Table For One, Please: Tips for Dining Alone in Public
Attending boarding school, followed by living in university housing, made me realise that I had been accustomed to eating questionable mess hall dinners for most of my adolescent years. Moreover, I came to the realisation that the last time I ate in solitude was probably when I was in my mother’s womb, but even that was a pretty co-dependent situation. So, when I graduated and moved to the middle of nowhere in Thailand, where only a handful of people in my district spoke English, I was pretty much forced to dine alone at restaurants.
While we live in a world that praises the practice of Self-care Sundays and #MeTime, there is still a silent stigma for people that choose to eating alone at restaurants. Sure, you might get the odd stare or two, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dining solo; besides being forced to pick up the bill that is. Whether you’re recently single/divorced, relocated to a new city or simply in a committed and healthy relationship with yourself – here are a couple of tips for dining alone in public and making the most of it.
1. Enjoy Your Own Company
Eating alone in public might feel like you’re an animal in a petting zoo, but it can be therapeutic and beneficial to bask in your own company.
The key to dining alone in public is actually enjoying your own company and minding your own business.
If anyone asks whether they can borrow the empty chair at your table, tell them ‘someone’s already sitting in it’ – just kidding, don’t do that. But in all seriousness, it’s healthy to take time out of your busy schedule and have some downtime to yourself, whether that means watching a movie at the cinema or dining alone at a restaurant.
2. Don’t Get Sloshed
Enjoy a glass of wine or two with your dinner, it might help take the edge off if you are new to solo dining. If you can handle your own and aren’t driving home – great, but know your limits. I wouldn’t recommend getting drunk, ever. Hurling, slurring words or trash-talking your waiter isn’t a great look in any environment, but especially when dining alone.
Drunk humans make poor decisions. Word to the wise, don’t ‘accidentally’ butt-dial your ex. Back away from the phone!
3. Take a Book
Dining out with friends usually means that you have others to chat with. Not sure what to do with your hands while waiting for your food? Instead of twiddling your thumbs or people watching, take a journal along or read that book you’ve been meaning to finish.
4. Stop Judging Yourself!
Slightly insecure and worried about people staring at you and thinking, ‘OMG what a freak’? Chances are that they’re likely a problematic Aries with abandonment issues or looking at the portrait behind you. Muggles tend to overthink certain situations, but trust me, no one is even mildly judging you for eating alone – unless you’re a loud-chewer.
5. Video Call a Friend
If you actually feel like having some company, but still want to dine alone, video call a friend. Virtually share dinner with them, that way you get to finally have that coffee or lunch date that you’ve planned and postponed for years.
6. Try an Old Restaurant
Dining alone can be a little daunting at first. You might feel inclined to reach for your phone every other second and watch Instagram stories of people partying on a yacht in Dubai and get major FOMO. But, comparison is the thief of joy; don’t go down that rabbit hole.
If you are feeling a little anxious, try picking a restaurant that you normally frequent. You should feel more comfortable, plus you know the food will be great.
7. Try a New Spot
Once you’re more comfortable with the idea of dining alone and have become a seasoned solo diner, you can advance to the next stage and hit up a new restaurant. Preferably one you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t had the time. Perhaps your friends aren’t into the cuisine served at said restaurant, but life is too short to not try new things and new food. If you are dining at a new spot, check out their online menu. This especially helps if everything on the menu sounds really good or if you’re indecisive, like me.
8. Dress Up
If you’re feeling slightly demotivated, for whatever reason, dress up and put on a cute pair of shoes or that garment you love but don’t get the chance to wear nearly enough.
You don’t have to throw on your Sunday best or the most expensive item you own, but wearing clothes that you feel good and more importantly, comfortable in, is a great way to feel empowered.
9. Make a Reservation
You might feel inclined to chicken out at the last minute. The best way to combat reservations is to make one. Plan your lunch or dinner, just as you would when going out with your besties and make a reservation ahead of time.
If the date goes well, take things back to your place and make yourself this delicious Gin Hot Chocolate with Homemade Marshmallows as a nightcap.
*Prefer dining in? That’s ok, here are 12 Ways to Be a Better Cook.
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