Sometimes I really wish we could capture a feeling beyond our usual social media means.
It’s the one when you are in a new country, a new city. You dress up, put on lipstick, and take yourself out to a hip new “it” restaurant, by yourself. Where when you walk in and the host asks, mesa por una (for one)? For a half-second, part of you wants to retreat into yourself, but the present you cuts that inner critic and responds confidently, “yes, UNA.” And you walk through the dining area, back straight, channeling all your badass Beyonce-ness.
The Subtle Joy Of Eating Alone
I discovered the empowering feeling of dinning on my own in my late twenties. One of my favorite past times as a New Yorker was sitting in tasteful restaurants, at the bar, by myself. Enjoying people watching, reading a book or not. Digging into the pork belly or glass of Pouilly. It made me feel like I made it while also defying some set of rules. Then when it came to travel, solo dining became even more interesting.
Travel Is All About The Food
As I live a life constantly on the road, where unfamiliarity is the norm and discovery is more intensified, food is a huge part of cultural exploration. A city tells you its characteristics with its food. For example, New York can be salty and hyper-creative, with a well-curated atmosphere. Brazil is simplistic and soulful, down to earth. Mexico is bold, firey, and colorful.
When you eat alone, you can concentrate on the food and the experience. You’re hyper-alert to all your senses because there are no distractions from friends, conversations, it’s just you, on a date with your palette.
Don’t get me wrong, I love eating with other people. The joy of sharing experience is high on my preference list but eating alone is also just important, almost like going to church (if I was religious). It’s a ceremony, it is self-care at its finest.
Deep Chats With Your Inner Critic
I’m not going to deny the low-level anxiety I get sometimes. But it’s a healthy thing. You’re forced to be in a still moment with the feeling of being slightly self-conscious. Yes, at times people look at you like you're some rare exotic bird, choosing to eat alone. Is she a food critic? Is she a spinster? These feelings aren't out of nowhere, sometimes there are stories others attach to you and you can sense it. Then there’s also the annoyance of men who feel the need to rescue you.
Here are some comments from my own inner critic:
“Everyone is looking at you, why did you choose to put yourself in this situation.”
“You eat funny.”
“What if your card doesn’t work and you can’t pay the bill and you’ll be so embarrassed.”
Which I respond:
“How amazing that I can take time out and afford to pay for this dinner. I’m a badass queen.”
I Wonder If Men Get This Same Response.
Do men get this same treatment? Or questions like, “Honey, why are you by yourself?” paired with condolence eyes as if you lost a loved one. I highly doubt a man dressed in his Sunday best is even questioned why he’s choosing to eat alone. What I’ve recognized is this belief, a woman can't sit alone at a nice meal, is a gender construct that’s still in play. I recently read this 1964 article from the NYTimes about women being turned about for dining alone. Ridiculous, but then again, are we so different from 1964?
We are now living in a world where self-care is a way of life and you may find nothing more indulgent as solo dining. It’s an opportunity to break society constructs, go deeper with what makes you uncomfortable, and have some one on one time witnessing yourself in a new environment. Go ahead, you deserve it.