Thursday, November 5, 2009

The (Non) Joys of Dining Alone

My fellow Prunes,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman dining alone will always be given the worst table in the restaurant. I've had plenty of experience of eating out alone since I came here - partly the novelty of simply being able to walk out for food, after being a 20 minute drive from the nearest takeaway before, partly because I've been so busy sorting the house out that I couldn't lift a saucepan.

It's my own fault for choosing a holiday town. Everywhere there are noisy family groups or hand-holding couples. I can just about cope with it when I walk my mad old dog along the prom. We make an interesting little group of our own and people talk to us. I don't think I'll walk along the seashore on my own very often, though. You get fed up looking either brave or enigmatic. Sometimes you just want to look normal.

Dinner last night though was the first time I was offered the classic worst table in the room. I was proud of myself for saying "hey, what about something a bit more in the body of the kirk?" but it didn't make any difference. "I can't put a single diner at a table for four", he said, and I could sort of see his point. But I had been looking forward all day to going out and being amongst people and instead I found myself perched at a little table next to the proverbial kitchen door, with an unsmiling couple on the other side. Luckily I had brought plenty to read with me and I set about looking interesting and enigmatic. J.K. Rowling has done a great service to lone diners. Get out a notebook and begin writing and you can be sure people will notice. And suddenly you turn from a figure of pity to, at least, a figure of curiosity. You look, suddenly, more interesting than they do. I've even had people ask me if I'm writing a novel.

But still, I am fed up being the odd one out. I WANT TO BE NORMAL! I had a friend staying with me for a few nights last week and it was great to gossip over a coffee and a cake in places where I had days before been the sad lone woman. Of course, I'm back to that now. The question I want to ask is "where are all the single people?" I know there are millions of us out there. I can only assume that they are sitting at home alone in the dark. Come on, guys and girls, get out there. If I see you sitting in a restaurant I'll give you a sisterly smile of encouragement.


Kate (Dorid) said...

:) When I was first divorced (oh, decades ago) Each weekend I went on "date night" alone. The idea was to do something I'd normally do in a couple on my own. At first it felt terribly uncomfortable. Then as time went by, it began to feel so natural.

Coffeecup said...

I suspect the single people are just not dining out. They are out there for sure, though you're more likely to bump into them looking interesting and enigmatic on the beach front than by the kitchen door of the restaurant. Maybe if you make a place a favourite and become a regular they'll upgrade you to a more sociable area. Start making notes about the service, and maybe they'll think you're a food critic instead of a novelist! Watch them fall over themselves to please you.

I have to empathise. I'm definitely one of those many single people no way brave enough to dine out alone. Good for you Puddock. You're an inspiration.

Widow in the Middle said...

Bravo for your courage in dining out alone. I have not had to face much of that. I have had however, some difficulty in seeing intact families out and about, especially those that involve a mom, dad and two sons. In the early days, I couldn't even look at those families because I would be so overcome with emotion.

Puddock said...

Thanks, girls, for all the helpful comments. It is getting better (sort of) each time. I realise how protected I was from the reality of being not part of a couple any more, when I still lived up north. I lived in the country and never ate out, except coffee in places like Starbucks, and sitting in those places on your own is pretty cool. It's a lot easier to look mysterious and interesting there than it is in a grannies tea-room or an ice cream parlour.

Now, living in the town, I am surrounded, it seems, by families and couples and it hurts. I didn't expect this from the move - thought it was all going to be onward and upward.

bear said...

Oh, dear. That's a waiter who needs to be introduced to Bella DePaulo -