As funny (or unfunny) as it may sound, eating a meal in a restaurant alone is a big fear to many people. There’s even a fancy phobia name for it: Solomangarephobia. From asking for a table for one to waiting for food solo, it’s terrifying for some. I can’t say I’m necessarily good at eating out solo — I have my good days and my meh days. But I’ve found several methods that definitely help make it a much more enjoyable — and not as terrifying — dining experience.
I grew in a family where we all had different life and eating schedules, so I often ate dinner alone watching Access Hollywood and doing homework. In my career as a journalist, I got used to most of my meals being on-the-go, from press events, or from concession stands (at sports games). All of that made me realize it’s not so bad to enjoy food alone. Of course, I enjoy chowing down with friends, too, but I’m not scared of eating alone anymore.
Stay Calm & Don’t Be Sad
You will be nervous at first. Heck, if I haven’t gone out alone in a while, I get nervous, too. But don’t be sad. And don’t be mad. Embrace your alone time and just stay calm and be confident when you ask for that “table for one.” You don’t need a cover story — you’re an adult and you can do what you frickin’ please.
Do Your Research About Seating
Communal tables can be the enemy for the solo eater. You might have to sit with strangers, who may talk to you even thought you don’t want to make conversation. Or, as I dealt with when I was reviewing a restaurant, I was seated at someone else’s birthday celebration. Um, what? Totally awkward. Definitely look into the seating situation beforehand so you know what’s up and if you’ll be facing stranger danger.
Bring Entertainment That Isn’t Your Phone
You could spend those awkward moments between ordering and when your food comes staring at your phone or playing Breaker. Or you could bring along a book and get some reading done. And if you’re fancy, bring your iPad or eReader. I highly recommend bringing a book, because not only is it a great way to kill time, but the cover starts so many conversations with people — you’ll forget you’re even alone. Plus, you won’t look like that loser on his/her phone — you’ll be the intellectual with an actual book.
Don’t Be Shy With The Servers
I don’t necessarily mean you should desperately chat up or full-on flirt your waiter or waitress, because they may not be in the mood — and desperation is a stinky cologne. But I recommended being nice and open to conversation with them. Let it come naturally. Ask for their recommendations. I’ve worked in customer-facing jobs before and I used to really appreciate it when customers were willing to bond a little, even if for a small moment.
Embracing People Watching
Much like the phenomenon of losing one scent can enhance all others, solo dining enhances your observational skills. You’ll overhear awkward first dates (and have the temptation to live-tweet them), weird brunches with coworkers (who don’t like each other), and father-daughter diners who actually might be a May-December couple. There will be double-daters and you can try to figure out who’s together and who isn’t. Just don’t stare too hard — this is another reason you need that book from above.
Images from Giphy