I HAVE HAD to become an expert at Eating Alone.
That sounds as if I, as usual, am blowing my own trumpet. But the combination of trying to ensure that nothing sinister happens to me (again), working unsocial hours (11pm – 7am), and knowing people who work in the catering trade has made me a regular at certain restaurants and cafes.
And it’s the last of the three that’s the most important. Both for wanting to eat AND as a tip to prevent problems when doing so.
Eating Alone is yet another of those unspoken forms of sexism, yet it doesn’t HAVE to be a dreaded experience – even for a woman!
What I mean is that a man eating alone may (occasionally) be frowned upon, but more likely he’ll be seen as doing what comes naturally: a student in digs, a businessman away from home, a widower unable to cook for himself…
But a woman on her own in a bar, a restaurant, a hotel diner? Well, she must be on a manhunt, sad and slightly mad, or just drunk and waiting to be led to someone’s bed – mustn’t she? I’ve been accused of them all.
But, as I said, it’s not dreaded – and it’s the knowing of people working there that pays dividends. They’re often the reason I’m there, and they’re sometimes my saviours. If you know the barman, the boss, or even a busboy, you’re safe: he’ll make sure you’re protected from men who think you’re there to be picked up, and he’ll provide you with conversation if people look at you as if eating alone is illegal. If the person you know is a woman, better still: she’ll not only do all of the things mentioned, but she’ll be personally familiar with the looks and chat-up lines being thown at you.
That’s by far the best way of managing to enjoy the ‘experience’. But, if you’re an extrovert, you can always make use of the ‘sad and slightly mad’ or ‘drunk’ attributes that some people ascribe to you as well:
If someone bothers you and there’s no friendly waitron or barman around, talk to yourself (using swear words is a particular turn-off), blow bubbles into your drink, or shout something at the man. Quite likely he’ll, respectively, walk away quickly, laugh and look at other people for support, or make a point of telling everyone HE didn’t do anything to provoke the outburst.
But, obviously, you don’t WANT to resort to that, and it (also obviously) depends on the kind of establishment you’re in!
Easier ways of coping: always have a book with you (preferably a non-fiction or text book), have a writing pad or puzzle book that you can become engrossed in, use (or pretend to use) your mobile. You can always say to a non-existent person at the other end, “looks like I’m being stalked again!”.
Of course you COULD order a dish steeped in garlic and chillies and eat it very slowly. That might keep the wolves at bay!