Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Table for one

Are you afraid to dine in a restaurant alone?

I've never dreaded it, but I understand why the idea frightens so many people.

One year, I was single on Valentine's Day and decided to pamper myself by having dinner at my favorite restaurant -- alone. It didn't seem like a big deal. However, as I tried to enjoy my burrito, people kept coming over and offering uninvited words of consolation.

"Mr. Right is out there, I swear." "Don't worry, the day is almost over." "Keep smiling, honey."

So yes, I will still publicly eat alone on a random Tuesday -- even Saturday -- but never again on Valentine's Day.

Some people won't even go that far. Solo dining carries somewhat of a social stigma. I think one of my favorite California restaurants still promises a free meal for diners whose server asks the dreaded question: "Just one?"

Now, there's this article about a woman who dined with a giant cardboard cutout man in San Francisco. She even ordered him halibut.

Some say it was simply an art project. Others say it was a genuine exercise in loneliness.

Either way, the story has raised questions about our attachment to inanimate objects, from cyber girlfriends to cardboard cutouts of deployed soldiers.

As much as people say our relationships have become more impersonal, I think we've also grown to demand more attention -- or at least have the illusion there is someone out there willing to listen to every one of our incessant mumblings.

The Internet makes it easy to operate under that illusion. When you log off, however, satiating your "listen to me!" urge gets a little more difficult.

The dynamic makes for good dinner conversation.

Even if you're dining alone.