At 4:30, I preheated the oven and started mixing meatballs. Dinner was ready by the time Ed came home from work, but I only set 3 places at the table. I was going out to have dinner and margaritas! As I was about to leave, I recieved a text message–dinner was postponed until another night. My friend’s daughter was sick.
So now what? Ed and the girls were headed to the park. I could have had meatballs for dinner, but I was all ready to go out. I called my neighbor just in case she could go out at the last minute. Unfortunately, since she has two little ones, last minute was not on the agenda.
“Go out to eat anyway!” she advised me. “Bring a book and enjoy some alone time!”
I lived by myself for ten years after I graduated from college, and I hardly ever ate by myself at a restaurant. I was too self-conscious to sit by myself. I wondered what people would think about me. Would they think I didn’t have any friends? Would they feel sorry for me? Stare at me? Ugh, it was just better to have take-out.
Slowly but surely, I’m getting to a point in my life where I don’t care (mostly) what people (especially strangers) think about me. I’m still self-conscious. Yesterday, I spent the whole day at home painting my bathroom ceiling and doing laundry. I went to pick up the girls from school and realized I forgot to put on make-up. (Dark under-eye circles! Flippy hair!) As I stood at the playground with other moms, I missed my mascara…but tried not to worry about it.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of going out to eat alone. I didn’t want meatballs, and I didn’t want to just bring something home and eat in my messy kitchen. I was supposed to be out enjoying myself, not cleaning up the kitchen just like I do every night.
Off I went to Panera, to eat by myself. As I drove myself there, I thought maybe I could find a secluded little booth where no one could see that I was by myself. Then I could really have some alone time. I had never been to this Panera before, though, and a secluded booth was not an option. I chose a little round table with good lighting, got myself situated, and opened my book.
Instead of the self-conscious feelings I thought I would have, I felt comfortable. More comfortable than I ever thought I would. “Look at me! I’m eating by myself because I CAN!” I exclaimed enthusiastically to myself. The reading material I had brought was perfect, too. I’m in the middle of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I was reading a chapter where Rubin forced herself to step outside of her routine and here I was, doing something outside of MY routine. I ate my dinner leisurely, read my book, and relaxed. A group of people sat next to me, ate, and left while I was still reading. No one was staring at me (I didn’t catch anyone staring), no one thought that I was friendless (maybe they did, but did I care? No!) and wonder of all wonders, I was enjoying myself.
As I drove away, I looked forward to putting the girls to bed, a task I’m ashamed to say I don’t always enjoy. That’s one of the perks of going out; when I come home the girls are already sleeping. Tonight’s hour away was too short to avoid putting the girls to bed and just relaxing enough that reading another Babymouse book to Emmy wasn’t as tiring as it could have been.
Do you enjoy eating out by yourself? Am I the only one who feels totally self-conscious?