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In Defense of Dining Solo

I'm usually not a guy who likes eating in a restaurant by himself. If I'm eating by myself I'm more of an 'in-front of the tv' kind of guy. If I order chinese food I grab my pot with the handle. I dump some rice in. Some chinese food in. And I sit there holding the handle and shoveling it in.

It's always been hard for me to understand why somebody would prefer to sit in a restaurant if they're going to be eating alone. You can't eat out of a pot with a handle in a restaurant! Why not just stay home and not worry about anything?

Here's a quick list of things I thunk up that seems weird about eating out alone:

1. Feeling like an eavesdropper on the people sitting around you.
2. Wondering if people are wondering if you have no friends.
3. Wondering if people are wondering if you're a murderer who's about to shoot up the place.
4. Feeling weirdly ghostly. Like you're there but you're not.
5. Wondering if people are wondering if if you've been stood up by someone.
6. Becoming hyperaware of everyone like 'chewing' and getting grossed out by the smacky noises and annoyed by the clanks of forks.
7. Having a fear that a group of people you know will walk in and it'll be awkward.
8. Hearing an outburst of laughter from some table and feeling lonely.
9. Fear of sitting next to a loud talker who makes you crazy.

I could go on and on. There's lots of things to make dining in a restaurant that might make me uncomfortable-- but for the most part it's all spinning wheels in insecure mud. Things that keep me from relaxing and enjoying myself on a quiet vibe.

But last night I went out to eat by myself. Two reasons really.

1. My dog had some sort of weird reaction to the anesthetic and yesterday he was puking (better today!)-- and the vet told me not to feed him anything till his stomach settles down. So all night he was involuntarily fasting and looking at me like, 'Where's my dinner, Dad?' So I wasn't going to eat chinese food in his face while he's got toof pain and hungry. That would be a dick move.

2. I've been trying to ween myself off television as much as possible. And part of that includes eating in front of the tv. And I know if I order up food I'll be right in front of that friggin tv.

So I decided to head to this Italian place down the street. And brought a book I just started that I'm more than half-digging called The Night of the Gun. Tis here.

I walked down the street swinging a book in one hand (vaguely feeling like a show-off bookworm nerd being all showy about the fact that I am reading a book. Like I was accessorizing myself with something that made a statement! "I'm smart! I read!" Like the book might as well said Advanced Complex Calculus Physics for Super Expert Smart People or somethin


Bah! Nothing good.

Anyway, I sit down in this restaurant and I took a corner table. I ordered a glass of wine and linguine with clam sauce. And just sat there reading. I didn't care about the people around me. I tuned them out. Yeah, occasionally eavesdropping but not interested in their conversation. I didn't care what these strangers were saying or thinking. I didn't mind if they thought I was a murderer.

The waitress was perfectly nice and extra attentive actually. (Maybe out of sympathy but whatever-- I'll take it). The linguine was way good. I wasn't concerned about splattering it all over myself either as I was wearing my dirty all-day shirt. I didn't miss random conversation. I got through a chapter of the book. And I appreciated paying a check that was simply just mine.

Granted eating out alone may be a slippery slope to hermitdom-- but I don't think I'm gonna go that route. I'm way too insecure and self-conscious to actually become a real deal holyfield hermit. And I'm sure I'm not the type of person that will eat out solo on a regular basis because I like being home too much.

But once in a while-- if you have a chance to take a break from everything-- I recommend eating alone. Grab a book, or a magazine or newspaper or comic book or whatever and just try it. Take the social hit (it's really not a hard hit).

It's just quiet and nice... and quiet.

ok bye!


Blogger Regan said...

I currently live in NYC, and as much as I LOVE vegging on my futon alone in front of the tv watching some lame sci fi movie about giant killer mosquitos while woofing down Chinese food from a carton....

I also enjoy eating out once in awhile too. I love eating out with a lady, or a friend or my bro....but if none of them are available...I WILL NOT HESITATE for a second to eat out alone.

I live on the UWS in NYC and I am surrounded by a plethora of eateries to choose from. Whats the big deal? Who cares? You ever walk into a cafe or Starbucks in NYC? I'd say 75% of the people are eating or drinking alone as they sit there with their ipods plugged in or typing away on their computers or reading a book or texting someone. THis is NYC! No one cares what anyone else is doing. Thats what I LOVE about NYC!

Sure if you walk into a restaurant alone in Bump F#*K Kansas or someplace outside of the city...the music will screech to a stop and everyone will stop eating to stare at the lonely freak....but not here. Not in NYC.

I know you live in NY too heres my advice for your list of 9 things that freak you out about eating in a restaurant alone...

1)Personally I try to AVOID listening to the inane conversations of people next to me...but try to enjoy it. Pretend your a spy or something.

2) Who gives a F#*K what they think? Next

3) Let em wonder. In fact stare at them and mime shooting them with your finger as a gun.

4) I enjoy my anonymity when eating alone. I lived in China for awhile, and as a tall white dude, got approached and stared at constantly. It got old real fast.

5) Roll with it. Pretend your in a Hollywood movie. You're the lead in a Judd Apatow rom com. Some stuck up bitch broke your heart, and you're dating again. Hilarity ensues. The people in the restaurant are your audience, and they LOVE you.

6) I've had those bad energy days where everything negative is magnified and I feel like punching total strangers in the face on the subway. On these days I just avoid eating out.

7) Again who cares. Turn it around. You're not attached. The guy you run into is probably with his annoying girlfriend, and he'd rather be FREE like you.

8) Sometimes I will see an old lady who misses a bus that won't stop for her because she was too slow...and it'll almost make me CRY...if I hear laughter...I usually feel happy. But if it makes you feel lonely...then see #6...pretend you're staring in that movie again as the romantic lead. Use the laughter to feed your acting. Smile knowing that this is just the lonely eating alone in a restaurant scene and roll with it.


8/13/2008 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Ali said...

Enjoyed reading this

8/13/2008 8:46 AM  
Anonymous MsM said...

I don't live in NY, I live in a smallish town in the Midwest. I often go to restaurants alone, mostly because i don't feel like cooking, or there is nothing at home I want. Here, the only restaurants that anyone looks at you is if you go to the diner type at breakfast time. Apparently the same people go there every morning, so when you walk in, it's like in the western movies when the gun slinger walks into the saloon. Everyone looks at you to see if they know you. Usually the place is packed, so by the time you actually get to sit down, the interest has waned.
Other restaurants I just am another hungry person there to eat. No drama. Sometimes I read a book or the paper. No big deal.

8/13/2008 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw, Todd, that's so sweet to think of Roscoe like that. You're a good Dog Dad!

As for eating out alone, I personally hate seeing old men eating alone. It breaks my heart. I get teary-eyed right there in the restaurant. I'm not so sensitive if it's a woman. Not sure why.

8/13/2008 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another home run to read. Todd, you're on FIRE!

For me, the book is the key to a happy solo restaurant experience.

Good vibes back at you Todd.

8/13/2008 8:55 AM  
Blogger DeeJay said...

We like quiet.

8/13/2008 9:00 AM  
Anonymous T$ said...

Echoing others, I like this entry.

I have done this in the midwest and the south... and I end up mostly going out to eat alone on my lunch breaks. I get an hour, so sometimes I do errands, or meet a friend for lunch, but sometimes I get that luxury of eating alone.

I enjoy it because...

1) I get a break from talking, and mindlessly chit chatting with colleagues.

2) I get to read - a luxury onto itself. Really chills me out before I have to go back to work.

3) Waiters and waitresses are extra attentive to you - which makes me feel very "waited on". My glass is always full, my meal is quick - no waiting on some lunch buddy bastard who orders a steak, well done.

4) People, once they get past the oddity of a single person out to lunch, go back to their normal conversations. When I don't feel like reading, I can eavesdrop and that's interesting.

5) The wonderfully cheap check, and no fighting over who's turn it is to pay.

Hope Roscoe is feeling loads better!!

8/13/2008 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Catbot said...

Damn Man! Its just a stupid dog! It would get over you eating food in front of it! Phew!

8/13/2008 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could always go to a pub and eat at the bar, tons of peeps there sitting by themselves and nothing strange about that. Gotta get some more friens in your head and kick out the itty bitty shitty commitee that tells you these things when you are by yourself. I always like to say a blessing out loud so the other know that I am not really alone.

8/13/2008 10:24 AM  
Anonymous laura said...

All I could think of when reading that you were at an Italian restaurant eating linguini with clam sauce and a glass of wine - was you sounded like the don! Maybe that's why they were so nice to you - they thought you were connected!

8/13/2008 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol! loser

8/13/2008 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annoyed by smacking sounds and fork clanks! I love it!

Like you say, the key to eating alone at a table is having a book. Otherwise you sit there and stare in random directions and feel like a moron.

Most of the time, the best place for solo diners is at the counter or bar. Sort of a pariah zone there.

8/13/2008 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Annegret said...

Hmmm, I thought being insecure and self-conscious would encourage hermit-dom.

8/13/2008 11:20 AM  
Anonymous gunlover said...

pussy who gives a fuk what anyone things

8/13/2008 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Ed said...

Todd for Prez!

8/13/2008 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

"what anyone things"

Gunlover, you are some brainiac.

8/13/2008 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe, since the TV is off, you can go back and try the workout/gym thing again.

Better yet, just watch porno on the web. That's not really TV is it?

8/13/2008 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know how you feel. One NYE I went to a japanese place to get soba noodles, so I would have good luck for new year.
I know a little bit of japanese, I sat there by myself and the table next to me, wondered why the white girl was there? but impressed that I was eating soba.
but i have found the trick to eating by yourself is to have something to read. And to hear what people say is always interesting. BUT i never thought about the murderer part. Sweet, thanks OddTodd...
dawn from Hollywood, CA

8/13/2008 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where has that fucking cunt mr deng been hiding at ? that two bit shyster

8/13/2008 9:05 PM  
Blogger hebba said...

I've traveled all over with my job and often eat out alone. I don't understand why so many people are afraid of eating alone. 'Tis wierd. I'm hungry, this place looks good, I'm going in. Done and done.

8/13/2008 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While eating out it's the rude people who stare at me I find most disturbing.They stare like they've never seen a human being alone eating before.
So.. after a solid minute of "the stare",I will do things to make them WISH they hadn't been.
#1 Pretend to pick my nose and wipe it under the table.
#2 Talk to my food, Hi little guy! You're a good lil sweet and sour pork! YES YOU areeeeee!
#3 Play with my earlobes and stare back at them, making them think I am turned on for some ODD unknown reason.
(It works, it really works!)

8/14/2008 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Your manly conscience said...

Man, the whole "toof" thing needs to go.

He's a dog, give him some wolf attributes, not sweetly sickly cutesie pie puddin' top poow wittle mouthy mouth crap.

Whew, I needed to get that out.

8/14/2008 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss being a single gal.

8/14/2008 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get over yourself.

8/15/2008 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in San Francisco, and I love finding a nice, sedate hole-in-the-wall restaurant and dining solo.

I don't see why anyone would have a problem with doing this...Unless they're insecure about being alone with their own thoughts or one of those types that needs constant external validation from someone/anyone.

8/15/2008 11:57 PM  
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