Truth: I am twenty-six years old and I am still a little nervous about eating alone. I have to psych myself up. I try to bring a book, or a sketchbook, or some blog notes. I really try not to just get absorbed in my Facebook feed or self-soothe with texts, who are basically my imaginary friends when it comes to dining alone. I self-talk: “Lots of people eat alone. It doesn’t mean I’m lonely. Maybe my friends are just busy today. Maybe I’m going somewhere important. It’s okay to say table for just one.”
Why does it feel so taboo to eat alone as a woman? Why do I need girlfriends or a date to try that new restaurant or pick up a bite mid afternoon? Is it cultural or a glass of social anxiety served neat? I’ve talked about how to be alone before (and also, how to take yourself out on dates), but things get particularly sticky when you introduce the menu of insecurities women can develop around food.
It took me a long time to identify the problem. I always knew I felt strange out alone in public, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. When I read SARK in my early twenties, it clicked into place. SARK says there are women who are convinced that going out alone makes them look sad, or needy, or that they feel sad or needy if they’re not fulfilling the idea of going out in a social capacity. She imagines a rich world of women able to spend time alone. Here’s an excerpt from her book, Succulent Wild Women.
So I knew there were other options to just waiting for the phone to ring or sitting at home waiting for an invitation on a Friday night. I just had to be bold enough to stop being what SARK calls ‘captive women’ and hurdle over the awkwardness of being alone in public, particularly the beast that is dining alone.
Dare: How did I get through this? I practiced. I started stopping in to places for takeout, or gas stations for candy bars, or drugstores for packs of gum. Then I graduated to lunches at diners and delis, then drinks at my favorite bar and grille. I still haven’t mastered the ultimate alone-date – a three-course, white-table cloth dinner with dessert – but I’m getting there. And once I started eating alone, I felt the world open up. I could go anywhere. I could take the train alone, the subway, walk in the park with no one but my shadow and a box of paints.
My personal pleasure is shopping alone. Recently I had time to kill between a meetup and meeting my boyfriend for dinner, and wandered into the beading and rhinestone district near Koreatown – a block of trim and crystal warehouses, more rhinestones than I had ever seen in my life. I walked around with my jaw to my knees, running my fingers through buckets of beads and pom pom fringe. No one told me to hurry up, no one was bored, no one said it was stupid to spend twenty dollars on flatback crystals.
Anna Kendrick and Gloria Steinem team up to illustrate this phenomenom via Kate Spade’s MissAdventure series. The awkwardness practically radiates off the screen, but at the same time, I think we all envy the two ladies a little. They might be breaking all the rules of social niceties, that ‘nice girls don’t’, but golly it looks like fun.