Eating alone


I am currently attending a conference and so blogging will be a bit more erratic than usual.

When I travel on work, I often eat alone at restaurants. I don’t mind it in the least and, being somewhat introverted, even welcome the chance to be alone after mingling with people all day. I usually take a book with me as a companion, the main problem being that the lighting in restaurants is usually very dim and I have to specifically ask to be seated at a table near a light. The backlighted iPad comes in useful here.

But according to this report (and one must always treat these lifestyle trend stories with some skepticism) some women feel awkward eating alone and seek ways to either avoid it or mask it, fearing that it makes them look like losers. A website has even been created to try and meet that need by matching up women to eat together.

I am not sure what this says about our modern society, that people care so much about what total strangers might think about them, merely because they are eating alone. Why has solitude become seen in such a negative light?

Having a dining companion can be fun and it is not that I always avoid eating with others. On one occasion, my flight had a long delay at a busy airport and I had to stand in line to get admittance to a restaurant near my gate. While waiting for quite a while for a table to open up, I started chatting with the person ahead of me, making the usual travel small talk. When she got to the top of the line, the person seating the customers must have thought that we were together and asked “Table for two?” The woman hesitated for a fraction, then looked at me and asked me whether I would like to join her and I of course agreed because not only did she seem nice it would have been incredibly rude to decline such a gracious offer. During the meal we had an enjoyable conversation about books, films, even our families, lives and careers, with the kind of casual freedom that one can have with people whom one knows one will never see again. All in all it was a pleasant experience.

I also read some time ago a story about a friendly waitress who used to make small talk with regular elderly single diners, who seemed to be pleased with the attention she paid them. But on days when she was busy and did not have the time for chitchat, they seemed to look a little sad and lonely and she felt that she had let them down. On one such day, she asked one of them if they would like to sit at a table with another of her regular single diners and it turned out very well for both diners and ever since then she regularly puts people together at tables.

Which brings me to an idea that I have and that is that restaurants should reserve at least one table for those who would like to be seated with other people whom they do not know. It may seem strange at first but who knows, in this day when social media connects strangers in ways that would have been unthinkable in the past, the idea of a ‘community table’ may catch on. I have had many pleasant conversations with total strangers merely because we were seated close together for an extended period of time due to one reason or another.

I would think that this would also be a good business decision for the restaurant, since it would enable them to increase the number of people they can seat. When I am alone and the only table that they can seat me at has room for four, I feel a little guilty for taking up so much space by myself.

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    Which brings me to an idea that I have and that is that restaurants should reserve at least one table for those who would like to be seated with other people whom they do not know.

    There’s a restaurant around here that does that, or at least they used to. This big long gorgeous wooden table, and you can ask to sit there.

  2. pierre says

    “Which brings me to an idea that I have and that is that restaurants should reserve at least one table for those who would like to be seated with other people whom they do not know. It may seem strange at first but who knows, in this day when social media connects strangers in ways that would have been unthinkable in the past, the idea of a ‘community table’ may catch on. I have had many pleasant conversations with total strangers merely because we were seated close together for an extended period of time due to one reason or another.”

    Interesting concept. Maybe someone knows or has heard of other countries/cultures where establishments do this customarily?

  3. JustKat says

    I’m a woman and I go out to eat by myself from time to time – at lunch. I don’t mind that a bit and I always bring a book with me. I was talking to another lady here at the office about eating alone and she says she would never do that.

    The last time I did that the waiter asked me if I wanted to sit at the bar. I did not. I was at a Vietnamese restaurant planning to eat pho. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting at the bar at the front of the restaurant eating this so I insisted on a table. Yes, it was a four-top, but the restaurant wasn’t full either.

    If it was very busy I probably would have just taken the seat at the bar which would put me sitting with people that I don’t know. 😉

  4. evilDoug says

    Jebus! If I didn’t eat alone I’d clem tae death in a few months. I think I haven’t eaten alone about 3 or 4 times this year.

  5. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    “restaurants should reserve at least one table for those who would like to be seated with other people whom they do not know”

    I ate in several restaurants in Mexico that had a large table for people who wanted to eat with new people. It was not considered innovative, it was practical for the restaurant and amusing for the guests.

  6. rukymoss says

    I love long-distance train travel, and a big part of it is that dining car seating is tight, so passengers are seated so as to fill up the tables. As I am usually travelling alone or with only one other person, this means that I sit with 2 or 3 new people at each meal. It makes for interesting and stimulating meals. I would gladly do it in restaurants as well if it were offered as an option (some of the time–I do like being by myself, too.)

  7. stonyground says

    I used to have to travel with my job and often dined alone. I never worried about what other people thought about me, part of my philosophy of life is that I don’t. Because these trips were always short, I actually enjoyed the opportunity to be alone. Had the trips been longer, I think that the communal table would have been a great idea, I’m sure that there would have come a point when I would have craved company.

    When it comes to books, I do tend toward quite serious books that are sometimes a bit hard going. being alone and free from interuptions does make concentating on them easier.

  8. Tim says

    One of the best restaurant meals of my life was eaten alone. I was on a grueling business trip of several days. Exhausted, I stopped at the sushi restaurant.

    The waitress must have been a strong intuitive. Without asking, she sat me in the quietest part of the restaurant. Her service was perfect — always there with green tea or water when I needed it, never troubling me when she was not needed. She said little, but I felt very well attended to.

    I gladly left a tip equal to the amount of the bill. Worth every single cent.

    Ah, memories …

    I love the idea of a communal table. When I travel, sometimes I like to eat alone, while sometimes I would enjoy eating with others. I would love to have the option.

  9. says

    I spend quite a lot of time eating alone at university. Sometimes I feel vaguely uneasy that people will think I’m a loser with no friends, but usually it doesn’t bother me.

    In uni you’re usually lumped together with random people and forced to work with them for the rest of the semester. I’ve met some very interesting people that way. (And some unpleasant ones.)

  10. Anonymouse says

    You ask, “Why has solitude become seen in such a negative light?”

    I’ve noticed this too, at least in the USA. People seem petrified to be alone with their own thoughts. Even when they’re alone, it seems, they must be forever yakking away on the cellphone–in the grocery store, walking down the sidewalk, even on the toilet. What are they so afraid of?

  11. urmensch says

    Eating out alone has always been one of my favourite things to do. Partly because I eat quite slowly; I am always the last to finish eating and sometimes in company I skip to the next course so as not to hold others up.

    However, mostly its because I enjoy time to myself, walking, reading, but especially, eating good food.

    There is a Chinese restaurant I go to that has large round tables where everyone is seated together as places become free, but it is good because there is no pressure to talk to others.
    It is nice to just sit and eat your food with perhaps just a smile of acknowledgement to your neighbours and then getting stuck in.

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    That could be very entertaining; maybe Palin could do her infamous “Putin cobra meaneuver.”
    Dinner time conversation? Yes.
    Letting her run the country? No.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *