Admittedly, I am claustrophobic. I’ll take a well-lit staircase over an elevator any time. Some of my friends don’t understand my fears, but then I don’t necessarily understand theirs. I’m not afraid of flying (Aviatophobia) nor anxious about heights (Acrophobia). Yet so many of us regardless of age or gender share a phobia that is rarely mentioned because it’s so easily avoided: Solomangarephobia, the fear of dining out alone.
How many of us would rather buy fast food, take out or eat in our car just so we don’t have to sit alone in a nice restaurant at a table designed for four, or two, even, and draw those pitying stares of others?
Not me. There is something fulfilling about eating alone in a fine establishment. Those meals can be more memorable than ones shared with friends in four-star restaurants. When we eat alone we savor every bite, every sip, because no conversation detracts us from the pure enjoyment of eating the meal.
A couple of nights ago, Jon and I were having dinner in a somewhat formal local restaurant where conversations could be heard emanating from every table. Except one. There, a lone elderly man dressed in a slightly wrinkled plaid sports jacket, an open collar shirt and khaki trousers was eating a full course meal and drinking a class of pinot noir. On his table sat an opened small paperback book at which he occasionally looked. He ate slowly and deliberately, apparently relishing every morsel.
The key is to take our time dining, like he did. Enjoy a glass of wine, an appetizer and an entrée. Bring something to read; a book, an e-reader, a tablet, or a magazine. Any of these items – rather than our phone – show that we have not been stood up but have deliberately chosen to eat alone.
In my experience when I’ve dined alone, the wait staff is always attentive. Usually, without even asking, the host will seat me at a table near a window or facing the dining room so I have lots to see. One even gave me a beautiful photography book to peruse.
Many of us spend a lot of time by ourselves because we live alone or travel for work. We might expect restaurants to be filled with solo diners, but, unless they have counters, they usually are not. For me, I can’t wait for my next dining alone experience.
Just so long as I don’t have to take an elevator to the restaurant.