This has happened to me on multiple occasions and I’ve never fully understood why. As a preface, I lack any sort of culinary skill unless it involves smothering something in pesto, and will frequently crave Vietnamese/Thai/Indian/anything my meatloaf makin’ mother could never teach me to prepare. I also don’t have a large network of dining companions in this lil town, as I am no longer a student, I work out of a home office with my only coworker (read: boss) sitting two feet away, and am generally too out of sorts at bars to make friendships that last longer than a trip to the ladies’ room.
Which leads me to last Monday night, when I decided to treat myself and walk downtown to a sushi restaurant I’d seen in passing. My newfound appreciation for raw fish wrapped in questionable items has been both a blessing and a curse, and when that dragon roll seductress calls, I am helpless to deny her. I’m waiting patiently at the door to be seated when a chipper hostess skips over to assist me. Her eyes flit past the doorway, register that I am in fact alone, and suddenly her once perky expression is clouded with concern.
“So, do you want to sit at, like… the bar?”
Now, I have no problem sitting at the bar—keeps me close to my booze & food, which is A-OK in my book. But it was the way she led me to a single chair toward the back of the room that irked me. Like she was embarrassed for me that my only company for the evening was Victor the sous chef. Like I was some sort of pariah for asking to sit among the only two other couples in the restaurant.
From a monetary perspective I can understand her disappointment. One customer is probably less likely to order or tip as lavishly as a larger party. But A. Most waiters strongly underestimate my appetite, and B. I’m actually more likely to tip incorrectly AKA more generously without the pressure of trying to divide the tab between X number of friends. I dare say my bottomless stomach and poor mental math abilities make me just as valuable as any other group of patrons. Why should it matter if I’m eating by myself? It certainly spares her the effort of describing the obscure specials no one is ever interested in hearing.
I have no qualms about doing things solo. I’m fantastic company. I think a lot of people don’t like to be alone because they automatically associate it with loneliness, but that’s not necessarily the case. Certain activities are so much better when your only responsibility is Número Uno. Shopping becomes an opportunity to actually go to the stores you like rather than wandering aimlessly repeating where do you wanna go iunno where do you wanna go. Seeing a movie at the theater is suddenly cheap and much less embarrassing if you happen to suffer from mild narcolepsy. And let’s face it—there are few things in life more satisfying than solitary struttin’ down the street with a double scoop waffle cone and knowing you are the sole reason five more people are about to go buy some ice cream. Asking for a single table at a restaurant isn’t as if I’m asking to rent a tandem bike or purchasing a couple’s massage so my aura can have some extra breathing room. It also doesn’t mean I’m incapable of snagging a dinner date or engaging in semi-polite conversation with another human being. It simply means I am hungry and would like a setting more atmospheric than my kitchen counter.
Sure, there are some activities I prefer to have company for. Foreplay, for example, is a whole lot sexier with another body present. My grandmother’s house is infinitely less insufferable with my mother there as a distraction. It’s OK to want another person by your side to make these things more pleasant. But loneliness doesn’t always come from being physically by yourself. There have been times when I’ve felt incredibly lonely even while surrounded by wonderful friends and family. I have felt unloved and empty even as someone is looking me in the eye and telling me how much they care. I have been at parties and stood paralyzed because somehow everyone else managed to find makeshift besties within two seconds upon entering. It’s an awful feeling, this loneliness thing, but when it comes I try to remind myself my life is full and often beautiful, and that this icky, no good, simultaneously irrational & justifiable moment will pass, just like it always has. I remind myself that if I’m content in my own thoughts and comfortable with both my inner silences and chaos, the external things don’t make much of a difference. It’s not always easy—in fact it’s often freaking impossible—but liking yourself is one of the best ways to stop feeling so isolated. You can either wait for someone to extend you an invitation to their party, or you can start embracing the one that’s already goin’ on in your own kooky head. And trust me, the latter has a lot more perks than the occasional brilliant/exotically accented internal monologue.
I’m not saying you should ditch all your social contacts and adopt an anti-social nomadic lifestyle. I’m just encouraging you to do things you love doing—even if it’s stuffing yourself with tempura in the back of an empty sushi bar—regardless of whether or not someone else joins you for the ride. You’re stuck with yourself for a pretty long time. Might as well enjoy the company.