There may come a time when you are faced with the prospect of dining alone, and to many, this is akin to being asked to dine naked at the Ritz (remind me to make reservations at the Ritz, pronto). There can be many reasons for solo dining, but it shouldn't present the frightening specter most people visualize. In fact, there are many advantages in going to a restaurant by yourself, whether it's due to necessity or desire.
Why Dine Solo?
If you are traveling, for example, dining at a nice restaurant certainly beats bringing a sandwich back to your hotel room night after night. Especially since the staff started referring to you as the"Bologna King." There are too many options available for you to spend your evening closed-up in your hotel room watching television and dining with Ricky, Lucy and the Mertz's.
There is another reason to venture out armed only with a knife and fork. An insidious reason. A reason that has been gnawing and gnawing at you until you finally came to a realization: your friends are boring. Painfully, critically, stunningly boring. Lord, last time you all went out you almost nodded off into your bisque. Or maybe your friends are just too busy, or cheap, or always want to go to the same old place and if you have one more meal at Larry's House of Liver you're going to by physically sick. It's definitely time to seek out some new venues.
Perhaps surprisingly, the practice of dining alone can be beneficial to parents with children. I call it "Parent Night Out." One parent stays home with the kids while the other parent gets some much needed respite from the rigors of child rearing. It doesn't hurt to get some time off from your spouse either (Ok, that's the real reason, but lets stick with that "child rearing" story). The other parent is then free to go out for dinner and some "me" time. It takes a bit of trust, but a "Parent Night Out" can be a very meditative and positive experience.
The Dining Alone Specter
What are the reasons we find dining alone so distasteful? Simply put, it's because we feel as though everyone is gawking at us, as if they're whispering about how desperate we must be. The truth is everyone is too busy with their own meal to pay much attention to yours. In a study reported on psychologytoday.com, April 9th, 2008, people were shown photos of diners in various groupings. There was no increased negativity when the picture featured a solo diner rather than a group. So when you - the single diner - saunter into a restaurant, act as if you own it (this works better if you actually do own it.)
Overcoming the Obstacles
There are some proven methods for making it easier. One is to choose a restaurant located in a hotel. You married people might have to avoid this one. Hotels are used to solo diners and there will likely be others dining alone so you wont feel out of place.
Many people take a magazine or book with them. It's not rude to read at a restaurant(unless of course, you're with those boring friends of yours). Some people take notepads with them and write something or just doodle. If you play it right, the staff might think you're the reviewer and you'll get special treatment, not that I'm advocating any deception, you understand.
The most effective method for dealing with dining solo may well be choosing a
restaurant that offers dining at the bar. You can have a conversation with the bartender
or the person sitting next to you, or spend your time reading the collected works of
Dylan Thomas. Just remember that "shots of whiskey" does not constitute dessert.
It will get easier and easier for you, and you may be surprised what an enjoyable experience it can be. You may also discover that you often are given preferential treatment, whether by the staff "adopting" you, or by the manager comping you a drink or dessert to show how much the restaurant values your business.
There is no reason you should be hesitant to dine solo and really enjoy yourself. Nobody thinks you are a loser and nobody is gawking at you (except for that guy with the sunglasses in the corner.)
What's for dinner?