Solo travel: eating alone #2 – the struggle is real!

Last year I wrote a post about how I learned to eat alone. Many solo travelers (especially women for some reason) have trouble doing this and so I decided to stimulate them to get out there and do it anyway.

For me it has been a learning curve. Some days were better than others. Some people are better than others. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about today. 

 

It was last year that a lady from across the restaurant floor gave me the courage to keep eating alone. It was today that a group of nitwits almost made me give up.

 

This afternoon I walked into a beautiful restaurant garden, looking for a bite to eat. I sat down at the last available table they had. If you think asking for a table for one is challenging, try walking into a crowded place with all eyes on you. Why? Because you are alone.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? I’d like to think so.

Next to me sat a group of 5 individuals, two girls, three guys. They were about my age. As soon as I sat down, all eyes were on me. They looked at me, then at each other. They were laughing. One guy laughed and rubbed his eyes as if he was crying.

I could see where this was going, but because we didn’t speak the same language (and because of the fact I was all by myself), I decided to ignore them.

I don’t have to tell you, it didn’t help.

By the time the waitress came the laughing turned into pointing. My mind began to race. Was there something on my clothes? My face? Did I forget to put on trousers this morning?

I think I even apologized to the waitress for being not clear on my order. You can understand that I was a little distracted.

I think now is the time to tell you I usually have trouble standing up for myself. I don’t like to do it as I often feel like I’m overreacting or worse, being downright rude to people. I don’t like the feeling of people not liking me. I know it’s ridiculous but I’m working on it. This time, however, they were in for a treat.

My huge hamburger arrived. Laughter.

Is she really going to eat alone? That poor woman! I think she has no friends…

Is what they seemed to think, as they kept gossiping about me. I couldn’t understand all of it, as we speak another language, but by now it was clear they were talking about me. And not in the best way.

A phrase from a Marilyn Manson song came to mind and it struck me that he and his music had never done anything for me until today. I didn’t know what to do so I did the first thing that entered my mind. I took an enormous bite of my burger without losing eye contact with them, chewed a few times and then I stuck out my tongue.

 

I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers.

          – Marilyn Manson

 

There was grinded meat on there, and bread. A lot of it. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t charming at all. But as a brave dame you can’t always be charming – especially not in a situation like this.

The girls were offended. The guys speechless. Gone was their macho attitude. Gone was their chance to hook up with these ladies. Soon they asked for the check and left.

Still glowing from the anxiety I finished my meal. I don’t know if it was the burger that tasted so sweet or my newest moment of victory. But that wasn’t all…

When the waitress came I decided to celebrate with a frozen cappuccino. Double the cream! When she brought it she stood in front of me and said: “I saw what you did there.” Shame, utter shame is what I felt. A moment ago I was feeling victorious, now I just felt childish. I could’ve just left, I thought to myself. I could have been the bigger person and instead I stuck out my tongue like a 3 year old.

Then she did something I never expected.

She tore up the check in front of my eyes.

“You deserve to eat for free.” she said. My jaw dropped. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if I had to feel good or bad about what just happened. All I could do what say thank you. I whispered it, as if it was impossible to speak up ever again. She smiled. I smiled back. And then she walked me off the premises.

 

It’s moments like these that can make or break your solo eating experience. I hope none of you ever have to deal with it, but when you do please remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal to have a bite by yourself. No one should ever give you crap for traveling or eating alone, no matter where they come from or who they are with. And remember that super big cliché: if I can do it, so can you!

 

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Clare
    July 20, 2015 at 12:11

    Rose, you are a hero. That is awesome! And I’m so glad the waitress acknowledged it like that!
    I had a similar experience here in Prague a few years ago, and sadly I didn’t come up with such a brave reaction.
    I had a bunch of English guys and girls in their early 20s, loud and drunk, staring and giggling and even putting notes on my table, as I ate my breakfast alone at a cafe. I ignored them, but I felt so uncomfortable.
    The worst part, I thought, was that the girls in the group not only joined in making fun of me, but they were actually taking the notes the guys had written and obligingly running over to put them on my table. I found that really sad, as I always hope we women will look out for each other when travelling.
    I put the notes, unread, back on their table as I left, giving each person a disgusted look as I did so. But I couldn’t think of anything else to do. When I got outside I realised I was shaking and I felt so stupid.
    I now completely avoid anywhere that British tourists might go, but of course, I have eaten on my own LOTS of times since without a problem!
    If it happened again I don’t know if I would have the guts to do what you did. Bravo!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      July 20, 2015 at 12:52

      Aww! Thanks so much for your incredibly sweet comment! And oh my… That’s truly a terrible experience! To be honest, I think you handled it well. Drunk people are not the people to reason or argue with. But I can relate to how you were feeling. When people bully you like that – because that’s what it is – I usually would bow my head down, feeling incredibly stupid and insecure. You didn’t. I don’t know what came over me yesterday, but I’m glad that it did.

      Funny enough, I thought about you a lot yesterday. I remember thinking: what would Clare do? Because, I think it takes a lot of guts to eat somewhere by yourself and write a review about it afterwards, knowing that they will probably remember your face forever. And you’re right, those girls should’ve known better. I’m not much of a ‘girlpower’ kind of person but when it comes to understanding each other, knowing that we have the same issues, they could’ve handled it with a little more respect.

  • Reply
    Kat
    December 27, 2015 at 06:36

    I love this story! If this had happened to me I don’t think I’d be able to do what you did – but I wish I could! Eating alone is something I still haven’t quite got used to. It’s strange because I’ve never really felt that awkward about doing anything else on my own, but something about the way people react to a person dining alone can make it a really uncomfortable experience.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      January 4, 2016 at 22:23

      Thanks for stopping by, Kat! I know how you feel. I’ve dealt with those awkward feelings too, but I promise you it’ll be great once you just try (and keep trying). Out of all those experiences, this was the only time I had a problem eating out by myself. Let me know how it works out for you! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lauren
    February 23, 2016 at 14:35

    I LOVE THIS!! Sorry I’m totally stalking all your social media and blog posts right now. I’m trying to find inspiration for my upcoming solo travels in Asia 🙂

  • Reply
    The Brave Dame
    March 6, 2016 at 18:00

    Haha, thank you Lauren! Don’t take this experience with you though, it doesn’t represent eating by yourself at all. I’m sure you will have a wonderful time being by yourself in Asia 🙂

  • Reply
    Rose
    March 28, 2016 at 16:43

    Love it! Well done you. And I’m so glad you had someone on your side at the end: it’s all to easy to forget how full of wonderful people this world is when faced with the idiots like you encountered so I’m glad the waitress was able to even the scale by offering up such a warm gesture. Thanks for sharing your amazing story 🙂 x

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