Sometimes I have to wonder about my friends. (Please don’t think me harsh; I’m sure they sometimes wonder about me, too.)
“J” recently sent me an email in which she complained about gaining weight while on a 2-week business trip because, she wrote, “I ended up eating fast food almost every meal.”
To which I replied, “What, did they finally take away your expense account?”
“No, of course not. I just didn’t have anyone to eat with and the hotel didn’t have room service. That’s why I had to get drive-through and eat in my room.”
That one threw me. “I don’t understand. Weren’t there any real restaurants in your area?”
“Sure, but I wasn’t about to go in alone and eat by myself.”
Ah, then I understood. Her fear of eating a meal alone in a restaurant overpowered her good nutritional sense.
“J” isn’t my only friend who refuses to dine out solo. Off the top of my head, I can think of three more friends (all female) who avoid eating in restaurants by themselves. None of them are the “shrinking violet” type; they just have some sort of block about eating alone. In public, that is.
This, thank goodness, has never been a problem for me. Granted, some of my choices in restaurants haven’t always been stellar, but now that we’ve got that little problem resolved, I enjoy a nice meal out. I tend to enjoy many of them especially because I’m by myself. This amazes my friends, who have all asked me at one time or another how I’m able to do it and not feel “weird.” (I know they’re thinking “weirdER”, but they’re too polite to say so. They are my friends, after all.)
I’ve shared my dining solo habits with all of them, and I thought it might be helpful to share them here, just in case anyone reading has similar issues.
1) This one’s a gimme, but I always take something along to read or do. A book, a magazine, a newspaper, a notebook–something I can pretend to be absorbed in while I surreptitiously observe everyone else. And if I just happen to pick up on a conversation here or there, all the better. It’s cheap entertainment.
2) Not the reader/writer/nosy type? Ask for a table on the patio or one with a view. I’m especially fond of patio dining, since it’s usually quieter and has more of a casual feel. Plus, in the summer it’s warmer. Some of the restaurants around here believe in sub-zero dining.
3) Another seating option might be to sit in the bar. (I’m not a fan of sitting AT the bar, for some reason, but I don’t mind a small table in the bar.) In the bar, you have the additional distraction of television, perhaps more than one. Quantity doesn’t really matter; they’ll all be tuned to either sports or news channels. (Warning: In some areas, bar televisions may be broadcasting Fox News, which you can actually use to your advantage as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are known appetite suppressants.)
4) Make friends with the wait staff. Locally, I have my regular haunts and while they don’t always call me by name, I usually get a cheery greeting and conversation as time allows. As an added benefit, these folks know my story and are always helpful when healthy substitutions need to be made. For this, they are tipped very well.
5) Keep your mind open to possibilities that may be presented by your situation. I’ve met some interesting people over the years, even shared a meal with a few who didn’t want to eat alone. My favorite was a man who had to be in his 80s, who I met in a beach bar/diner place on the Alabama Gulf Coast. His wife and her sister had gone shopping and left him alone for lunch. We were at adjacent patio tables and made small talk for a bit, before he eventually moved to my table when it started getting crowded. I enjoyed the visit, especially when his wife and sister showed up and he introduced me as his “new girlfriend.” His wife didn’t miss a beat, just asked him if he’d broken up with the girlfriend from the day before. And then she sat down and showed me all the stuff she’d bought at the factory outlet mall. Ya gotta love old people.
It’s just that easy. And enjoyable.
But if you just can’t get past it and eat in the restaurant, call and ask if they provide take-out. You’ll probably have to go in and get it, but you don’t have to eat it there. The downside is you just might miss meeting some interesting people or having a moment of insight during your solitude or the pleasure of being served good food in a nice environment.
Do you have the heebie-jeebies about eating alone in a restaurant? Or do you have any other solo dining out tips I’m missing?