With my twenty-fifth birthday rapidly approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals and accomplishments. I feel that I’ve grown a lot as a person, especially within the past year, but there are certain parts of my life that still need tweaking. There are fundamental experiences I’m lacking, experiences that no one in her mid-twenties should be without. One of those is eating in a restaurant by myself.
Generally, I hate eating meals alone. If I eat at home and my roommates aren’t around, I’ll read a book or find some way to distract myself (which goes against every nutritionist’s or dietician’s advice). And going out to eat has always been a social, celebratory occasion for me; even if I’m craving a hearty bowl of panang curry from my favorite Thai place, if I don’t have anyone to go with, I don’t go.
But why should treating myself necessarily involve other people? By the time I hit twenty-five, I’d like to say that I know how to be good to myself, and that includes the occasional solo outing to a restaurant when the mood strikes. So this past weekend, when I walked by a cozy-looking restaurant on my way home and for the hundredth time thought about how I’d like to try it someday, I decided to take myself out to dinner there the following night.
The restaurant was filled with groups of varying sizes, which immediately created an anxious knot in my stomach. Then I noticed a series of chairs facing the window and an older man occupying one of them, eating an enchilada and enjoying the street view. I grabbed a menu and a seat on the other side of the window, perusing my dinner options and trying not to feel awkward amidst the animated conversations enveloping the small room.
One thing I will say about eating alone is that I felt free of the pressure to decide on a meal immediately. As an indecisive person, this can sometimes be a long, drawn-out process, but with no one else around, I took pleasure in it instead of feeling guilty. To kick up the risk factor of the night even more, I ordered something I would’ve never considered before. And when it was set in front of me, I took slow, thoughtful bites, concentrating on the different flavors rather than what the people around me were saying. Though the food itself was slightly underwhelming, it was the first time in a long time that I felt like I truly appreciated a meal.
I can’t say I fully enjoyed eating by myself in the restaurant—I think that’s something that will take longer than a night to develop. But I do feel like a stronger person for having done it and I know that I can do it again. I think most people (myself included) who resist going out to eat alone do it not because they’re uncomfortable sitting solo, but because they’re not sure how to be alone with their thoughts. They assume the experience will be boring, and admittedly, my first time felt a little lacking. But when I take myself out for a meal again, maybe a table of my own won’t be nearly as intimidating, and who knows—I just might find I like my own company after all.
Read more stories from our The Power of One series:
There’s a Tear in My … Zin? (Having a drink alone)
The Great Mistake (Traveling alone)
All Alone in the Woods (Backpacking alone)
Hello, My Name Is … Solo (Going to a party alone)
Front Row! My Solo Concert Experience (Going to a concert alone)