Dining alone

by Madeline Laughs

Image by Madeline Laughs

I have been traveling for work for many, many years. When you’re on the road you have to learn to dine alone. This used to drive me bonkers! I hated it! If I couldn’t get it as take out or have it delivered to my hotel, I’d just go hungry. After a while, this got old. I had to learn to dine alone. I just didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to walk into a restaurant and say “One, please.” without coming unglued, feeling self conscious, starred at, humiliated and afraid. 

Then I met Iona.

I was trying to cajole Iona and a couple of my colleagues into going to this lounge with me one night because I was mortified to show up alone. They didn’t want to go. It was late, they were in for the night, etc. I would never admit to them why I needed them to go with me so I decided not to go at all. But Iona instinctively knew why I wouldn’t go alone.

She went to her room and came back with this stylish trench coat. “Stand up.” she told me. She motioned for me to step into the coat and she cinched the belt around my waist. As she adjusted the collar she said to me “You are a pretty woman. There is something very sexy about a woman walking into a bar alone. Now, get out of here and go have a good time. The coat will bring you luck!”

I have carried that wisdom with me all these years and I have no problem walking into a bar or a restaurant alone anymore. In fact, now I enjoy it. I people-watch and look out the window at the view and I am quite comfortable. Even when people start watching me, I never flinch. Sometimes I even stare back and I smile. I’m sure it’s disarming.

Tonight I watched a small family celebrate Good Friday. Everyone ordered fish. It was two young couples and a set of grandparents and one child. The little girl was about 4, maybe 5 years old, seated on a high chair seat and she was very busy coloring on her placemat and occasionally sneaking peeks at me. The grownups were all talking about her like she wasn’t there, or couldn’t hear them; “Janet, she is just a darling! Look at how good and well behaved she is tonight!”

Two seconds after those words hit the airwaves, the little girl’s fork goes flying through the air and lands on the next table. Then she screams with laughter! I start laughing too. My laughter drew the glare of every adult at that table.

What? I didn’t throw the fork.

They couldn’t really scold her harshly because they were in a public place and the strange woman dining alone had laughed too, so what could they do?

When my server brought me my bill I asked her to please add a huge slice of chocolate cake to it. “To go?” she asked. I shook my head. I asked her to please deliver it to the little girl once she finished her dinner.

On my way out of the restaurant I caught her eye once more and I winked at her. I like spunky, sassy little girls. I think that one day they might rule the world. What she did took huevos and in my book it deserved a huge reward.

More than anything, I hope that when she’s older she’ll remember the lady that dined alone. The one that admired her free spirit and laughed with her. Who cares if she had table manners. She was five!! At five you should still be able to burst into song and tap dance if the mood strikes you.

And if I can reward her for being spontaneous and full of life, then maybe when she’s older, little things, like dining alone, may not be such a big deal.

I hope she enjoyed her cake 🙂

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About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Dining alone

  1. topher says:

    The parents may have been more upset about the cake than the laugh. You instigator!

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  2. Regyna Longlank says:

    You get to tap dance and burst into song at any age! I do it all the time : D that is an awesome story. I kind of go back and forth, sometimes I’m ok on my own but more often I will shy away from movies, dinners or going out all on my own. I know you are going to think I’m a total snot ball, but for me the reason is because when I am alone I get approached, and I don’t always want to have to deal with saying hey, I don’t want to hang out with you I’d rather be alone. I’m not very good at that. When you are in an open relationship you smell available to the circling dogs. Sorry, but ’tis true. And you don’t have the I Can’t, I’m Taken excuse so you have to actually say I Don’t Like You which is harder. Sadly saying I Have Enough Trouble And I Don’t Need More does not work. That I don’t miss. At any rate, I am encouraged to give it another shot. Now where is my trench coat?

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    • I think my wedding band works like a strong bug repellent 🙂 They see that and run the other way.

      I go to the movies by myself all the time when I’m on the road working. If I have a tough day, the last thing I want to do is sit in my hotel room and brood about it, so I go see a movie. It’s surprisingly good therapy.

      It’s not an easy thing to go it alone in public places because we’re bred to be social. Someone enjoying something as mundane as a meal, alone in a restaurant full of couples and families, is seen as *sad*. Sometimes I can feel the tea and sympathy roll over me in waves. This lifts my heart because in a cynical world it’s nice that some people still have compassion.

      Perhaps you could adopt a nice Greta Garbo accent “I’m sorry but I vant to be alone” or it could be a nice exercise in the art of refusing politely. I sometimes put myself into situations of discomfort (but never in danger) just to practice being honest. Saying what needs to be said instead of what is expected. I learn a lot about myself doing that.

      We went to a party once and I saw a woman’s car there that I despised when we pulled up. I asked my husband to keep going because I didn’t want to be in the same room with her. He said no, that we were going in and that I could try being nice to her. So we stayed. Once inside she made a point of ignoring me, but made a huge effort to talk to my husband and laugh loudly. So I mustered and went and stood beside her and I smiled and I said hi. That was definitely not what she expected from me. She looked at me and grunted, then walked off. She sat outside on the deck by herself the rest of the evening. I conquered my discomfort of being around her. What did she accomplish?

      Now if I’m out alone and she happens to show up, I’d have no problem doing the same thing. It’s kind of like muscle memory. Once you conquer it, you own it.

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  3. Michi says:

    I’m with Topher! The little girl sounds precious.
    When I was in college, my roommate taught me the value of self-dating. Yes, we would date ourselves! I would dedicate a whole evening to just doing whatever I wanted – going out for a nice dinner and drink, then walking over to the bookshop, and treating myself to a movie at the movie theater. I would have ice cream afterward before heading on home. I even had a boyfriend at the time, but it was always well worth it to go alone every once in a while. 🙂

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    • I have always heard that if you don’t like yourself and can’t be alone with yourself occasionally, then no one else is going to like being alone with you either. I don’t know how true that is…but it makes me feel better 🙂

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