If you feel your stomach squirm at the thought of eating alone, or cannot stop tapping your phone screen while eating alone, you probably have not realised the better side of eating alone. In a world that celebrates going solo, eating by oneself is still something new. Asking for a table for one is more than just that; it is getting into your own space, comfortably enjoying food, without the need to talk or going for a time kill and checking your Facebook timelines.
Getting comfortable in your own skin is as much a life skill as what they teach in the schools, and eating alone might perhaps be one of those steps that look tiny but the very thought brings along rapidly fluttering butterflies in the pit of your stomach. If you have ever gone for your phone, a book, a kindle, or your laptop to cut away from the stigma of eating alone, sharing my side of the story.
I have been eating alone for years now; a decade or a couple of years more perhaps. While eating alone at home, all snuggled up, does not count and neither does my won’t-go-out routine in Delhi, all the eating alone time on my trips makes up for it. Though I would not say that I experience a thrill when I walk alone inside a restaurant (in spite of all those blogs yelling it), the concept comes very naturally to me. Also, as I usually travel alone, it leaves no choice to me. So, yes it is not a thrilling affair. It is you, your plate, forks, knives and what not, and that is about it. Yet (now the confession) I think I prefer eating alone, or might even have started to enjoy a solitary meal or two.
Also, to those who assume otherwise, the glances that solo eaters attract have gone down. Forget the odd, curious souls, the whole business of dining has finally gotten over the peculiarity of spotting a solo eater. And that makes it a lot easier, even though I hardly cared about any such glances. So, if you are down the solo eater path, here is breaking down the concept and why I love it.
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One thing, you have the liberty to not talk at all while eating. Not even the small talk. Right from menu selection and the waiting period to finally gorging over meals without doing the customary talk is so cool! Another thing that works very well for me is my freedom to experiment (those who dine with me are very well aware of my food experiments); while nobody can stop you from ordering whatever you wish to eat, the advice, suggestions and queries can be slightly irksome.
So yes, I can order a completely vegan diet sided with drinks that are named Black Beauty (it has lemon, active charcoal, honey etc) and Ruby Reviver (apple, beetroot, carrot, ginger and lemon if you must know) without attracting any eye rolls. The point is, I take my food quite seriously and would pretty much want to taste food that sounds interesting, is healthy, and 100% vegetarian, without explaining why I eat what I eat.
While I might just be thoroughly judged for writing this down, I do not like to share my meals unless I am in love with the person I am eating with. No, not even for a bite. Totally anti-social and uncool, I know. If I am eating with you and I ask you to eat along, consider it love, for I will never make loud declarations about it. It might read like gluttony, but it really is not. All that I care about is hygiene and the way some people chew their food. If I am eating with you and sharing as well, you already are very high up in my hygiene check done list and come with a guarantee of no chomp noises. So you see, being this ardent, leaves me with less people that I am comfortable eating with. Weirdly, I can share table with dogs, cats and sloppy kids.
My next point is more of a contradiction; most of the times when I am sitting in a cafe, eating alone, I attract good conversations from the people around. Surely the times are changing; I believe that the by-chance eye contact with another solo eater, and a regular, polite smile breaks the ice and the conversations that happen are worth it all. These conversations are unobtrusive, for there are no prior introductions. I cherish these, easy talks that require an effort to start rather than being a result of any sort of acquaintance. Thus, worth it. You start alone, eat together, talk your heart, and then leave; no precursors no afterthoughts, no judgement passed or received. So, even as a person eating alone looks fairly loner, introvert, it can be the exact opposite. I would rather call it mindful, thoughtful company.
With no small talks, order whatever you wish for, and conversations that are chosen and not forced, eating alone is no longer an art, it is a life skill. A skill that can be taught to kids; if not for eating alone, then for those bouts of self confidence that comes in whenever you say “a table for one.”
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