The other day, I had to utter the very words I grew up dreading.
Despite being single my entire life, few occasions have required me to muster these words and even though I’m accepting the fact that I’m still single, it nonetheless breaks my heart a little to have to say them out loud, some 23 years later.
Hostess: How many in your party?
Me: One. I need a table for one.
Sooooo dramatic, I know, but if anyone has ever been single like me (surely I can’t be the only one) you’ll resonate with the fact that stating that status does, indeed, feel a little depressing.
Walking through the restaurant, I feel like everyone is staring, wondering if they think the other member of my party is coming in later. Only after the hostess clears the other place at my table do I think people finally understand that I’m purposefully choosing to dine alone.
With no one to look at across from me at the table, I often fluster as to what to do with my roaming eyes. A lot of times, I have the urge to whip out my journal from my bag and dive headfirst into its pages, but even I know that it’s not proper to do at a fine dining establishment, despite having seen it done before.
Instead, I take a deep breath and sip my wine. Taking this opportunity, I look at the other diners around me, often catching their eye as they attempt to look anywhere but at me and my pitiful arrangement for one.
There’s two ways the rest of this dinner could go.
One, I could choose to succumb to the stigma that it’s sad for a girl to be dining alone. I could continue to torture myself by comparing the number in my party to the cute couple beside me, wondering if I’ll ever get to be that girl. I could let everyone’s eyes fuel me into thinking that they’re all silently judging me, even though they’re probably just curious as to why I’m alone and more concerned with the preparation of their steaks.
Or two, I could embrace the idea that a striking woman like myself is dining alone. I could evoke mystery and wonder in my fellow patron’s imaginations, smiling coyly like I have this secret that only my single self knows. I could make dining alone look good.
Hell, I know I make dining alone look good.
So why do I still care what other people think of me when I choose to sit at a table for two as a table for one?
I care because I let it.
I’ve grown up believing the messages around me telling me that dining alone is saved for sad spinsters. And I let those messages control how I felt and currently feel about dining alone.
I don’t know what it feels like to make dates with a lover and slurp oysters on Valentine’s Day. Save for the many one and done dates I had that did not go anywhere, I grew up comfortable in my single status.
That’s all I’ve ever really known, and this is an opportune time for me to stand up and announce that it is perfectly and socially acceptable to go out and sit a table for one. I have the advantage here because I’m choosing to redefine what it means for a woman to dine alone.
It’s not sad, it’s not for spinsters, and it’s not a situation that warrants condescending glances.
And while it’s not something I choose to do, but instead done out of circumstance, it’s something I can choose to embrace and celebrate.
Dining alone is liberating, it’s empowering, and it’s embracing your status and showing the world that you’re perfectly comfortable and at ease in your own company. The more I let those societal messages seep into my being, the more I let people tell me that dining alone is depressing, the more desire I have to fight like hell to get distance from that pressure and prove them all wrong.
I would love to someday tell the hostess that I’m looking for a table for two. I look forward to the evening I’ll get to be that girl I so often see out and about with her date, but I’m not going to let that future thought stop me from enjoying my company.
In the time being, I’ll sit primly at my white tablecloth and smile at the one lone rose at my table.
A reminder that I “rose” above the perceived awkwardness of dining alone. That I’ll enjoy my meal, regardless of the number of diners at my table.