…is not much fun, most people will tell you. I have done it plenty of times, in various countries. If I’m perfectly honest, there have been moments when I have not enjoyed it, either. Here are the immediate drawbacks:
- People staring at you from neighbouring tables – of all the things that irritate me in the world, this is probably in my Top 5. What’s even more annoying is that the stares most often come from smug couples who seem to think that you’re eating alone because you can’t find anybody to go out with. If I could be bothered enough to reply to the condescending stare (with another stare), it would be one which said, ‘Thank you, but I’m fortunate enough to feel comfortable enough in my own company without needing somebody else to escort me somewhere to eat. And do you really have nothing better to talk about as a couple than discuss somebody who is eating alone?!’ This doesn’t happen all the time, but unfortunately I’d rate it No. 1 Bugbear for eating alone.
- Being chatted up by adventurous men: this hasn’t happened to me often (not looking like a supermodel has its advantages), but for some, this could happen often enough to annoy you. For myself, a simple ‘thank you but I’m almost finished’ or ‘I’m just eating and dashing’ has been enough to stop the attention. If anybody wants to share more experiences around this, I would love to hear how you’ve dealt with it!
- Not being able to try more things on the menu by sharing with a companion/group (men are often very useful for this). Not only do you have to choose one thing, personal experience tells me that even then you often leave with a box of leftovers in your hand.
One thing I have learned is that eating alone is not your problem, it’s that of other people. It’s others who make you uncomfortable through their reaction (staring etc), when in fact eating alone is not at all uncomfortable – don’t we all do it in our everyday lives anyway, at our desk, at home, in local coffee shops? To mitigate the discomfort brought about by others, I often ask for tables tucked away from view, or where I have a nice view on the outside world through a window, so I don’t have to look at the other diners (or look at the other diners looking at me).
I was pleased to see this article in the Stylist recently:
See pp65-67 for a defence of eating alone, and some recommendations for places in the UK! I’m planning on trying the London venues soon, and will post a review as soon as I’m done!