How to Be Drunk and Alone: A Guide to Independence and Dive Bars

After reaching the coveted 21st year of my life, I realized my unnecessary craving to shamelessly drink Hawkeye vodka, get sweat on by strangers at overcrowded bars and spend the entire next day drinking Gatorade in bed has come to a much-needed end (more-or-less).

Most nights I return home from work or class exhausted and ready for some Zen. More often than not, the most effective way to relax for me comes in the form of a nice glass of wine or a few shots of whiskey (or five).

I’ll take a moment to be honest, as much as I thrive on socialization on days when I need a heart-to-heart, motivational speech or dance partner, sometimes I need time to contemplate life choices in peace. Should I take a year off after I graduate? Should I try eating gluten-free? Should I finally finish the final season of Breaking Bad? These decisions haunt me, yet I hardly find alone time to efficiently contemplate the answers.

Day by day life forces us to interact with sometimes less-than-friendly human beings. Constantly being surrounded by people leaves me yearning for some “me time.”

This leads me to who I am now: someone who actually rewards herself for actively conversing with other living, breathing humans. Each week I set aside a chunk of time to grab a beer with myself and a compelling book, magazine or my laptop.

Considering the desire to remain incognito, venturing to the most popular bars in the area is not the best idea. When I’m lucky enough to experience these moments alone I usually don’t want to be seen, touched or visually assaulted with the sight of teenagers basically doing it with their clothes on.

After completing my exhausting, hard-hitting research, I’ve found a few places around Iowa City that satisfy the craving for some silence and sangria.

Motley Cow Café

160 N. Linn Street, Iowa City

More commonly known for their brunch, Motley Cow actually has a small bar perfect for sitting and getting some work done while sipping an IPA.

The bar and dining area remain separate, so as to avoid the awkward stares from the families attempting to enjoy their dinner. A small lull of chatter fills the restaurant, which I personally enjoyed. (As I visited other smaller and even less popular establishments, I realized drinking alone in total silence is a tad intimidating).

I sat confidently and comfortably at the bar with a textbook, highlighter, and a good beer.

The Bluebird Diner

330 E. Market Street, Iowa City

Unknown to most, the locally-famous breakfast restaurant also features a bar with a decent margarita.

I simply checked Snapchat and contemplated my post-college travel plans as I consumed possibly too much tequila.

Something I found, if you cannot tell already, is that the best places for solo not-sober time usually are those not known for their alcohol.

The High Ground Café

301 E. Market Street, Iowa City

Again, somewhere known more for caffeination rather than intoxication.

High Ground actually offers a modest variety of beers including local favorites from Peace Tree Brewing Company and Millstream Brewing Company.

Considering the coffee shop usually houses humans busy on their laptops or holding quiet meetings, it’s safe to say the vibe of the place says, “I’d like to be left alone as I drown my sorrows in Blonde Fatale.”

One major problem with this idea of drunken independence: most young people seem to have an irrational fear of being alone.

Think about it. When’s the last time you threw on your best outfit to wine and dine yourself (to somewhere without a drive-thru or dollar menu)? When’s the last time you visited a local coffee shop simply to sit, enjoy your drink and people watch? When’s the last time you went on a solo walk to a place you’d never been just to take in the scenery?

An article by Psychology Today said giving yourself alone time actually strengths your relationships with others. After spending time solo and figuring out your desires, you’re better able to make decisions about who you want to be around. This may make you appreciate your strong friendship ties even more.

Spending time alone, especially as a young person, can teach you loads about yourself. Sitting alone with your thoughts for even a few minutes a week gives you time to work through an issue with your partner, day dream about your future or wonder why all movies seem to be sequels and remakes nowadays. People may look at you funny, but those are probably the same people who still refuse to even take a trip to the bathroom on their own.

Grab a good book, a journal, or simply some good thoughts and take on that bar solo. Whether you’re contemplating life or contemplating which Netflix series to watch next, taking a moment for yourself can do good for the soul. Just consider the alcohol as liquid courage and a personal gift for putting yourself out there.

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