I was reading an interview with the actor Bill Nighy when he remarked on what a solitary type of character he was, that he likes spending time by himself but how whenever he has lunch on his own he can only eat if he has something to read. It got me thinking about doing stuff on my own, going for lunch, going for a walk, going to the cinema, going shopping. If there’s one out of that list that some people tend to find a bit weird it’s eating alone. The easiest way in the world to get a sympathy vote is to walk into a restaurant, sit for 10 minutes on your own and look as though you’d nearly pay a waiter to stop by and chat until your now-paying-for- lunch companion arrives. And if you’re a girl, surrounding tables will be thinking you’ve been stood up before you put down the menu.
Recently, I was having lunch with a friend in a very busy restaurant. We’d been there for third-glass-of-wine ages and so we were both looking around a bit. A pretty girl walked by and sat at a table near us. She looked about 22. She sat facing the window and her table was in the middle of the floor. She declined a drink. Looked at the menu again and then put it back down on the table again. Then she decided she’d get a drink. She answered her phone but we didn’t think it was the call she was waiting for. She ordered food and left about 10 minutes after she finished eating. We [of course sounding like the nosiest so and so’s ever by now!] couldn’t figure out if she had arranged to meet someone or not. I’m going to say now that I can tell you so much about her movements because my friend was dying to know if she’d really been stood up.
Now, I am definitely of the opinion that it’s perfectly fine to dine alone. I’ve often decided to treat myself to a lazy Sunday lunch with the papers in a nearby cafe. I’ve often arranged to meet someone in a cafe whereby they were late as well though and so I was waiting on my own for a bit. But during either of these situations, I’d bring along something to read. Now, I like to have a good look around, see who else is doing what in the restaurant – be it the Mom trying to control her kids [why bother attempt it, they’re all brats], the couple that are having a slight disagreement while trying to not raise their voices, the old lady smiling and getting all the wait staff to do bits and pieces for her, thanking them profusely but really only wanting a bit of a chat or the guy in the corner that is trying not to look as though he’d gladly fall down the waitress’ top each time she places something on his table. After that, I’ll settle down to a bit of reading, coat on back of chair, phone close by after I check I haven’t missed a call or text, maybe write a quick something in my trusty notebook. My food will arrive and I’ll put down the book. I won’t eat with my face in my food. I’ll eat at my own pace, maybe pick up a wayward red onion from the edge of my salad, push the pointless lettuce away. I’ll have another look around as I chew, see if the fighting couple have left yet, make sure the kids aren’t coming any nearer. I might put my fork down and read a text just after it arrives. I’ll finish and once my plate is out of my way, I might reply to the text I got, have another look around, ask for another glass of wine [you knew that was coming!] and then resume my reading.
Maybe I’m one of those people that look awkward eating alone, maybe I give the impression I’ve been stood up so order twice the amount of food I would’ve let my potential lunch buddy see on my plate. Maybe I give the impression that I like eating on my own and am comfortable doing just that. Maybe I don’t care cos I’m just doing my own thing, try it! It’s great!