The perils of eating alone in public

For the past week I’ve been working at one of the top performing studios of the company I now work for.  As I was away from home, I had to stay in a hotel. The downside was that I had to eat at the hotel restaurant alone every night. And it wasn't a hotel restaurant in the hotel. To make the situation a little more complicated, the hotel's restaurant was adjacent to the hotel, open to the public.
By the end of my week I managed to survive a 20 minute photoshoot with a 2 month old baby. I then had to edit and sell the photos (to the mum, not the baby).  Not a problem. When I went back to my hotel, however, and faced eating alone in a public place, then there was an issue.
Equal to the impending doom I felt linger every afternoon, was the confusion as to why this was. I soon realised I was actually scared of people just like myself. Every time I see someone eating alone, I get all teary and have to refrain from inviting them over, or at least telling them that everything will be okay. I'm ashamed to say that the sight of someone eating alone does evoke pity. With every lonesome bite they take my heart breaks a little more.
I often skip around supermarkets, and I never hold back with my embarrassing snort-laugh in public. When it comes to dining alone, though, what is with the social stigma? The main insecurity running through my mind was worrying what conclusions people would come to. God forbid they assumed I was on a holiday for one. So, on my first night, I armed myself with a notepad and pen, playing the part of Business Woman. By the third night I had downsized to a more casual role of Woman Reading Magazine. It took me until the fourth night to not give a shit because I’d never see these people again.
For some reason, what really threw me was the fact that it was an evening meal. I don't have any issues with a  solitary lunch. Equally, I can comfortably eat on a train any time of day!
One problem I repeatedly faced was that I didn’t have anyone with me to rely on when the waitress inevitably asked me if my meal was okay – just after taking a mouthful appropriate for a whale.Why do they do that?
Even though I only had to endure four lonely nights at the restaurant, by the second night I had acquired a standard greeting when I walked into the restaurant: "table for one, again?" No, table for three, I’ve brought two teddy bears and a sock. Having to eat out alone was thrust on me suddenly and without much time for mental preparation. Therefore, I have compiled a little list of top tips, for if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Don’t rub your eyes. It will look like you’re crying
  2. Don’t laugh at anything you may read on your phone. You will be caught out at the wrong moment and it will look like you find your plate funny
  3. Do refrain from making conversation with the waitress. That’s pretty much establishing for definite that you're not alone by choice
  4. Don’t look at anyone else eating alone and give them a knowing smile – the likelihood is high that they’ll take that as you want to join them
  5. Don't eat foods that are runny or gloopy. There's no one to tell you that you have a noodle stuck to your cheek

1 comment: