When’s the last time you went on a date…with yourself?
I have a friend who’s just starting to get comfortable with the idea of eating out by himself.
You know, going to restaurants and sitting alone.
He avoided it for years, but now that he’s single, it’s just a fact of his new life. Sometimes there’s no one to go to lunch with.
Months ago, when the wounds of his failed relationship were still fresh, I suggested he try it.
“It’s wonderful,” I said. “Like a date with yourself.”
He cocked his head to the side and sat back in his chair.
“God no,” he said. “I’d look like an idiot. What do you even do when you’re out by yourself? Don’t you feel kinda pathetic?”
I go out to eat by myself a few times per week.
Breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner—each slice of the day has its own charm. Every one is a mini adventure.
Especially dinner. That’s the hardest one for most people.
Dinner is for dating. Dinner is for catching up with friends. Dinner is decidedly not for sitting by yourself like some pathetic fool whose date didn’t show up.
Maybe that’s why dinner is my favorite meal to eat out alone. Social expectations seem less flexible at night.
When I eat dinner alone, I leave my phone off and sit at the bar. Always.
I have a drink. I ask for recommendations. I talk with the bartender, the hostess, the people next to me. Maybe the kitchen staff through that little window.
I stare at my food and try to pick apart the flavors. I order dessert and daydream. I tip generously and leave.
It’s no big deal, really, sitting there letting things unfold. But we’re so used to filling time with people and distractions, that it seems weird.
Nobody wants to be alone. Especially in public.
But there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. One is a state of solitude. The other is fear that we’re not loved.
When you’re alone you have to cultivate self-love.
Maybe that’s why we rarely make time for it. It’s scary. Maybe we won’t like what we discover when we’re sitting there by ourselves.
Sometimes I don’t like what I find. Sometimes I have to try real hard to love myself. But not all the time.
Anyway, I saw my friend again a few days ago.
We were at a little Mexican cantina waiting in line to order tacos. He turned around and pointed toward some stools by the window.
“Last week,” he said, “I sat right there for an hour by myself.”
“How’d it go?” I asked.
He thought for a second.
“Well, I didn’t feel pathetic.”