On a recent Poosh team call, I confessed that one of my favorite guilty pleasures is dining out alone. I was met with mostly astonishment and confusion (although there were a few fellow solo-dining devotees, shout-out to Nicole).
After the call, I began thinking about my journey to falling in love with the luxury of taking oneself out to dinner, and I realized one question had started it all:
What’s more sad—going to an amazing restaurant alone, or not going to the restaurant you want to go to because you have no one to go with?
There was a time when, like many people, I could not even imagine myself choosing to eat alone at a restaurant. We’ve been taught through film and television to think eating alone is weird or sad—the teenager who goes to the bathroom in high school to eat lunch, the dressed-up person waiting in embarrassment for the date who never shows, the elderly man dining quietly after his wife passes away.
We’ve been conditioned for these scenarios to pull at our heart strings, so the thought of willingly putting ourselves in a scenario where someone could think we’re alone—not by choice—is terrifying. We’re afraid of being judged, of people thinking we’re lonely, of people wondering if we don’t have friends.
Above all, I think we’re afraid of pity.
I can easily recall the first time I took myself out to a nice meal alone. I had traveled to London with my partner. He was in business school classes during the day, which left me to wander and explore on my own—my first time doing this solo in a foreign country. Hitting the shops and museums was a breeze. People regularly explore these places by themselves.
But I was dying to go for a traditional British tea, and the thought of doing that alone felt daunting.
The one I wanted to go to was Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. A tea service there is an hour and a half, so there would be no rushing through this experience. The thought of finding my way there and sitting at a table for so long by myself was almost enough to make me pay the £30 cancellation fee.
But I really love tea, so I forged ahead.
I had the most luxurious, relaxing, entertaining, and pleasant meal of my entire trip. I picked the savory tea menu instead of the traditional one my partner certainly would’ve picked. I read the newspaper from cover to cover. I people-watched and eavesdropped. I ate what would otherwise be an embarrassing number of quail Scotch eggs. I left that meal with a weird feeling of satisfaction and pride, but also a desire to find more opportunities to indulge in solo dining.
Reasons to love dining alone:
Paying attention to the world around you
Sometimes dining in a group can distract from the ambiance and experience of the restaurant, so by dining alone, you can truly take in the details of the room, the aura, and the other diners and staff.
I love to watch the patrons around me and the people walking down the street and wonder about their lives. I try to guess how they know each other (are they on a date? are they coworkers?), listen to their conversations (yes, I’m an eavesdropper), and just appreciate the little interactions between human beings. I try not to allow myself to look at my phone.
Fully enjoying your food
Instead of focusing on making conversation with the person across from me, I get to focus on the main event—the food. I fully read the menu and order exactly what I want. I savor sips of wine, I pick out the different flavors and spices in the food, and I order an item I’ve never tried before. I don’t feel the need to rush to keep up with the diners around me or to get anywhere. I’m on my own schedule and can treat each bite with delight.
Practicing “me” time
We live in a constant state of sensory overload where we are expected to be busy, accessible, and productive at all times. When you dine out alone, you don’t have to be “on” or think of things to talk about. Instead, you can reflect on your day, check in with yourself, and let your mind truly wander. It’s important that we learn to feel comfortable with ourselves and with our own company.
Dining out is such a pleasure in life, that it’s a shame if it always has to be tied to another person. I think of it as a way of treating myself and romanticizing my life. It’s a blessing to spend leisurely time with ourselves in today’s hectic, noisy world.
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