I eat by myself a lot. I eat alone.
It's not a big deal - I live by myself, I'm used to my own company. There's a luxurious selfishness to deciding when you want to eat, what you want to eat, and how you want to eat.
I'm also very comfortable in going to a restaurant by myself. I travel a fair bit with work. I'm used to navigating places and experiences by myself. But even when I'm not travelling, I'm happy to go out to a restaurant for a meal by myself - sometimes it's a treat, or a new place that I'm wanting to try, but generally it's just because I can't be bothered cooking.
I can always make myself look busy if I'm in a restaurant by myself. I rarely go anywhere without my laptop. There's always messages to catch up on, things to write, or articles to read. If it's the kind of place where it would be weird to pull out a laptop, I resort to writing stuff in my notebook - ideas for stories, notes on things that I'm working on, or just stuff that makes absolutely no sense when I try and read it back later.
Asking for a "table for one" doesn't faze me.
I don't care what anyone thinks of me, not any more. I imagine I look a bit miserable - sitting by myself, tapping away on my laptop, frowning in concentration at the screen. I'm not miserable - I'm doing exactly what I want to do.
Walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one is a boss-level move for those of that are conscious of our main-character-syndrome. This is a moment that revolves around me - I've chosen the restaurant, I'm deciding what I want to eat, what I want to drink, and there's no pressure to share anything or taste anything or talk about anything. I get to decide if it's good or bad, whether I'll be back or if I'll swear to never darken the door again. It's peak luxurious selfishness.
But sometimes a dining experience needs to be shared.
Eating at a dim sum restaurant by yourself isn't much fun. This is food that is designed for family-style eating. As a single diner, you end up being squeezed onto a table with a group who don't want you there. You can't share the baskets of steamed deliciousness with anyone, so you just end up taking more than you need from the trolley ladies as they trundle past. No, dim sum is not a table-for-one experience.
Fancy degustation menus are also more fun if you get to share the experience with someone else. You need someone to oooh and aaah with. It's an over-the-top indulgence that feels a bit ludicrous if you're on your own. I have attempted it as a solo diner but ended up trying to be too chatty with the disinterested waiters.
My worst table-for-one disaster was at an Italian restaurant not far from my flat in London. I'd been at work in the City for the day and called into Rossopomodoro just off Hoxton Square to grab something to eat on my way home. It's a small restaurant, the tables are close together. I was fine, I had my laptop - I ordered a pizza. Just as my pizza arrived, two guys were seated at the table next to me. The tables were close - there was an inch separating my table from theirs - we were effectively at the same table. I recognised one of the guys - I think his name was Pierre. We'd been on one date about five years previously and it hadn't gone well. He didn't seem to recognise me so I got stuck into my pizza resolving to make my exit as speedy as possible. About halfway through my pizza - my mouth stuffed full - Pierre turned to me and said that he thought that he recognised me, and asked how we knew he each other. He suggested that maybe we had been in a book club together. I agreed with him - yes, definitely a book club. Satisfied with the answer, he returned his attention to the guy he was with. I didn't bother to finish my pizza.
I haven't been back to Rossopomodoro, but I still ask for a table for one. I still eat by myself. I eat alone.
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