Table for One

11 Mar

table for one

Eating meals alone at restaurants.

Having spent four weeks of vacation traveling alone, I have solidified the notion that I don’t mind eating alone. I actually enjoy it, in moderation. I can take my time ordering, without feeling pressured. There’s no one to say, “Can I just try a tiny, tiny bit of that carbonara, cuz I ordered a cup of ice but, like, am just so curious about your pasta, for cultural reasons,” and then proceed to take an industrial shovel sized bite.

No one has to fight over the last piece of bread because, OH, LOOK, IT’S MINE.

You never have to feel peer pressured into ordering a salad for dinner, just because your dinner mates have decided to eat weeds imported from Portland.

You can think about your life and your love life and your future love life…or, you can choose to ignore your love life and watch as that couple next to you argues about whether or not his mother likes pine nuts.

You can also write all of your deepest thoughts in a journal (and then accidentally spill marinara sauce on it).

Again, I really don’t mind eating alone. However, I also can identify and describe all of the complex stages and occasional hiccups of lone eating.

First, there’s the table:

“A table for one, please.”

“One table? For how many people?”

“Um…just one.”

“Ok, so one table for one person. So, one person? One single person?”

“Yes, please. Just the one.”

“Great, please follow me!”

Next comes the waiter’s attempt to subtly remove the second place setting as you sit down at your table.

“Feel free to put your, um, backpack in that seat,” he says, as he fumbles with the opposing plate and forks and knives.

You put your backpack down and are tempted to tuck a napkin into its front pocket and to paint on a set of lips and eyes, just to mess with everyone.

Once seated, it’s time to think about ordering. Ok, sure, there’s no one to steal your food…but there’s also no one to force into getting the bolognese, so you can get the carbonara and have the best of both worlds.

It is important to ask the necessary portion size questions:

“Um, how big are your pizzas?”

“They’re sharing size, miss. Perfect for two people.”

“But, like, would a pizza for one be way too much?”

“We highly recommend starting by sharing the goat cheese salad, and then sharing the winter vegetable pizza.”

“Ok…do you want to share with me?”

Scenario: When I was in Vienna, I went to a café at 11am and ordered a coffee with whipped cream, as well as a traditional Viennese dessert called, “Kaiserchmarren,” which is like chopped up pancaked with plum sauce. It cost 9 euros, and there was an asterisk saying to “please allow an additional 20 minutes” for its preparation.

The bitch was gonna be big.

Before putting in my order, I noticed a family of four sharing this exact dessert, and acting like each bite required mental, emotional, and intellectual strength. I ordered anyway.

As I ordered, the waiter kind of glanced around to his fellow waiters, as if to say, “Should I warn this poor, young woman before she goes through with this?” I ignored him.

My Kaiserchmarren was delicious:

Kaisherchmarren

And there was only enough plum sauce for one person (because I chose to eat it all), so thank God I hadn’t decided to invite anyone on that journey.

Back to the stages of lone eating.

Once your order is in, it’s time to sit and watch as passerby send sympathetic glances and knowing smiles, as if to say, “Don’t worry, it will get better. You’ll find someone.”

No one ever looks in amazement like, “Woah, check out that bomb ass chick, traveling alone and shit. Good for her! You DOWN that goulash, girl!

Maybe I chose to be alone. Maybe I killed my travel buddy and shoved him in that backpack and am wanted in ten different countries. YOU DON’T KNOW.

When you’re tired of people’s looks, you may consider taking out that book and/or journal you brought along.

“Dear Journal,” you’ll begin. “Here I am in Italy, eating a fabulous pizza meal. What a DAY, Journal! I’m just so culturally immersed and like, tbh, I feel like I’m getting in touch with my”…and then the waiter brings your food. Deep thoughts will have to wait.

Yum, this is delicious! And the best part is, there’s no ordering remorse because there’s no one there with whom you can compare meals! The grass ain’t greener on the other side – IT’S ST. PATTY’S DAY GREEN ON YOUR SIDE, BITCHES.

Next, comes the great meal “high,” followed by all of its inspired ideas:

Amazing meal. Delicious. Feeling kind of drunk and just generally excited about life. You know what? I think I WILL write that novel. And you know what else? I’m going to start watching more PBS series. That seems like a good idea. And maybe I’ll finally put up that flyer about wanting to tutor kids in English. And also, I’m going to start washing my hair every other day, instead of every day. I hear that’s best for hair. But I am going to start shaving more. Because I think that leg hair is kind of like the groundhog – if you can see its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. 

Next comes the bathroom portion of the meal. All of that water (wine) means you’ll really have to go:

Oh shit. I have to pee. Really badly. But, what do I do with all my stuff? I can’t just get up, they’ll think I’m dining and dashing! Ok, I could leave my coat as a symbol of dining loyalty, but could take my purse because it has important things in it, like money and Hershey’s. Also, that dude next to me looks like he would steal a Hershey’s. I’ll do that thing where I sheepishly ask the waiter where the toilets are, even though I know exactly where they are because I’ve been watching every goddam passerby in this restaurant for the last hour. But at least this way he’ll know that I’m not dashing. 

Once back from the bathroom, you’ll have to make sure that nothing was stolen.

Oh good, the supplemental Hershey’s that I left in my backpack for emergencies are still there.

Then, you will sit and try to look mysterious and tortured while you wait for the garçon to bring the bill.

You’ll hope that people will see you and wonder, “Where does she come from? What tortured romance is she recovering from, now? How many offshore accounts does she have? What’s the name she gives to hotels to protect her identity? Where does she buy that enticing shade of red lipstick? How many motorcycles has she stolen today to chase down evil? Can she tie a cherry stem in her mouth? Can she tie a cherry stem with her hands? Does she even like cherries?”

You should try to keep them guessing. The list of things they should be wondering is extensive. Never reveal too much.

When the bill is paid, it will be time to swill around that last sip of wine and to gather your boyfriend…uh, I mean, backpack…and head out.

As you hoist that thing onto your back, you’ll pay special attention to your surroundings, to make sure you don’t knock over a glass or decapitate that gentleman next to you with one of the bag’s buckles.

On the way out, you’ll accidentally drop a Hershey’s, but will decide to leave it on the restaurant floor, as a way of saying, “I came. I ate. I conquered.”

Time to hop on your motorcycle and chase down your next solo meal.

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