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“Table for One, Please.”

 

Fiachra Ó Coileáin explores the importance of doing things alone….

Something I’ve never truly understood is the stigma placed on people who are comfortable doing “social” activities alone. For whatever reason, purchase it is assumed that they’re to be pitied; that they are alone because they have no other choice. When you walk into a restaurant by yourself, the default presumption is that you’re waiting for someone else?—?not that your entire party has arrived. Then, you have to do the whole “party of one” song and dance for your host as well as the silent admission that there is no one else to wait for. No matter what the circumstance, no matter what the surrounding, one is predominantly thought of as the loneliest number?—?even if the one flying solo believes otherwise.

I like to eat out, and I like to do it alone. I usually have a book with me, or I bring some work along, and when the meal is over, I’m almost hesitant to go back out into society. It’s an odd feeling retiring from a quiet surrounding into the hustle and bustle of the city. I choose to be in public because the luxuries of home?, such as the TV, the bed, and the dearth of pressure to do something worthwhile are always present. ?These things are tempting, and I often lack the will power to choose productivity over a nap. Getting dressed and leaving home to read a book, take a walk, or just be alone with myself for a moment provides me with peace, not despair. Overall, I view contentedness with being alone as a positive thing, one that ultimately makes me better at spending time with other people.

I ask you, reader: Have you tried this?  Have you had a meal by yourself or any other “social” activity by yourself? And I mean truly by yourself; not where your headphones are married to your ears or your fingers are playing on your phone, but in a situation whereby you are your sole companion?

It is something we seem to miss out on as people; putting the phones away, keeping the books/newspapers on the sidelines at the table and just observing (and ultimately enjoying) the everyday life that surrounds you.  The conversation erupting from a neighboring table and the clop clop clop of a chef’s knife in earshot, the pouring of water, the quiet but deliberate footsteps of the waitress. Yes, I may be the only person at my table but the fact of the matter is that we are never truly alone. We just have this complacency to willingly distract ourselves and disengage with the world around us that makes us feel that way. But in the end, the choice is, as always, ours. We can carry on with our menial tasks; the social media status update or awkwardly checking your email for the umpteenth time on a smartphone to make it look like we’re too busy to care but it is impossible to silence the noise around you.

Sometimes the tittering and the shuffling and the laughter are needed reminders to tell us that we are never alone.

I look up from my plate and smile at my companions.

 

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