Do you dine alone? Would you? I am only asking because I have a confession to make.
I don’t. Won’t almost. Along with never going to the cinema on my own (I wrote this back in 2019 about solo cinema trips), I don’t eat by myself either. I did try, once, at the Ivy on the Kings Road in London but it was a complete disaster. I was encouraged to do it by some lovely people on Instagram when I asked what I should do with an afternoon on my own in Chelsea. With their encouragement I headed to The Ivy and was promptly asked to sit at the bar and offered a drink. When I enquired how much longer it would be (feeling very self conscious) I was told twenty minutes. Forty five minutes later and still no sign so I enquire again. “Oh it will be at least another half an hour. Would you like another drink?”. At £9 a go no thanks.
There were empty tables and I have no idea why I wasn’t allowed to sit at one so I left vowing to never try to eat on my own again. And I really haven’t. In fact the idea of doing it deliberately, ie not wandering into a restaurant at Waterloo to eat something because my train has been cancelled, fills me with horror. Why on earth would you do that? Why would you not just sit on the floor, cross legged underneath the departure board with a book you just bought in Waterstones, will read one chapter of and never pick up again?
Okay I am being slightly over dramatic but seriously, I can’t ever imagine saying “yep, I am off to do that today”.
That’s not to say that I think people who do so are weird or in some way strange, the very opposite in fact. I admire them hugely. Look at them and think they are incredibly cool and interesting and must be leading incredibly hectic and successful lives to be in need of an hour by themselves. Yet when I think about doing it, I think I would look slightly tragic. As though I have been stood up. Or forgotten to apply deodorant.
I hadn’t really thought about any this (thanks lockdowns, you meant I havent had to consider it for nearly three years) until I read an article by Charlene White in the Independent this week where she said “Dining alone is nothing to be ashamed of” and it got me thinking again. Charlene said “for me nothing could be further from the truth: solo dining is a decadent treat in the midst of a world that can seem tremendously fast-paced. It’s a moment of calm among the rush”.
And now I am thinking about that Waterloo scenario all over again.