if I’m in a coffee place waiting for someone else, I feel uncomfortable, as if everyone else knows that I’m waiting for someone else, and they wonder, will she/he show up? Will this person (me) be stand up?

    If I go to the same place without having agreed to meet someone, I don’t feel uncomfortable at all.

    Does that make sense? πŸ™‚

    • Oh I understand what you mean, Judith. I hate waiting for hours for people too. This happens to me a lot because Filipinos are notorious for being late, my barkada (group of friends) especially! You know what our group is called? Late Barkada!

      Sometimes when I’m absorbed in a book that I’m reading, I don’t even notice the time. But when I realize that my friends are late again, I start to get annoyed. LOL.

  6. I’m one of those who always feels weird doing things on my own. I have changed a bit and I don’t feel all that awful shopping alone anymore but when I was a bit younger I hated it, I don’t know why it just made me feel so weird.

    I would love to be more like to, to be able to enjoy my own company when I’m out and about.

    Ladybug of Escape In A Book.

    • Hey Ladybug, maybe you just needed time to be comfortable on your own so that’s why it felt weird when you were younger. You’re probably more independent now that you’re older so you don’t mind it as much. πŸ™‚

  7. I prefer to do stuff with company. I do not enjoy eating alone– I will do it if necessary, but I tend to be a bit pouty– I prefer company when shopping, and whenever a human companion is an option, I will choose to have someone there, even if we are merely mutually ignoring each other in the same general space.

    When I don’t have a human companion, an animal or a book will do. My fish and I used to chill in my living room and watch movies. When there are no sentient beings, books will do.

    When I am waiting for something or someone, however, I never mind just relaxing with a book.

    • When shopping for clothes or shoes, I prefer having someone with me because I need help in deciding what to get. I need someone to tell me whether one choice is better than another. I find it hard to decide on my own. But when shopping for books, I like doing it by myself. It’s funny that you’d rather have someone with you even if you’re generally ignoring each other. Maybe the idea that someone is there is just comforting? πŸ™‚

      • I don’t really enjoy being totally alone all that often. So, some nights I come home, and my boyfriend and I just sit near each other, him on his computer, me on the internet, or reading, and we just let each other be. It’s really nice sometimes.

      • Oh you mean that kind of ignoring, I totally understand. I do that with my mom and my brother all of the time. Sometimes, I hitch a ride with my brother to work and we end up not saying anything the whole trip and that’s okay.

  8. I love doing stuff by myself (eating out, watching movies, etc) and I know that some people feel sorry for me or are concerned. One time a girl I barely knew insisted on joining me for lunch because she couldn’t believe I really wanted to eat alone. πŸ™‚

    Having the book (or now, the e-reader) around does underscore that it’s a choice, at least.

    • Oh my, Mina! That story about the girl wanting to join you for lunch is hilarious. Where was this? πŸ™‚ That’s never happened to me before. If it did, I’ll probably just laugh. Maybe it was the girl who wanted to have someone to have lunch with, that’s why she joined you.

  9. Hi, Chachic. I don’t mind being by myself at all. Sometimes I prefer it that way. But did you ever see this old Sex and the City episode where Carrie finally decides that it’s ok to eat alone WITHOUT any armor, be it a friend, a date, or a book? Ever since I saw that, I always thought that, yes, sometimes books do serve as armor when we are alone and don’t want to be by ourselves. And so I occasionally practice not reading when I’m alone in a restaurant and just watch people or think about life.:)

    • Hey Honey, really, there’s a Sex and a City with that topic? I can’t recall it right now. But hey, you do have a point. These things can be called armors! Although it’s all the same to me, I still eat alone even without a book. I tend to get lost in my own thoughts so I don’t even notice the people around me when that happens. πŸ™‚

  10. Just like you, I’m totally fine with shopping or eating by myself. I especially love shopping for books alone because no one bugs me to hurry up or something.:)

    I find it funny when people feel sorry for me or are surprised that I’m ok with being alone. So of course, I don’t feel sorry when I see others that are alone too.

    • Celina, I know what you mean about not having anyone buy you about book buying! πŸ˜› Sometimes, I’d rather go book shopping on my own because I feel pressured to hurry when I’m with other people. At least when I’m by myself, I can browse in peace. I can spend hours in bookstores.

  11. I travel alone for work soo… am VERY used to eating out alone, hanging out alone, basically spending a lot of time alone. And I always have my book with me to read a few pages. It’s really never bothered me πŸ™‚

    • Traveling for work is such a nice perk! I’d love to be able to travel because of work, I think it would make life much more interesting. You do have a point though – people who travel on their own are much used to doing things by themselves. There’s no other choice when you’re a foreign place.

  12. I agree. I think we give off a vibe that we aren’t alone because if we have a book with us, we just look like we originially arrived to the park,coffee shop, or wherever, to read, relax, drink coffee/eat.

    I wouldn’t mind eating alone at cheap eating joints like McDonald’s , Wendy’s, Casper’s, etc. But if it’s a little more fancy, I probably would be a little self conscious.

    Good topic to chat about Chachic πŸ™‚

    • Ashley, that’s probably why I’m not usually bothered that I’m alone – I haven’t tried eating lunch or dinner somewhere fancy on my own. I think it would be kind of funny to bring a book with you to a fancy place because the purpose of going there is to try out the food, right? πŸ˜›

      It’s a great topic and I’m actually quite surprised at the number of responses that I got.

  13. I love being on my own anywhere. It is a special treat now when it happens but I liked it even before I became a mom. I even like going to movies by myself. My husband doesn’t get this. I told him I was going to see HP7 without him this weekend if I couldn’t find a babysitter. I think he was more disturbed by the thought that I would sit through a movie alone than he was by the thought of my not going with him. (I found a babysitter though so he can come too.)

    • I found a babysitter though so he can come too. -> LOL at this! πŸ™‚

      Your poor husband! I can imagine him being bothered by the idea of you sitting alone in a movie theater. πŸ˜› I’m all for doing that for the movies that I really want to see like HP7. But I’ll probably wait for the hoopla to die down a bit before I watch because I don’t like crowds.

  14. I still think it’s confidence-related. I used to hate turning up at a bar or other meeting place first, even if I did always have a book and a notepad on me. But for the past few years I’ve been really enjoying being that person sat alone in a cafe or park, reading, sipping coffee, or just watching the world go by.

    • Hey, since you brought up bars, I used to think it would be a great idea to have bars that have actual bars here in the Philippines. Just so I have somewhere I can go to after work and have maybe a drink or two to unwind. We have clubs and bars and they don’t have actual bars and it’ll look weird if I go and sit by myself on a table. LOL. So I go for coffee instead of alcohol.

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