Before I went to Romania by myself, I was quite nervous about eating alone. I’ve heard that especially women have this fear of showing up at a restaurant, asking for a table for one and having to endure the pity looks from waiters and other guests. During my travels I had to do it, fear or no fear. It turned out to be surprisingly nice!
The first few times I ate out by myself were memorable ones. The first time I went to La Mama, close to the athenaeum in Bucharest. It’s a nice place with a terrace that serves Romanian food. I went in and got a tiny table in the middle of the terrace. I could see the room change, they all looked at me. I ignored it, studied the menu and ordered a meal with a big glass of wine. Then I took out my book and started reading.
After 20 minutes I could still see people looking at me. I scanned the room, everyone was nicely dressed, enjoying each other’s company. A few girls on the table next to me couldn’t stop staring. I’ve had my first glass of wine so I felt confident enough to stare back. They stopped.
A few days later the same happened. I was at a great Italian place (trattoria buongiorno). I was sitting on a massive terrace, flowers and white tables everywhere, when a girl across the room started staring at me. She was wearing this amazing dress, one I would only wear to very special occasions. In Bucharest the girls wear dresses like this a lot, doesn’t really matter if it’s just for dinner. By now I was already used to getting some stares so I looked her in the eyes. Then something happened I didn’t expect: she smiled. It was a lovely smile, one that says ‘you go girl!’, but of course I wasn’t sure she meant it like that.
After my meal I went to use the restroom. When I came out, she was suddenly there. Our eyes met through the mirror and she smiled again. I smiled back and we washed our hands in silence. Then she turned to me and said: ‘I think it’s really brave what you’re doing here.’ I was so surprised that I couldn’t do anything but give her a weird grin. She smiled and left.
By the time I got myself together, or at least enough to leave the restroom, she was gone. I went back to my seat, put away my book and ordered a big glass of wine. When the waiter showed up with my glass I looked around, just to see if someone was paying attention. They weren’t, so I raised my glass just a tiny bit. I saluted the table where she once sat and smiled. I ended up staying another hour, watching the night fall over Bucharest.
After this day I’ve been eating everywhere without thinking about it, and now I can say I actually enjoy it. I know meals are meant to share with each other, but overcoming this irrational fear was one of the nicest things I did for myself. I encourage you to do the same.