Friday, April 10, 2009

Eat your heart out <3

“When did being alone become the modern day equivalent to being a leper? Will Manhattan restaurants soon be divided in to sections? Smoking/non-smoking? Single/non-single?” 
~ Carrie, SATC Season 2, “They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?”

I could feel the judgment. The air was thick with it.

There I was sitting at Qdoba, eating my burrito, and feeling the stares. I was eating alone: the ultimate mealtime faux-pas.

It's frightening the stigma against the single eaters. There are unwritten rules of eating alone. When ordering, don't get too much, the cashier will wonder, "Are you going to eat all that... by yourself?" Be careful where you sit, if you sit alone at a table or booth you will be judged for taking up space that should be reserved for couples and groups. Glares will be inevitable. To avoid these glares, you should reside your single self at the bar section made for the lonely souls. The single people bar is usually located by a window, so the people outside the restaurant can walk by and feel pity for your loner meal. At Qdoba, a women in her sixties walked by, looked into the window at me in the singles seats, and gave me a look so wrought with pity that my single security was shaken to its core. 

My plan was to hang around Qdoba after I finished my burrito, but the single status was too frightening and a booked it out of there and back to my apartment. 

Last week, I had a similar experience. I had arrived to lunch a few minutes early, and I decided to grab the table that my friends and I normally sit at. I sat there waiting for my friends to arrive. I pulled out my computer and started surfing the internet. After a few moments of sitting alone, the pressure started. Maybe they weren't staring, but I felt at least a sharp looks of the people around me. They were questioning, "Why is that boy sitting alone?" And then people I know (who I happen to can't stand) just appeared in the food court, too. And they saw me sitting alone. And I don't know why, but I felt so embarrassed. There was something about sitting alone, without my friend for defense that made me feel so naked. So unarmed. 

And the reason I know people were passing judgment about my single eating self is because I, myself, am notorious for passing judgment on single eaters. I mean, I don't see a person eating alone and think, "God, they must be eating alone 'cause they're a freak." But, I do feel pity for them. I think to myself, "I should go over and sit with them. They need a friend." I know if someone had come over while I was at Qdoba or waiting for my friends tried something like that, I would have punched them in the face and felt completely disrespected. 

We are programmed from when we are young that sitting alone is a bad thing. We were taught that if someone was sitting or standing alone in the lunchroom, we should go over, introduce ourselves, and become friends. No one should be alone. While eventually as we grow older we lose the initiative to go over and make friends, the thought still remains with us: Eating alone is bad. 

And because of this, I now have a permanent judgement/fear of single eaters. Dang it.

There are definite perks of being alone. I occasionally enjoy taking a day entirely to myself. I find those days are the most productive days. Or at least the most relaxing. Or the most introspective. As long as those alone days don't ever move into the public eye. Then you face a Qdoba situation.

I decided to continue my exploration of single eating and the judgment that came with it. I chose to go to McDonalds (I never eat at McDonalds, but I had the biggest craving for a BigMac it was a ridiculous, and it was just a block down the road from me).  As I went to order my BigMac, the female cashier, a young woman probably around my age, flirtatiously teased me about my order. My ego got a little boost. I was getting flirted with and although due my sexual preference I had no interest in this girl, I still felt a little confidence bump. After my order was placed, I went and sat by a nearby table and waited. When they called my name it was the same female cashier to give me my burger. In a flirtatious, sweet voice she says, "You look lonely over there."

Now, normally this would be cute, a little flirty way to get someone to talk to you or spend more time with you, but in my current mindset of single eating, all ego boost  was gone. Evaporated. Executed. Gone. I looked lonely. All I did was sit at a table by myself, play with my phone, and suddenly I was lonely. My aura screamed lonely. And while this cutie pie had just intended some light flirting, I was suddenly struck with a sinking feeling. I couldn't even escape the single stigma... at McDonalds!

And so the idea of loneliness really set in... My single eating and the taboos that came with it had caused me to develop a full on case of the alones. 

In order to remedy my loneliness, I quickly sent several of my friends a joking text about being hit on by the female cashier. They responses would hopefully be the perfect cure to my alones. As I waited for my friends to respond, in true Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I couldn't help but wonder, was my 'single eating' making me lonely? Or was my loneliness making 'single eating' unbearable? 

I started to reflect on my current single situation. First Dater (who shall henceforth be referred to as D) and I bumped up our second date from Saturday to last night. We had another great time, but at the end of the date, I had to make a confession to him: I wasn't ready to be in a committed relationship. I had thought about this since we had our first date, and after must consultation with my girls I came to this conclusion: Since I still am a resident of post-break-up-recovery world and with summer coming quickly, I just couldn't get behind having another long distance relationship when I moved back home while he remained here. And for some reason, for probably the first time in my life, I just wanted to be... single...

And this is what worries me, D is a great guy, I should be desperately wanting to be in a committed relationship with him, he's everything I could ask for in a boyfriend.

And in my complicated, over-dramatic head, I start thinking, Why don't I want to be in a relationship? Is this permanent? Will I ever want to be in a relationship again? Am I going to be one of those people who are doomed to be single forever?

I blame the McDonalds cashier for these thoughts. And the old women who judged me for eating alone outside the window of Qdoba... will I forever be the single eater?

...And would that be such a bad thing? True I would have to constantly face the judgment of the single eater nay sayers, but I mean, I would never have to share my food, never have to worry about who's paying for the meal, I could eat whatever I want...

And that's what scares me. The idea that eventually I may become okay with this single lifestyle. I don't necessarily mean that being single is bad, but I could fall in love with it. Just dating when  I wanted to and enjoying life on my own. After all, I'm an independent person, I might just need to live life on my own. And maybe that's truly the final step of the post-break-up-recovery world, learning to live on your own. And love it.

And once again, I'm back to the same idea I've mentioned before: It's about loving yourself.
And once again, I think:
Loving yourself? Easier said than done...

And soon I learn that, however hard it maybe...
and learn to think of it as a love of self and not loneliness.
Maybe then, I'll be ready to commit... and invite that person to come with me to meals
But until then...
I guess I just have to learn to love...

Eating alone.


  1. Ih, been there, man. I always feel really awkward when I walk into O'Charleys and have to say "just one, please." Over time and after talking to a few people about it, I learned that the main problem with the feeling was just something I was worried about and causing for myself. It's possible to sit there and not look lonely, though. I bet you could have lunch by yourself and have a fun time even without someone with you. Even people in committed relationships do that - once in a while, everyone can benefit from a little alone time, and there's nothing wierd about that. If that old bird is going to judge you for sitting alone, that's her problem, and it doesn't matter at all, becase she doesn't know who you are or anything about you. It's really all a matter of how you're feeling yourself, not what you think (emphasis on that word) others are thinking when they pass by you. You coulda just told the girl at McDonald's that you were there to get a moment away from everyone and everything - that excuse always works.

    As for D, I can imagine that being kinda tough, but you probably made a good decision. If you explained the situation to him, I'm sure he'd understand and respect what's important to you right now, and if he doesn't it's his problem, not yours, and he might not even be worth your worrying. You definitely didn't tell him never, which is a very good thing for him; I bet he feels better about it because of that.

    Hope everything else is going well back in the STL! Have a great rest of the break, dude!

  2. My dad always said that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else. I'm pretty sure my dad is prematurely senile and perhaps a closet communist, but I think he may have been right.

    I eat by myself all the time. No one steals nibbles of your damn french fries that way.

  3. hahah amy--that is my life saying! it's in my "box" under my profile picture ion facebook. :)