People who know me will also know that I have done a lot of travelling, I have lived in the UK, Australia, and Canada, and within England alone I had the pleasure of calling five different cities home. I have also worked a multitude of different jobs, all within highly social industries. This means that I am fortunate enough to have friends all over the globe.
Despite the fact that I could pretty much go anywhere and I'd be guaranteed to know somebody, I really really like doing things by myself. I will go to the cinema; restaurants; and even travelling absolutely bare balled alone. It gives me time to think, time to write, and time to plan my next adventure (because you know there will be one).
I have always noticed, though, that there is particular stigma against people who are going it alone (particularly young people). Last night I went into a restaurant and asked for a table for dinner. The waitress looked at me and asked "is it just you?" in an all too questioning manner. I got the impression that what she wanted to say was, 'where is your husband? Boyfriend? Best friend? Mother…?' She soon noticed her instinctual tone, though, and she almost winced and smiled at me. I gave her a reassuring look. "Yes. It's just me."
A quick google search gives me 3.9 million hits on the term: "A Guide To Dining Alone". Because heaven forbid if we do it wrong… Some of my favourite advice I found was "Ask for the cheque before you finish eating, that way you do not have to sit alone for too long".
Why not just go to McDonalds if you're after fast food? That way, you don't even have to get out of the car, and nobody will actually know that those 24 McNuggets and 3 Cheeseburgers are all for you, YOU SAD CAT.
Back in the restaurant (which thankfully is far from my imagination) the waitress seated me, and the table next to me was occupied by a couple who looked to be in their early thirties, both dressed nicely as if they were on a date. Both of them were concentrating wistfully on their cell phones, and did not speak a word to each other. Years ago, this would have been considered the height of rudeness, but now I was the one being judged for dining solo?
Is being comfortable in your own company the new taboo?
And so what happens if, by my own choice or circumstance, I do not have a significant other in my life to dine with: am I supposed to sit at home and order a pizza while I watch 'He's Just Not That Into You' on repeat?
I mean, sure, there are times when I catch myself thinking, 'It would be great if there was someone here with me, because I'd really like to order a lobster dinner but I don't actually know how to eat it'. And it definitely would be handy to have someone in the passenger seat of the car to say: 'Rachel, you're on the wrong side of the road..' or, 'Honey! Eyes front and centre!', but this surely shouldn't define me as a person.
Yet, to these servers I am apparently the girl who dines alone. There is nothing else to me.
By the way, I have to share more advice from these 'Dining Alone Guides'. Obviously, one should always take work papers or a book with them, because it is just the worst thing in the world if you are to sit there without something to occupy your hands (It is not enough anymore to be occupied by your own thoughts and reflections on your day). Also, it is suggested that we do just order takeaway or have a sandwich in the park because then we can avoid the whole 'being alone' fiasco and we won't alarm other diners.
Maybe one day I will go out to a lobster dinner with someone who actually knows how to eat the beast (and I will rip it to shreds) , and perhaps I will take a trip with someone who gets endless pleasure out of the fact that I keep confusing the driver and passenger sides of the car…
Until then, I'm pretty happy. Not only do I have amazing friends, but I am also not riddled with the self doubt that stops me from going out alone. I don't have to share these memories if I don't want to: I can keep them all to myself.