Going to Comic-Con by yourself

12 JULY 2023

This is a rerun of something I wrote a few years ago. It seems more relevant than ever with so many people I know going to - or contemplating going to - SDCC by themselves.

If you've been going to San Diego Comic-Con for years, there's a strong chance you'll eventually wind up attending alone. So often your SDCC friends lose patience with it or gain other responsibilities or move across the country where they attend other Cons. Friends fight and friend groups disintegrate; money, illness, aging, and children can reroute any of us into a Con-less life. Sometimes that leaves people on their own, still enthusiastic about SDCC but reluctant to foot the entire hotel bill and embarrassed to go to dinner or events alone. 

Here's the thing, though. Going to SDCC by yourself can be awesome. You'll never have to compromise, can change plans on a whim, and won't be kept awake by drunken roommates (or won't be tiptoeing around if you are the drunken roommate.) Best of all, you are far more likely to meet new people and have new adventures.

Every time I post on this topic, people will email me and say they go solo to Comic-Con year after year. Some definitely prefer it, often because they are intensely focused on gaming or collecting or Hall H and they don't need the distraction of human contact. Some did it once and hated it, saying no one talked to them and they felt surrounded by cliques who ignored them. Watching groups of friends or couples or families having fun only deepened their feelings of disconnection. 

There are really two themes here. One is going to SDCC literally on your own and the other is being isolated when you're there. Let's break it down.

First of all, a lot of attendees go to SDCC by themselves.

You wouldn't know this from the 8 jillion happy group photos all over Instagram, but lots of attendees fly solo. People take the train down from LA or fly in from all over the country, other countries. There are a few reasons for this:
  • Some of us really embody the shy and introverted nerd stereotype and don't have many friends to begin with. 
  • Some of us have a lot of friends but they don't share our nerdy passions.
  • Some of us start out with Con friends but then they have kids or mortgages or just lose interest and one day we're the 40-year-old whose friends think Comic-Con is childish. 
  • Sometimes we're all set to embark on an SDCC adventure with a boyfriend or girlfriend and then we break up 17 days before. 
  • Some of us go alone on purpose to indulge ourselves and retain complete control over our schedules.
  • Some of us are technically solo but have Con friends we always meet up with.
  • Some of us technically share a hotel room with someone but do everything on our own.
Regardless of what category you fall into, here are a few tips that might help.

Even if you're a lone wolf, Con life is much easier with teammates.

I'm not just talking about buying groups. I'm talking about line shifts, having someone pick up an exclusive while you're watching Preview Night pilots, or bring you food or hold your seat. A few years ago, I got into my most desired panel only because a friend came down and stood in line with me at dawn after drinking all night, and he won a lottery ticket and I didn't. Yes, most attendees are nice people who will honor your place in line while you hit the restroom but overall, Con teammates are a force multiplier. On that note...

If you don't want to bring someone, consider being part of a Comic-Con group. 

If you hang out online in various nerdy/Con spaces, you eventually drift into these digital tribes where everyone supports each other in badge sales, hotel sales and even panel/offsite access. Consider making this effort even if you're very shy in real life. You don't have to become boon companions once you're at the Con but a little support is nice. It might seem odd to you to become line partners with someone online but these arrangements tend to work out reasonably well once you get there. Give it a shot.

But don't bring someone just for the sake of companionship.

You may disagree with this. But if your current paramour says "I want to go!" even though they're not into Con stuff at all - don't listen to them. They're actually envisioning a trip where you do SDCC for a few hours every day and then take off with them to go surfing or visit their college friend in Carlsbad. I've dated so many people who think this is reasonable. Outsiders do not get how all-consuming Comic-Con is and they get impatient when you dive in and don't come up for air.

Now - I have seen a few people "flip" their SO during the Con and convert them to the Nerd Side. But the SO has to be willing to explore the possibilities.

Talk to people once you're there.

Oh, you hate small talk? So do I. But SDCC works this mysterious transformation where everyone somehow easily converses with everyone else. There's always something to talk about - your hotel room screwup, a drunk celebrity in your elevator, the inevitable gossip about badge or wristband fraud, the piercing injustice of a Hasbro exclusives line. Just participating in these conversations (and they will spring up around you) can help you make interesting connections. Remember - these people share your interests. This isn't like being forced to talk to your coworkers at the office Christmas party. And there are no burdensome social obligations since you'll never see them again.

Look for fandom meetups and happy hours.

You'll probably feel awkward walking in but remember most everyone else there is a stranger too. This includes people who "know" each other online. Meeting your favorite forum or Twitter friends in real life can feel even weirder than meeting a regular stranger. No one is what you expect! So just roll with it and see what happens. You will usually click with at least one person there, if not several. And don't worry about the "odd one" - it's Comic-Con. We're all a little off.

If you're looking for company, be blunt.

I can't count the number of semi-strangers who've outright said, "Can I hang out with you guys?" after some conversation. People like adding strangers to their wolf packs, so just ask. SDCC attendees are pretty casual that way.

If you're convinced you have zero social skills or appealing traits, force yourself to make conversation.

Several attendees have confessed to me that they are wretched souls scorned by all, and they're doomed to wander Comic-Con alone. They were sure I couldn't possibly understand how hard it was for them. No doubt they're right on that score, but I do know that socially handicapped people need to practice to get better. And you never have to see any attendees again, even if they flee in horror from you. Which they won't. Use SDCC as batting practice.

Appreciate the upside of being alone.

The first half of my SDCC existence was spent with my ex who, may she rest in peace, put up roadblocks constantly to my Comic-Con joy. She wanted to stay in when I wanted to go to a party. She complained about my panel choices but refused to leave my side. She drank too much and got so sick we had to go home early. Etc. 

You'll hear far more grim stories from some people in tightly-knit groups: fights, control issues, sacrificed event tickets, stolen exclusives, and missed opportunities. Lasting bitterness. So enjoy your freedom and autonomy, go out on the prowl, and do exactly what you want. You are the envy of many.

But of course, be careful. 

I'm going to sound like your mom here, but obviously you should use caution if you're alone in a city where no one knows you. Two weekends ago, I wound up rescuing a very drunk girl who went out alone, drank too much, and ended up in a scary way. It reminded me that some people really do rely on the essential goodness of humanity when some humans just aren't good. That includes attendees. Use common sense if you indulge, hook up with someone, stay out late, etc. 

Okay, I'm done. Last time I said that attendees have the power to make their Con as social as they want it to be - and some people got miffed and felt I was dismissing their challenges. So I'll admit that's not entirely true, but I still believe attendees have more agency than they think here. Good luck and remember the words of French revolutionary General Danton: Boldness, more boldness, and always boldness.

 I hope you make a new friend at Comic-Con.

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