Sunday, July 08, 2007

Table For One Please

Previously, I had planned on going to Tom Phats in Sydney Road to have a meal by myself. But it turned out that the Sydney Road Festival was on that day and the shops weren't open for normal business. So instead, I walked around for a couple of hours and had a great time.

I don't have a problem doing things such as going to festivals and wondering around by myself. This is because its very busy and no one notices that you are alone. However, I have this insanely irrational fear of eating alone at a "proper" restaurant. By proper, I just mean a restaurant where you sit down at a table, order and eat. I have no problems sitting in McDonalds or any other fast food or takeaway places and eating by myself. But at a proper restaurant, I feel that people will stare at me and think "what a loser for eating alone". I know this is a ridiculous fear, as when I see someone else eating alone and enjoying themselves, I'm so jealous that they have the confidence to just sit there and enjoy their meal and alone time.

So last Sunday, I took a ride down to Rathdowne Street to try eating a meal by myself. I'm starting with lunch as I still don't have the guts to do it at dinner yet. Dinner just seems even more serious for me so that will have to wait till another time. Anyway, I walked along Rathdowne Street looking for a place. The restaurants were surprisingly full, but eventually I saw Sinan's, which was about half full so I went inside.

When I asked for a table for one, the waitress said any table was fine. So I decided to plonk myself smack bang in the centre of the room on a table by myself. I was a little nervous, but when I saw people weren't really noticing, I relaxed a bit. I ordered a steak baguette and orange juice. I was really starting to relax now. When an Irish couple asked to see the chef, things got even more relaxed for me. The couple were about to leave when the chef finally came out of the kitchen. They couple then proceeded to express their anger at their eggs being very runny and taking 30 minutes when they were in a rush and expressly asked for a quick meal. This little discussion made me really relaxed as I thought everyone would be focused on that and not on me.

When the meal and drink arrived, I slowly ate my meal, just gazing around the restaurant and in my own thoughts (none of the thoughts were about my present situation and fear). The food itself was not that good, a bit oily, but this excursion wasn't too much about the food. After I finished my meal, instead of rushing off, I just sat around and enjoyed the music and slowly drank my drink. When it was approaching 3pm (I got there about 1:30pm), it was time to head off to Lygon for a drink. I had successfully eaten a whole meal by myself without breaking out into a cold sweat. I was really happy when I walked out of the restaurant and to my car.

I then headed to Lygon Street and Brunetti's for a coffee. A place like Brunetti's holds no fear for me because it's so busy and no one will notice you. Also, you don't really sit down for a proper meal in the drinks area. There are lots of bench seats and other people by themselves stopping for a coffee as well. I got myself a cappuccino and fruit tart and sat down and slowly ate them. Then I got out my book and read that for an hour.

All in all, it was a good day, with my confidence boosted by facing this fear. I'm going to try eating dinner one day one my own. I might have to choose some place less posh though, I don't think I can handle sitting at Vue de Monde by myself through a 3 hour meal. Also with food so great, I would want to talk to people about it while I ate.


  1. I always carry a book with me if I know I'm likely to be eating alone in a restaurant. Like you, I feel like people will judge me for being alone and if I don't have anyone to converse with, I tend to hurry through the meal and fail to savour it properly.

    Now eating with a baby (or two) in tow. That comes with its own set of issues...

  2. I agree - I hate eating at a proper restaurant on my own. I spent last week up in Canberra - the nights I didn't cook for myself I went to places that would give me take-out and took it back to my hotel room.

  3. Kat O+ and Anna, I'm glad some other people feel the same way. When I asked a few work mates, none of them said they mind eating alone. In fact, one of them said that thought has never even crossed his mind. I guess some people are just more secure than others.

    I know that when I see someone eating alone, I don't think they are a loser. In fact, I think they are so confident to be able to enjoy a meal alone and have time for themselves.

    I also carry a book Kat if I know I might have to eat alone. That way, you can be absorbed in the book (or pretend to be) and not focus on the people in the restaurant.

    I wonder what drives this ridiculous fear that eating alone means you are a loser and that others will judge you. I think most people won't even notice, but yet our own self consciousness makes us fear it so much.

  4. Glamourbeastie7/09/2007 8:33 PM

    A book is always a good talisman, the perfect security blanket for lone diners!
    The fear of eating alone stems from the same place which makes us fiddle with our mobiles if the train is late, that strange feeling of being at a loss of something to do or engage with. Be proud of your dining alone adventure! I've had really nice meals at Nihonbashi Zen and Chocolate Buddha alone. Once you get over the discomfort, it is a really lovely treat.

  5. I know what you mean. If I have to spend tons of $$ at a proper restaurant, I would also like to have great company to dine with me and we can take our own sweet time to enjoy the ambience.

    The only time I had to dine alone in a proper restaurant was in Tokyo. Bo pian (can't be helpd) - I was on transit to Edmonton.

  6. Glamourbeastie, a book is a security blanket indeed. I think I'm starting to become more confident with age and have overcome that fear a bit more. Enjoying time alone is a good thing too, it gives one a chance to think. I will try it again soon.

    Choo, dining with others is great because you do get to enjoy the company. And definitely at an expensive place, I would want to share the experience.

    I was going to write that the only other times people dine alone is when they have to, such as when they are away from home on work based assignments or holiday. But that is from necessity rather than choice.

  7. I really like eating alone, and did so a lot especially when travelling through Europe. I often had a book but it was mainly to ally boredom than anything else. I don't feel embarressed because I know that other people arn't really interested in me so they wouln't bother judging me. If they did, that would indicate a bit too much preoccupation in a stranger, which would be creepy but not upsetting on a personal level.

  8. Rebekah, I agree that a book would help reduce boredom. The bit I don't understand, and maybe you can explain it to me, what do you do in between the time when the food is served and when you are just waiting. There's no one to talk to and you can only look around. Time passes so slowly then doesn't it?

    You are totally right in that if others were that interested in you, it would be a bit strange. And even though I know that they are not judging me, it doesn't stop me having that irrational fear. I'm getting better and have been eating lunches by myself where I am totally relaxed and just enjoy myself. I just haven't been brave enough to do that for a dinner yet.

  9. Thanh!!!

    I'm so glad to hear you have overcome your fear of loneliness. Just as well too because surely a blogger dork such as yourself must spend plenty of time alone.

  10. Anonymous, you sure have a lot of time on your hands. Also, for someone who professes to dispise my blog, you've sure been reading a lot of it.

    I have gotten better and been less afraid of eating out alone. I'm not afraid to admit my fears and hopefully help myself overcome them.

    It's easy for you to throw insults, but I don't see you admitting who you are even. Not even a first name. You've been throwing all these insults and hiding behind this Anonymous facade. At least have the guts to identify yourself.


  11. He'll take off his mask if you take off yours!