Party of One: Eating Alone In Public Is Not Fatal
When you’re single (or “between-boyfriends” which is how I like to describe myself) people say you shouldn’t sit around waiting for love. You should get out there, enjoy life, forget about wanting to be in a relationship and eventually – when you least expect it – the love of your life will just manifest.
As someone who doesn’t believe good things “just show up” and instead good things come as a result of hard work and concerted effort, I always thought this was advice was silly. First of all, at what point will I “forget” about wanting to be in a relationship? Will I stop “enjoying life” when my love shows up? And because the love of my life has not shown up is it because I’m not enjoying life enough? Seriously, how does someone apply that vague advice? But I get the gist and the good spirit of it.
I don’t think women should chase men or spend their days moping around the house in sweats, memorizing their favorite chick-flick on DVD, eating ramen noodles and drinking vodka all the while lamenting to their friends about their inability to find a good man. You still have to live your life….even if the very people who advise you to live life don’t really mean it.
Here’s what happened….
Last night, I went to Best Buy to check prices on a stereo with an Ipod dock. Mine is broken and I need to get another one, so I thought I’d mentally prepare myself for how much this stereo will set me back financially and then decide if it’s even worth it. While at the Best Buy across town from my apartment, I realized I was across the street from Bar Louie. Bar Louie is a restaurant similar to Applebees. I love places like that and Bar Louie happens to have the best chicken quesadillas in town and Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals was on. I’ve become something of a post-season Rajon Rondo fan and I love the NBA playoffs. I don’t have cable in my apartment yet, so I decided to go to Bar Louie, sit at the bar, get some chicken quesadillas, a non-alcoholic drink and watch the game. Alone.
I didn’t really consider calling anyone to come join me because I was already close to the restaurant and my rumbling stomach didn’t feel like waiting – plus the game had already started. I get to the bar and luckily there is a single seat available front and center with the TV. I smiled at my good fortune as I squeezed in between one couple about my age and one older businessman and whipped out my Blackberry. I’m a Twitter addict. I tweet like I’ll need an alibi one day. So, I’m tweeting, enjoying my quesadillas and watching the Celtics’ Nate Robinson put on a show (while Rondo lay off court with an injured derriere) when the girl next me untangled herself from her boyfriend to ask “Are you here alone?” I nodded my head not wanting to take my eyes off the screen because I didn’t know why she asked that, but I figured the conversation was over. Alas, it wasn’t.
“Ohhhh miiiii gooooosh,” she gushed, “I could never eat out alone!” I smiled, “Most people couldn’t I guess.” “How do you do it??” She asked then repeated, “I could never do that. I feel like everyone would be staring.” I wanted to say no one cares that much to stare except her. Instead, I motioned to the guy sitting next to her and asked, “Is that your boyfriend?” She smiled and nodded. “You have a boyfriend,” I yelled over the music, “so you don’t have to eat out alone. Besides, look at all the men here sitting alone.” I motioned around the bar. There were about three or four men alone at the bar, drinking beer, engrossed in the game. “But they’re guys!” She objected. I turned back to the game but she continued, “Where’s your girl friends? You should have made one of them come with you! I feel so bad for you. I would feel like such an alcoholic if I sat at the bar drinking alone.” I was annoyed at this point. I turned back to her and put on a nice smile, “Don’t feel bad for me. I really like this restaurant; Ive been craving these quesadillas for weeks, my drink isn’t alcoholic and the game is on. I like the NBA and I’m rooting for the Celtics.” Her boyfriend sneaked a glance at me and smiled to himself. She said, “Well more power to you girl. I could never do it.” Then don’t, I wanted to say, but instead I turned back to the game and shook my head while facing the screen. Some people are so ridiculous, I thought. Her boyfriend was talking to the guy next to him about the NBA Finals so, much to my chagrin, she kept talking to me. (She must have assumed I didn’t want to be alone as much as she didn’t want me to be alone.)
At one point she said, “Not to be stereotypical, but have you seen the new 50 cent pictures?” I wanted to laugh at the “not to be stereotypical” because in my Express dress, Old Navy flip-flops, Coach purse and the fact that I was obviously footing my bill, nothing about me screamed “I listen to 50 Cent” except my skin color, but whatever. I had seen the pics on US Weekly’s website. She also talked to me about American Idol. I don’t have cable or an antennae (or any desire to watch that show), so I hadn’t seen it. She was nice, but I was relieved when they finally left.
Then I began to think….
Who made up the rule that women cannot eat out alone? I love to hang out with my girl friends, go on dates with guys and spend time with family but if I’m across the street from one of my favorite spots while a game is on, I’m not allowed to go enjoy the food, atmosphere and game by myself. Am I a child? Do I need a chaperone? Am I a celebrity? Do I need an entourage? As a woman, do I need a male escort?
It’s not just restaurants either. I’ve been at the mall shopping before and ran into someone I knew and they said, “You’re alone?” Yes. I wanted to go shopping, so I went to the mall. Is there some unwritten rule that women must accompany other women when going to the mall? I have my own money, my own car and I’m on my own time….but I can’t go anywhere by my own self???
I thought I’m supposed to be “enjoying life”. Oddly, it’s the women who are in relationships who can’t stand the idea that I would want to do something by myself – yet they say that I shouldn’t be focused on having a boyfriend. Here’s an idea: leave me alone cause your advice is unwanted and your hypocrisy is laughable.
It’s no secret that I would love to have a boyfriend — someone I can go to sports bars and watch the games with or go to the AMC and watch the newest romantic comedy with (#NoSATC2). I’d like to have someone I can go grocery shopping with or go to Barnes and Noble with or share a “buy one get one free” Chipotle burritos deal on Cinco De Mayo. I’d like to be in a relationship. But when I’m not, then what? I have friends, but my closest don’t live in my city. I have a roommate too now, but she’s always at work. My sister is all over the place. My dad is gone and my mom lives far away. So, many times, I’m solo. And I’m cool with that. When I do get a boyfriend again, I doubt we’ll be inseparable anyway and I’m still going to go places alone.
It’s not a big deal.
I’m secure in myself. I like doing my own thing. I work and volunteer all the time, so I don’t get that much free time anyway. When I do, I like to go places with people, but if no one is available (or I don’t feel like checking to see if anyone is available), then I go those places alone. Life is too short and the days pass quickly. I don’t want to look back at my life and say I missed so many things for want of a man to share them with.
Because that would be an even greater tragedy than never meeting that man.