how to eat alone

In my almost eight weeks in Paris, I have spent five and a half of them relatively alone.

Thankfully, I had some wonderful temporary travel buddies and made some lovely friends in my time here (#SayNoToNoNewFriends) but traveling alone has meant a lot of solo meals. Now, I’ve eaten meals alone before (see: lived in St Louis for a year before making any real friends) but this was the first time I was eating out and eating alone for a continuous period of time.

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At first, I was pretty uncomfortable. I felt lonely and awkward. I struggled with the idea of eating without company while still enjoying the experience of eating in a public space. Soon enough I made a little guidebook to help me through. Here is what I learned:

  • Become more comfortable with sitting alone in a public space. Try to remember that the likelihood that everyone is starring at you is very low. Eating alone at a restaurant is normal and, I’d venture to say, a healthy practice for anyone who wants to get to know themselves in the presence of good food.

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  • Similar to dancing, find something to do with your hands. Figure out a better resting hands stance than two palms on the table, which is a bit much and makes you look like a serial killer.
  • Accept the fact that you love documenting your food when it’s beautiful and take a picture of your meal. Don’t be that person that stands on your chair or uses flash (you’ll get a shit photo anyway) but take a deep breath, recognize that this will look silly to others, find your confidence, and take the fucking picture.

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    Later, when you’re trying to make space on your phone, you’ll come across ten (probably terrible) photos of your meal from today. Delete nine and remember it fondly.

  • After documenting, try your hardest not to touch your phone. I am not a supporter of ‘older people tell Millennials how to exist in the world’ advice, but we all know the connected world will still exist after a meal. While it can be tempting to fill the empty space in the chair across from you with group texts, tiny screened articles, and your Instagram feed, sometimes a good meal is the best place to let go. Be a little introspective, allow yourself to retreat into your headspace, have a conversation with yourself, imagine your future life with the cute server, etc.

    And when you’ve tired of that or become aware of the couple next to you that has intimately touched each other five too many times, pull out a book or a post card or a journal. I call this alone time plus, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t rude (at most places) to read or write at the table.

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So that’s my guide: eat some food and find some peace. If you’re like me, you’ll walk away with a handful of blurry, badly lit photos of a delicious meal and a newfound knowledge of yourself.

Wishing you the best on your food adventures,

Sav

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