The fine art of dining alone...
Dining alone isn't for everyone. You can feel self-conscious. If the other tables are filled with couples and groups talking and laughing, you might feel lonely. It can be especially hard on solo women over 50 used to dining with a spouse or partner. For some, the fear of having to dine alone even keeps them from traveling by themselves.
As a lifelong singleton, I experienced many of those emotions, but I had a choice. I could wait for someone to come along to dine with or I could conquer my fear. I chose the latter and It was liberating. Here are some tips to make dining alone more palatable.
1. Think small and local. Don't wait until you travel away from home to try it out. Start with breakfast or lunch. Choose an informal setting. You might even buy the fixings for a picnic and eat in the park. The idea is to get comfortable eating on your own in public.
2. If you don't want to stand out, sit at the bar and engage in some serious people-watching. From there once you are more comfortable, you can move up to a table for one in the window and expand your field of view.
3. Bring along a book or a magazine or your favorite tablet in case you are feeling anxious, and you need a distraction. It can even be a conversation starter with folks nearby.
4. Practice mindful eating. Eat slowly. Appreciate how the food tastes and how your meal is presented. Dining alone can be a sensory pleasure.
5. As you get more comfortable, work up to dinner out. When you make your reservation, note that you will be dining solo and request a good table. Some restaurants won’t take online reservations for one, or their website will give you terrible options for times. If that happens, call the restaurant, and speak to the manager. The issue is usually resolved quickly at that point.
6. After you are seated, consult with the sommelier, and order some wine. Relax. Ask your server for their opinion on the dishes that you're thinking of ordering. It's been my experience that staff make a special effort to check in on solo diners.
7. Embrace the moment. If you feel the eyes of other patrons on you, raise your glass to them and give them your warmest smile. You have no reason to feel awkward or anxious. In fact, your dinner for one might inspire someone who is not as daring as you are to give it a try.
We have lost so much time because of the pandemic. There is a pent-up demand to start living again. Don't hold yourself back because you are without a plus one or someone to dine out with. Taste the food. Drink the wine. Take in the scenery. Eat dessert. Linger over a cappuccino. Celebrate the fact that you have taken yourself out and enjoyed a meal on your own. Think about what worked and what you would do differently next time. As with life, learning to appreciate and embrace dining out solo is a work in progress. Bon Appetit!