Some women still feel a bit awkward dining alone. Please reconsider. Taking yourself out for a meal (and letting someone else do the dishes!) is a wonderful treat, and not one that you should avoid over superficial concerns. Listed below are a few tips to help you feel at ease as you dine alone:
- Bring reading material. Begin by bringing reading materials or anything else that keeps you occupied. I remember planning a trip for myself and my son while dining solo-my map of Oregon now has a Lake Marinara that rivals Crater Lake in its intensity of color. It won't be long until you segue from feeling that you need reading materials on hand, but they are a great prop to get you started.
- Try not to be self-conscious. If you do end up snorting red wine up your nose and spewing it all over the white linen tablecloth, I promise you that you will laugh about this incident five years from now. Okay, maybe ten. But seriously, people are really not all that interested in you-they are caught up in their own lives. In fact, one of the real pleasures of dining alone is the opportunity to (discreetly) observe others. You'll see everybody from teenagers on their very first date to the married couples who wish they were solo. Now if you're Pamela Anderson in a tank top and you plan to tapdance for your meal, you will be noticed, but I'm guessing that you, like everyone else, are simply out for a nice meal, and know your p's and q's well enough to get along in the civilized world. (And if not, may I suggest karaoke?)
- Enjoy your waiter. Odds are that your waiter will be thrilled to have that small table in the corner filled by someone who doesn't mind being there. Whether your waitress is male or female, engage him or her. A solo diner is a refreshing change of pace for your waiter and I guarantee that you will be preferred to the drunken party of twelve that wants separate checks.
- Know the rules. Do keep in mind that in other cultures, the rules on dining alone can be different-in some places, if you're a woman alone at a restaurant, that's a pretty good sign that you're looking for business. While I wouldn't allow someone else's projections to get in the way of your own fun, it can be helpful to be aware of them so that you'll have that backhand ready should you need it.
- Choose your time wisely. If you choose to dine alone at a time that is frenetically busy, getting a table will be more difficult. Odds are that you may be asked to sit at the bar so that the table for two can hold two paying customers. Yes, you deserve service like anyone else, and yes, the restaurant wants to maximize customers served, so in this circumstance, your priorities conflict. You can expect to get the table for two if you were there first, but you can also avoid this type of friction altogether by having a reservation or choosing to arrive at some time other than 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
- Tip well. Good tipping will make you feel comfortable spending as long as you like at the table, and you'll be doing solo diners across the globe a favor as well.
Last time I dined alone, I noticed a girl of about eight years old observing me from the table adjacent to mine. Throughout the meal, she kept giving me sideways glances. Whether she hadn't seen a woman dining alone before or whether my shrimp scampi looked better than her chicken fingers, I'll never know, but I enjoyed feeling like a good role model. There I was-an adult woman, alone, content, enjoying a meal out by myself-including dessert!-with someone else doing the dishes. It just doesn't get much better than that, girls!