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!