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M -“ table for one please, actually, you know what? I’ll just sit at the bar, is that seat taken?”
B -“No mame, it’s all yours, take a seat”
B -“ what can I get you to drink?”
M – “ ahh, a fresh, crisp, refreshing glass of white, you choose”
This is how 90% of my solo dining experiences start, not bad right? I almost always get a seat at a busy restaurant without a reservation and right away. I’m generally greeted by a cute bartender who treats me like the (older) brave & classy woman they think I am. Alas, I am left to conquer the art of dining for one.
When I was a child I didn’t like being alone, being an only child was enough for me and I took any opportunity for companionship. My parents will tell you that I rushed through all of my meals only to sit and wait at the back fence for my two neighbors ( girlfriends) to be finished their supper before I could rush into their yard and be amused by the human presence once again. I didn’t like eating alone, sleeping alone, breathing alone – as long as someone (anyone) was near I was at ease with my existence. Much has changed.
In my early twenties, I lived with a boyfriend who would have rather counted toenails on a carpet than flaneur around town with me; this lead to my first experiences as a solo city wanderer ( and Ty, for that, I am very grateful). This time period taught me about solo runs in parks, quick pizzeria stops in Bloor West and speaking to shopkeepers with a limited English vocabulary.
“Nie mogę cię zrozumieć” means “oh aren’t you a lovely girl” right?.
As time went on I was independent but also VERY dependent on the social lives of others – I planned trips when they wanted to travel, ate what they liked eating, watched the shows they enjoyed to make them happy and sacrificed my own desires… But why? Eventually, my need to please (or to be accepted) was overshadowed by the voice inside my head that said “hello???? why are we still doing what he/she wants when you hate it???”
It wasn’t until my 30s that I began holding the reigns of my own horse; I had finally let go of pleasing others and started enjoying exactly what I liked doing – eating whenever and whatever I liked – solo.
I’ve dined solo in countries and continents around the world – and the experiences have all had the same result – No one f&$^ing cares that you are there. No one is looking at you, no one is thinking about you, and no one notices you are alive aside from the cute waiter – which is LIBERATING, to say the least.
So I’m sitting with my glass of wine looking at both the menu and my Instagram simultaneously trying to figuring out which of these dishes is going to make for the best pic when I realize… there is no one here to influence my choices.
Where: ANYWHERE at ANYTIME – It doesn’t matter if I want Mission wings from Grand Electric at 11 pm on a Monday night because I’m not asking anyone else if they’re interested… I literally don’t even ask… I prefer to shine my face with red sauce and down a Sol alone… It’s less embarrassing this way. Not having the “well what do you want to eat” “uhh I had pasta yesterday” discussion is like the sound of soft waves on a beachy shore.
Drinks: How many drinks do you like drinking at dinner? Do you base that on how many others are having? I sure use to – now I know it’s one, and a soda water… how do you know what your best consumption is when you’re always going with the flow… now you can create the flow…
Music: I am an audiofile… I hear music in my head/dreams/every step of waking life everywhere and I’m always interested in what it is – I consume sound in a massive quantity and am borderline autistic with my obsession to hear. When an awesome track comes on in a perfectly staged restaurant the last thing I want you to do is TALK. Seriously, I spend the entire time painfully pretending to care what you have to say when I really just want to blurt out “listen to this horn solo from Jeff Ghard, isn’t it bloody mind blowing, can you shut up?’ But I can’t… so I miss so many great shazam moments to listen to the qualms of those closest to me ( I love you all the same). But this is not the case when it’s Mesa para Uno!
Paying/Tipping: When you eat alone, you pay alone. There is no decision or fight about the division, no awkward moment when you realize your friend forgot her wallet, it’s all you and it’s up to you to tip what you deem acceptable –
So why don’t people dine alone more often? Is it that there is a supposed stigma against them? Do they think people will wonder, feel pity? I’ve met some pretty cool people from around the world that I would have never had the chance to had I been distracted by company.
SO, get out there, go plan a date with yourself somewhere you’ve been dying the try, you’ll find it to be not only liberating but you’ll be forced to reflect on who you really are amongst a crowd of strangers. If you get lucky someone will try and talk to you – at this moment you can politely be short with them while you continue to eat a whole cob of corn listening to The National’s newest masterpiece.