I’m Okay with Dining Alone, Why Aren’t You?
I’m single and I eat out occasionally. Well, I eat out more than I’d like to admit, because let’s face it, cooking for one is a dull, lifeless event. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and I’m actually a pretty good cook, but with the long hours I put in at work (and at home), taking care of Macaroni, and just trying to find some “me time,” dining out is often the path of least resistance.
Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid fast food in an attempt to better my health and shed a few pounds, so I’ve been hitting up more sit-down establishments – the kind with real silverware, real glasses, and sometimes even cloth napkins. It costs me a bit more, but it makes me feel a little better than pulling my food from a paper sack stuffed with too many cheap napkins. As I enter the restaurant and approach the hostess stand, the young girl (and it’s a girl 99% of the time) asks, “How many?” Of course, the answer is “one,” but I’ve been using various phrases just to gauge the reactions and to see if there is any way to say it that doesn’t cause a quizzical look or a face full of surprise or sadness.
You see, every time I admit to the hostess that I’ll be dining alone, they all look at me funny. Some look surprised, some look shocked, some even come back with a questioning tone and ask, “Just one?” as if I had told them their hair was on fire. Why is that? Is it so weird that I am dining alone?
After the millisecond of awkwardness, the hostess will almost always ask me the same question – “Would you like to sit at the bar?” Now I totally understand why they do this, because who really wants to waste a good four-top on one guy, when he could easily sit at the bar taking up no more space than is required to fit his butt in a seat, but let’s face it, I’m here to eat and would like to sit at a table like a normal person. Suddenly, I’m standing there feeling a bit like a leper. My dining alone experience is already in an awkward state and now you’ve made me feel like I’m unwanted or that I’m taking up your precious tables with my solo habits. That’s not cool. I haven’t even sat down and I already feel like I’m a bother. Thanks.
PS If I wanted to sit at the bar, I would tell you that up front. For me sitting at the bar is something I do when I intend to drink, not when I’m just looking for a nice meal.
The servers however always seem more than happy to make my experience a pleasurable one, despite the lack of dinner conversation. Some times I feel like they go out of their way to make my time at their table enjoyable. And guess what? Those lucky enough to serve me are often rewarded. Because I’m dining alone, I appreciate the smiles and check-ins a little bit more than my full table counterparts. And I tip well because of it. For an hour or so, I am there to eat, but I’m also there enjoying your company and the general company of being in a place with a few more people than my empty apartment. I like the sounds and sights of all those people eating beside me (unless there’s a baby crying or your kids are running around like they’re fueled by cocaine and Red Bull). I leave my apartment for that purpose – to be out and around others instead of cooped up and facing another day of cabin fever.
So to all you hostesses out there (and the occasional male host), don’t look so surprised when I say, “It’s just me.” I’m cool with it and you should be too.
image courtesy of a.drian