Dine Alone. Like A Boss.
The entire restaurant is watching you.
With each bite, diners sneak glances at you. The looks of pity shine a burning hot stage light on you for all to see that you are sitting at a table. Eating. Alone.
Only, this is not how it happens. Not even a little. Actually, like, almost never.
In my lifetime, the number of people who admit to being terrified of eating out alone is astounding. Not that these people don't like to eat. Not that they don't love eating out. But the thought of dining out--an activity that is cross-culturally regarded as a social activity--alone leaves them aghast.
If this is you, I'm not going to waste your time telling you how to do it.
You probably already know that reading is one of the most relaxing activities to do when dining out alone. Or that sitting at the bar is a great way to be social. Or that sitting at a table is best for getting away from crowds. This is Dining Alone 101.
I won't bore you telling you why you should make time to occasionally dine alone.
Who doesn't enjoy solitude after talking to people all day? And for those who have children, no one has to talk them into having a meal that doesn't involve cutting up someone's food into itty bitty pieces.
I promise I'm not here to lecture anyone about self-esteem.
It's possible to simultaneously hold yourself in high regard and see eating alone as a social stigma, even though a vast majority of self-actualized people don't view it through the lens of a stigma, mostly because they are too busy enjoying their own meals to care about what's happening at the next table.
And I'm not going to defend or make the case for that which needs no defense.
I'm not trying to talk anyone into doing something natural--eating with yourself. Besides, I admit that this may come easy for me since I was born with a strong sense of self (even when I feel insecure). And woven into that are beautiful glittering strands of moderate disregard for the gloomy opinions of others.
I'm here to remind you of what's at the center of dining with friends, co-workers, family, and, of course, dining with yourself. The love of food.
"There is no sincerer love than the love of food," observed George Bernard Shaw.
Somehow, somewhere along with way, the focus of dining shifted to us (getting together, networking, being beautiful) and away from food and the chefs (the ingredients, the ingenuity, creativity, and skill that crafted the dish).
Food is a source of my happiness, a path to good health, has often been the beginnings of an expanding waistline, but mostly, a sensorial experience.
Think about the last time you ordered fajitas. Did all your senses not explode?
Hearing - the sizzling of fajita meat
Seeing - butter bubbling from the meat stacked high on the hot plate
Feeling - your hands roll the warm, soft, fresh-made tortilla
Smelling - the mix of sauteed onions, meat, and peppers
Taste - do I even have to say it? And did it not earn a moment of silence?
The sixth sense - having an inexplicable feeling that this would happen again
Can we for an instant shift the focus off of ourselves and onto what's on our plates to enjoy what I believe to be one of life's greatest gifts? Can we suspend self-consciousness and the need for mealtime companionship when our own companionship is sufficient?
From the simplest of meals (chicken and noodles) to the most sumptuous fare (lobster à la something fancy) our job in that moment is to savor each bite especially if we're savoring it in the presence of our own good company.
I love catching up with friends over brunch. It's actually one of my favorite things to do. Meals shared with our favorite people are good times, but we must not let the absence of other people stop us from going out on solo expeditions to menu explore, ingredient guess, and food critique.
You alone deserve the fresh-cut flowers and sparkling silverware in front of you. You've earned your seat at the table with warm waffles with maple syrup, crispy bacon, and seasonal fruit. Taking it all in by yourself can be delicious.
Dining with yourself is not a social stigma. It is a powerful social statement that conveys a fierce brand of self-assuredness. Like a boss.
Afterword: When you're sitting at a table solo, enjoying yourself (like a boss) people will stare. Only it's called "being noticed." And after being noticed, you just may be approached. What happens after that is up to you. Enjoy :-)
Photo credit: Garry Knight via CC Flickr