Why are people so uncomfortable when they see someone eating alone?
It was a long and frustrating week. A lot of beating my head against wall. Worry over deadlines. And one particularly vexing moment when i discovered that typing, “Why the hell won’t this stupid thing work??!!” into the help menu didn’t yield any helpful results. I was glad to see Friday, even if only to mark what is likely a halfway point in this mess.
Because i survived the week without developing a permanent tic or Valium habit, i decided to treat myself. There is a well regarded restaurant that i hadn’t tried that sits smack-dab halfway home. It being warm and still light out, it was nice to see that there was a tiny table still open on the patio. I’m certain a subconscious, relief-filled “Aaaahhhhhh..” escaped my lips as parked my tookis. Normally, when eating out alone, i bring something to read to assuage the nervous Nellies who grieve solitary diners. But i hadn’t expected to go out today, so i was amusing myself with people watching and a sudoku on my phone.
I ordered tonight’s special cocktail that sounded like they knew i was coming. I wasn’t terribly hungry, so i ordered an appetizer, and then another when i scarfed the delicious first one down like it was Aunt Bea’s best biscuit. My mood was improving. It’s amazing what some good flavor will do.
There were two tables nearby, both of which were filled with near- or newly retired doctors and their wives. Bits and pieces of the conversations floated my way. I didn’t pay much attention until i heard one say, “I wonder if she is waiting for someone…”
I looked up, and sure enough, they were all staring at me.
“No,” I said. “It’s just me tonight. Just relaxing after a long week.” The three women all looked full of pity. Two of the men looked at their wives. The third man smiled. He asked me what i was drinking and if it was good. He asked my opinion of what i had eaten, which i answered as the server approached their table. Then i went back to my own amusements. A few minutes later i heard one of the wives…
“We should invite her to join us or something.”
Please, no. I don’t want to have to refuse them, but i am in no mood to have a condolence laden conversation with a table full of strangers.
My ersatz ally spoke up on my behalf. “Don’t be silly! She is enjoying her drink. Leave her be. Not everyone wants to be with a crowd.”
Bless you, sir.
I’m sure the wives were thinking he didn’t understand. No one should sup alone. It’s unnatural. Single women are lonely. Blah blah blah.
Nope. Not lonely. Just enjoying quiet and trying to empty my mind. Relaxing. Marking the end of a tiresome week and the beginning of the weekend. Treating myself, instead of waiting for a savior to do it for me. That’s what we single people do. We take care of ourselves. And we have the occasional dinner out just like you married people. No need for sympathy. No need for disdain. And for the love of God and everything holy, quit talking about me from only three feet away so that i can palpate your compassion.
I admit, sometimes i want someone to talk to. Then i go sit at the bar and chat up the bartender or the other patrons. But if i’m at a table, not engaging with others, and not looking heartbroken, i am fine. I am enjoying my own company, or my magazine, or my food, or whatever. It’s ok. Really. Your humanitarian efforts to make me feel less lonely don’t have the desired affect. They just kind of irritate me.
But i won’t tell you that.
Instead, i will keep sipping and munching and reading or whatever. And i’ll wait for your tablemate to point it out. After all, in any gathering, there is always that one person who didn’t mind being single and truly commiserates.