Take Yourself out to Dinner
If you feel weird about it, don’t.
Take yourself out to dinner one night this week. And maybe next week, too. Just yourself. No friends, no family, no phone. (OK, maybe your phone, but more to call a Lyft home after your martini, not to sit on Instagram, or whatever dumb shit we do all day.)
More than two years after lockdown, it feels odd to encourage spending more time alone. Haven’t we been spending enough time with ourselves already?, you may be asking. (The pandemic is still going on, btw.) Well, dear subscriber, I am here to tell you that, no, this is different.
We’ve been starting to go out more and more since the vaccine and the pandemic has loosened a bit. After a few dinners out, I realized there was something I missed; I pined to sit at a bar with a book or magazine, or grab a corner table and watch the world go by in silence. I would do this if I was traveling for work by myself, or if Brad was out of town because lord knows I’m not cooking for one. (There’s only so much microwaved leftover salmon a man can take.) It always felt like a bit of a treat – the chance to feel decadent and special, to get oysters for one, to say, you know what, it’s August in Atlanta but I will have that French onion soup that sounds delicious because who cares if you’re sweating through your shirt as you devour globs of cheese. In fact, make it (the soup) a double. I’m alone! Treat myself!
When I was younger, I read a piece from a woman who traveled for work. She mentioned to a friend that she was always uncomfortable eating alone. She felt, sitting at the table by herself in some “Sixth Sense” (spoiler alert?) way, that people were watching her. The friend’s advice was basically, fuck that, I eat by myself all the time when I travel for work. I get a seat where I face out to the crowd and watch them. It’s better than sitting in your hotel room and watching TV – here, the world is alive, and the show is all around us.
I thought of this the other night when, after an event, I decided to go out to dinner. I requested a corner table for one, where I could look out to the crowd and imagine their lives and their meals. I made friendly conversation with the waiter, getting recommendations and making decisions that normally would be negotiations. (I got fries for the table. The thrill of double-dipping!) There was a priest visiting from out of town discussing a bishop who never responded to his emails, leaving both him and me with more questions than answers. There was most certainly a first date that I was worried was going poorly, but then they ordered dessert, and then sherry, and I silently cheered. There was a hunky chunky I recognized from the gym, on what seemed like a familiar date with a woman, which, while disappointing, charmed me in a small town kind of way.
There was also a woman who came in after me, alone. She sat down, facing outward. She ordered an aperol spritz, and then a burger. She was tall, with long blond hair and a roomy black dress that fell to her calves. (Was it Este Haim?) She was dressed up for her night out as well.
She came in after me and left before me; we did not speak or interact. But, in a way, we were both at dinner with each other. She knows the secret: that in order to be the best dinner guest, sometimes you need to practice on your own. She deserved that moment. And so do you.