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The Stigma of Dining Out Alone
It's kind of silly when you think about it.
The other day, an online acquaintance of mine posted a personal tidbit on the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter. I thought it would make a fun, interesting topic for this week’s newsletter:
Klon’s correct in that a lot of people hate the experience (or even the thought) of eating alone in a restaurant. I’m one of them, though “hate” might be too strong of a word. I just find it awkward enough to avoid, which is kind of a bummer because I enjoy dining out, and — like Klon — I’m a people-watcher; I suspect all fiction writers are.
So when I’m alone, away from home, and could really use a bite to eat, I typically find myself in a fast-food drive-thru. A few minutes later, I’m sitting at the far end of a parking lot, clumsily negotiating a burger or sandwich, a beverage cup, and food wrappers from behind a steering wheel.
Sure, it’s awkward (and at times a little messy), but it’s not socially awkward, because no one’s looking at me… well, except for the occasional dumpster-diver or passerby, who — while providing me with my people-watching fix — typically doesn’t give me a second glance.
If I’m without a car, I do the walk-in/take-out thing, and then eat my meal elsewhere, whether it’s in my hotel room, or — if the weather is nice — on an outdoor bench or concrete slab in a business square. For some reason, the informal on-the-go nature of eating in that setting feels more socially acceptable to me… even if a bunch of people can still see me eating by myself.
And maybe that’s the key right there as to why I and so many others don’t like eating in restaurants by ourselves: the formality of it all. Even if it’s not a fancy restaurant, there’s something formal about sitting down at a table, ordering from a menu, and being served food. It feels like an event. And when one attends an event by themself, it’s natural for others to wonder why, and perhaps draw unflattering conclusions. Is this person without a spouse, or a partner, or anyone else in their life to accompany them? Does this poor S.O.B have any friends at all?
I admit that on the very few occasions when I have eaten by myself in a restaurant, I’ve indeed wondered if that’s what’s going on in the minds of those around me. I don’t think my speculation is entirely unfounded, being that my servers on those occasions have expressed a clear tone of sympathy when greeting me and taking my order. Plus, dark truth be told, that’s what I’ve wondered about others, at times, when I see them eating alone a restaurants.
But Klon has it right. There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma in eating-out alone. And no one should care what strangers around them may or may not be thinking.
Granted, Klon is better equipped than you and I to traverse such an environment… and not just because having a last name like “Kitchen” may make one feel more at ease in a restaurant. *ba-dum-tshh*
No, Klon, who I first got to know a little through his work at The Dispatch, is a true badass — a war veteran, and national security and counterterrorism expert, who — in the event of a diner he’s eating in suddenly being held up by armed robbers — could well step into the role of Samuel L. Jackson at the end of Pulp Fiction. Or maybe he’d just take out the perpetrators with drones, because he’s also an expert in cybersecurity and defense technologies.
But you shouldn’t have to be a badass to just eat by yourself in a restaurant, which is something I need to keep in mind the next time the situation arises.
Is there an activity you hate doing alone? Tell me about it in an email or in the comment section below.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Weather alert system.
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