Table for One Please

Last week, I decided to go out for a nice meal and drink — on my own and for myself. I have always enjoyed moments of solitude. I enjoy my own company so I did not feel at all concerned or anxious about my decision to take myself out.

I walked into a nice restaurant. When greeted at the front of the restaurant I was asked “for how many people miss”. I nonchalantly said to the restaurant manager “a table for one please”. After pausing briefly to look at me with concern, he again asked me “for how many people”? To which I again replied, “table for one please”.

I was then escorted to a table. As I was about to take a seat, the manager proceeded to ask me “is everything okay”? It was now my turn to take a brief moment and pause. I wasn’t sure what he was referring to. I replied saying “yes”. I was then left to examine the menu. When I was greeted by a waitress, I ordered a nice tall sangria and a couple of appetizers — exactly what I wanted. My drink came to the table first brought by the restaurant manager who had greeted me earlier. He placed my drink on the table and said, “this one is on the house courtesy of me”. I thanked him but was again taken aback. Was he feeling pity for me? Was he feeling concerned for me? But why? I was enjoying my alone time.

This incident prompted me to think about why eating alone is stigmatized. Why are people pitied when they eat alone? Eating and enjoying food is an individual experience as much as it is a social experience. While I didn’t feel alone sitting at a restaurant by myself, I was starting to think that perhaps I was alone in thinking that solo dining was a good thing.

In the days that followed, I started to observe diners around me — in the cafeteria at the office, on patios next to streets that I was passing by, on park benches during the lunch hour, etc. Most people were not dining alone. The occasional solo diners who I saw were still “busy” while they were eating. They were often either busy on their phones or had a book or other material in hand reading. I am guilty of doing these things myself on occasion — whether it is catching up on emails or reading a great book that I don’t want to put down. However, in those occasions, I also don’t enjoy my food as much and never have a chance to self-reflect.

As human beings we often define ourselves based on our relationships with other people. But what about the relationship we have with ourselves? Never forget to nurture your most important relationship and give it the time it needs. Spend some time by yourself. By doing so, you will inspire others to do the same.

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