Last weekend I met up with some other moms for drinks and food at a local restaurant. It was a lovely evening, and a lovely time. It was also a growth opportunity for me, which I didn’t really expect.
Our plan was to meet at 6:30pm. I decided to make a reservation, since there were going to be about 8 of us, and I didn’t want to waste my precious night out waiting for a table. But when I called I discovered that they don’t take reservations after 6pm. So I made the reservation for 6, and let everyone know that I would be there early. I managed to arrive at the restaurant at 6 on the dot, and was shown to a large, empty table. And then the anxiety set in.
Feeling anxious as I wait
I can comfortably eat out alone, but only in certain situations. Like, say, at a fast food restaurant or in a hotel for breakfast, with something to read while I eat. In those situations, I am not the only solo diner, not by a long shot. And I have something to keep me occupied, so that I don’t start feeling conspicuous. Taking my mind off my neuroses keeps them at bay.
But on this evening, I didn’t have any of my crutches. My current cell phone is not even remotely ‘smart’. It has, I discovered, exactly one game – Sudoku – but only the trial version that kicks you out after a minute or two, and locks you out entirely after 3 games. There was no reading material except for the menu. There were no other solo diners. And so, as much as my logical mind knows that no one around me gave me a second thought, I felt sort of uncomfortable.
I felt compelled to order a mojito, to prove that I was serious about eating there
I worried that the wait staff thought that I was delusional, imagining a bunch of friends that would never show up. I worried that other people were looking at me and thinking … I don’t even really know what they were thinking, but I certainly thought it was something, and not something good. I worried that maybe I had the wrong restaurant, or the wrong day, or the wrong time. I wished that I had some kind of time-passing device.
I decided, about 10 minutes in, that this was a good exercise. Sitting with my discomfort and stretching my limits is probably good for me. I got to have a long internal dialogue with myself about my various issues, and I even talked some sense. I don’t think I could have done that a few years ago. I still wouldn’t suggest waiting alone at a restaurant with no entertainment for 30 minutes, but it was not nearly as bad as I feared. In fact, by the time everyone arrived at 6:30 as they promised, I was lost in my thoughts and didn’t see them come in.
The ladies who were worth the wait
In the end, I had a great time. It was worth the wait, for sure. I saw some old friends again, made some new ones, and commiserated with a bunch of moms who are in the same boat as me. And maybe, just maybe, I stretched myself a little bit. That was good, too. Although I will admit that an iPhone to entertain myself with might be even better.
Are you a confident solo diner? Or, like me, do you find it sort of uncomfortable? Do you have any coping strategies, or tips for making solo dining more pleasant? Please share!