I walk in, grab a seat and order. A woman, part of a couple on the table opposite keeps throwing me looks laced with concern, maybe, confusion, yes. She seems unsettled by my being alone and keeps glancing over. I want to reassure her: I am happy dining alone, it’s a choice. Don’t worry about me.
I carry a book and a notepad in my bag and anytime I sit down to eat or drink, if I don’t fancy sitting back and taking in the atmosphere, I read whilst I eat my dinner or I write whilst sipping a coffee (a recent article in the Denver Post seems to echo these ideas as being common ways to deal with solo dining). I find it´s a luxury to have the time and space to indulge myself in such a way. As the English essayist and poet Charles Lamb said, “Oh, the pleasure of eating my dinner alone!” When a self-conscious moment crops up, an occasional cigarette keeps me from worrying about those looks, but more often than not a sneaky smoke is simply a naughty accompaniment to a spot of people watching.
I guess that it´s no real surprise that there are companies out there attempting to profit from people´s hang-ups with dining alone, such as the website www.solodining.com. But fair enough, – if people want to access it and it helps, then great. Why not? Whatever works.
Don’t get me wrong, I personally love dining with others, – nattering, laughing, sharing the day. And when I am out and about by myself, it is occasionally nice to join in chat on the neighbouring table, although reading the situation and joining in isn’t always easy. (Having some company can also be life saving as highlighted by the Arabian proverb He who eats alone chokes alone).
But please, seriously, if you see someone eating alone, don’t pity them. They’re probably fine. If it really bothers you, strike up a conversation. If they want solo time, they’ll let you know.