I may or may not have mentioned that I’m a procrastinator. A list maker. A thinker not a doer. But look at me getting my sh*t together and actually doing something from my bucket list. I did that! A table for one, dining alone, eating by myself. Check!I’ve been really wanting to go and dine alone. I’m not entirely sure why but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but for some reason never did. And now I’ve done it. Before I get into the ins and outs of it all, I would like to say that I would do it again. It was exactly what I wanted it to be.
I chose a Prezzo. Not the most inspiring of establishments but the last thing I wanted on this little victory of mine was for it to be soured by bad food (may need to rethink that for next time!). Plus it’s fairly cheap and cheerful. Which I think describes my culinary tastes to a tee.
My first hurdle in completing this bucket list item was asking for a table for one when I entered the restaurant. The words came out of my mouth easily, I said it confidently with no hesitation. Which surprised me. I expected myself to be timid about it, embarrassed even, I was not. This brief moment of bravado may have been buoyed by the fact the place was quiet. A random Thursday lunchtime ended up being a good choice.
When you dine alone, the main thing you’re lacking is conversation with your counterparts. I weighed up a few options. To put on a podcast, music, bring a book or read articles on my phone. I felt the earphone option was quite isolating, on top of being on my own. Plus every time a waiter or waitress approached me, I’d have to unhook myself. I wouldn’t be able to get lost in the music in a way that would satisfy me. A book potentially would get messy although I’ve seen many a person in a restaurant reading a paper. I personally wasn’t feeling it.
I settled on reading some articles on my phone. I’m one of those people that has about 47 tabs open of things I plan on reading. My phone only allows 50 open at a time, so if I forget how many I have open and open a new one, it will close the oldest tab meaning something I was planning on reading gets lost in the internet ether. Tragic! So I was determined to thin the collection by actually reading. The companion to my date with myself was The Hustlers At Scores, which is a fascinating story that is now being made into a film starring Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B (who actually is doing some kind of meta re-enactment of actual events).
So while I loaded up my story to read, I had to make my choice of what to eat. It was weird because my choices were completely my own, determined by me with no pressure or influence from anyone else. I could take my time choosing. I could take my time eating. Except for the pressure the waiting staff put on you, I know they’re only asking if you’re enjoying your food but the’r really priming you to leave.
As I only had my phone for company, I did a little bit of people watching to also pass the time. Unfortunately the place was pretty empty, not really ripe for I Spy. I’d been strategically seated behind a pillar. Which I would’ve had to crane my neck round to see the passers by on the street. I thought at the time it was possibly some sort of conspiracy to hide the weird loner that was eating alone from the view of prospective customers. Or that could just be in my head.
A recurring thought that kept going through my mind was that I was being judged. I think that’s more about my own insecurities. I thoroughly enjoyed the time alone but I have these nagging doubts that try to ruin a good time. It even crossed my mind about what someone would think if they saw me…all by myself. And then I thought “what of it?” No-one would bat an eyelid if I was sat by myself on a bench in the gardens at work. Or in the weird makeshift little canteen area we have. Or even at a McDonald’s. Was this weird because I was paying for a full sit down meal or because we put so much emphasis on some things being group activities? I eat alone all the time and that’s what I kept thinking as I munched my way through the lunch menu.
That segues nicely into talking about the actual food a little –
Calamari with dip – completely tasteless without the squeeze of lemon and slathered in said dip
Chicken Spaghetti Carbonara Al Forno – delicious but the portion was crazy big – could easily have fed my non-existent lunch partner too
Honeycomb Smash Cheesecake – literally the only reason I keep going to Prezzo
And yes, I did have a 3 course meal to myself. If I was going to do this, I was going to live large but that Carbonara almost did me in!
The take away from this bucket list experience was the same as when I had the house to myself recently, I love my family, I prefer spending time with them than anything else, but I also need to be able to hear my own thoughts. I need to be able to think my own thoughts in my own time and times like this allow it. You need to be able to not be afraid to be with yourself because you have to be with yourself every single day. And if you can’t do that, oh what a difficult life you’ll have and that’s before you even take into account external pressures.
I read a Black Ballad newsletter recently (check them out if you don’t know them) that touched on this exact subject, speaking on the quality time you can have with yourself and should have with yourself. It was nice to read that I’m not alone in wanting this kind of experience. It really spoke to me as it was something I was living and considering at the time. As I’m money minded and a mum of three, I know I don’t treat myself often enough. However, I think a lunch date where the only people at the table are me, myself and I is something I can make space for.
Let’s keep dining alone…together!
xx Lee xx