I Dined Alone And Didn’t Die From Awkwardness

The great thing about committing grand acts of “social suicide” such as dining alone or daring to attend a party solo is that they teach you things.

Feb 8, 2013 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

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So I went out to eat -- by myself! And since this earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting, life-transforming event, I’ve been doing things alone that I thought required company and am enjoying them immensely (this is not a euphemism). 

A few weeks back I wrote about the difficulty of making new friends in your twenties. This resulted in two phenomena. Firstly, I’ve made a few new friends. Wahay! I’d love to sound all mystic and say the universe sent them to me, but that would make it seem as if the events occurred fortuitously. Basically I learned meet-ups don’t happen if you don’t respond to text messages (in good time). 

Secondly, I’ve realized I’ll have to accept that everyone in my life has hugely different (and often conflicting) schedules. Consequently, sometimes I’ll have to do things alone. 

After another frustrating attempt at finding a “plus one” for a night out, I briefly considered going out alone. Before the idea could germinate, the voice in my head, which has a tendency to tell me the things I can’t do things, quipped up, “Christiana, you'll look stupid attending alone.” And as is our custom, the voice in my head and I began an exchange which would determine what I’d do next. 

There’s only so long you can argue with the bitchy and negative part of yourself, without someone deciding to surrender. And this time I refused to acquiesce to what I like to call “the voice of the oppressor.” Basically I was allowing obstacles that only existed in my mind to prevent me from doing the things that I wanted. (Sidebar: About these obstacles some of us too frequently allow to hold us back. They tend to only exist in our minds and possess as much power as we give them.)

The next day I decided I would go out to eat alone and pay my own bill. This made my womb hurt a bit because I enjoy other people paying for my dinner. And when I say other people I mean really handsome men who later turn out to be emotionally unavailable and a bit awful. 

I went out to eat and I didn’t die of awkwardness. It was lunchtime and I looked around and spotted other people eating by themselves. It turned out I wasn’t the sole participant in this supposed act of “social suicide.”  

The great thing about committing grand acts of “social suicide” such as dining alone or daring to attend a party solo is that they teach you things. They quickly reveal how well you get on with yourself. Being alone eradicates the need to pretend and perform for people. It becomes apparent whether the woman you think you are is a woman you created to please others. You become intimately familiar with the parts of yourself that you’d hitherto avoided. Which is a good thing, because the things we avoid about ourselves tend to teach us more than the things we like to showcase. 

It was during my dining alone moment that I also realized my refusal to pull my weight in my home due to my self-diagnosed “domestic dyslexia” was deeply selfish. Without the distraction of others at the table, I noticed things I ordinarily wouldn’t. Namely the amount of effort and careful attention it takes to pull together a meal.

I watched the chefs in the kitchen intently prepare meals for diners like myself who for the most part forget that they exist (unless of course, we have a complaint about the food). I’d eaten at some incredible restaurants, but when had I paid compliments to the chef? Not once. (Sidebar: I’m now making it a practice to say thank you to the chef.)

I used to say that I’d only be caught near a stove if that were where they decided to relocate the Louboutin sample sale. I now cook. Like actual food! I even baked cupcakes the other day for my sister’s birthday. They looked like failure but tasted like hope and effort. 

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Turns out doing things by yourself is really beneficial, because it’s within the nexus of awkwardness, uncertainty and vulnerability that you’re forced to grasp who you are and let go of who you are not. So dine, holiday, party, walk, run and explore alone if you can.

I promise you it’s a bit like forgetting to wear your bra on a really cold day. There is that mortifying moment when you realize that everyone can see your nipples. Then as the day proceeds you kind of just forget and get on with life.