Since I’m hoping to make one more trip to Boston before Christmas, and Andy will likely not want to come, I’ll probably be eating dinner alone one night. When I mentioned this to one of my co-workers, she balked and was taken aback that I would actually go into a restaurant and eat by myself. I’m not talking about sitting at the bar or grabbing a quick meal in the food court – I mean a real, sit-down dinner with full table service, time to look over the menu, and however long it takes for the meal to be prepared.
In a way, I get her surprise, and once upon a time I shared in that disbelief. Why would anyone eat in a restaurant alone? Well, why wouldn’t they? Usually I’ll have a book or a folder of writing with which to occupy my time and attention, but I’ve gone in without armor and had a perfectly nice dinner all by my lonesome, listening surreptitiously to the conversation around me or watching how the wait-staff interacts with the customers and then reacts privately when they think they’re not being seen. There’s always something entertaining going on, and even if there’s not, there is a plate of food before you.
I suppose my habit of eating alone goes back to college, when all I wanted to do was get off campus and go into the city (and not hang out with college kids). That’s also when I started going to the movies alone – a habit that continues to this day. (Not surprisingly, the movies I want to see don’t always intersect with the movies Andy wants to see, so I have no choice in the matter. And if I really want to see a movie, I don’t need it to be a social event, so I don’t tend to invite friends.) Again, I see nothing wrong with it, and rarely feel self-conscious.
That said, it is easier to melt into the crowd at the movies than at a restaurant, and there are certain restaurants where I would not dare to eat by myself. For instance, I won’t do it in a fancy or formal place where everyone’s arrival is noted and judged – and I do try to go earlier in the evening to avoid a big crowd.
Of course, it’s easier to eat alone when you know you have someone waiting for you at home, so I’m not going to pretend that doesn’t matter. It’s a choice in that respect. My real admiration is for those who eat alone because they’ve reached the point where they’re okay being alone. Society frowns on the singles of a certain age, judging those who dare to enjoy a decent meal on their own, and the stigma attached to solo diners is something I will always fight against.
For me, it’s a reassertion of my independence. It reminds me of a time before Andy, and while I don’t necessarily want to go back to a time without Andy, it’s nice to know that I can still go out by myself and be all right being alone. There is power in that, and it led to a belief in myself that enables me to get through the weaker moments.Back to Blog