The first time I ever ate out alone was completely by choice. I was in my mid-20s, travelling by myself to Miami for a church conference that I randomly decided to go to. I had some time before my flight and felt like treating myself (looking back I really don’t know how I did it financially). I saw a restaurant in the airport called Cafe Kalik. I confidently requested a table for one, sat down with my Joel Osteen book and ordered (I no long read or care for Joel Osteen). I remember eating a fettuccine with a bottle of Kalik beer. It was delicious and an excellent start to my trip! Since then, I’ve had breakfast alone in London, and solo lunch dates in Miami, North Carolina and others.
Although I love a day in my own company, I’ve never been confident enough to eat dinner by myself. I don’t want to work on this as I really enjoy cooking my own dinners. I know some of you reading this may be thinking, “What does it say of me if I had no one to enjoy a meal with?” Don’t feel bad I used to think the same thing. In fact when travelling, I often buy groceries a) to save money and b) to avoid looking for a spot to eat. But on my recent Toronto trip, even though I bought more groceries than I ended up consuming, I made time for myself to enjoy the city’s cuisine. From a poke bowl from Lahuna Poke at Union Station to a beautiful Indian lunch at Aroma Fine Indian cuisine, I wanted to taste the diversity of the city!
It seems that I’m not alone in being comfortable with my own company. Recent research suggests that millennials are driving a trend in eating out alone and are more comfortable than any other generation doing so. For women this step is particularly significant — research suggests that women feel that they have less of a claim to public space and are judged more significantly than their male counterparts for doing such activities alone. Feeling empowered to eat out without a dining companion overturns the age-old stereotypes suggesting that women’s significance comes from being part of a family unit that still subconsciously pervades modern thought. Although ordering the cheeseboard for one might seem like a simple act, it in fact flies in the face of centuries of social conditioning that orders you to do otherwise.
Of course, the specific circumstances of why we are eating out alone are likely much more complex. We are also endemically lonely. We are more likely to travel alone than previous generations and don’t want to compromise on the quality of our experience when doing so. The rise of smartphones means that you can sit across from an empty chair and still feel connected to hundreds of people. The next time that you’re dying to tuck in to a delicious dish, consider booking a table for one. In a world where self-care is a way of life, you might find that there is nothing more indulgent than taking yourself out for dinner. You deserve it.