Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Illustration by Sofia Bews.

There’s eating by yourself in public…and then there’s taking yourself out to dinner. Do these things sound the same? They’re not. Grabbing a sandwich by yourself on your lunch break is different than actively taking yourself out to eat at a restaurant. It’s this second scenario we’re dealing with today. We’re talking about eating a good meal alone—being entirely present as you treat yourself to a great dinner, like a total badass.

Lots of us have been socialized to believe that dining in public establishments is something we only do with other people. So why dine alone? Oh my god, there are a bunch of reasons to learn the art of this utterly sophisticated pleasure. Dining solo gives you time to appreciate the moment, to soak up the atmosphere, to order whatever you want without discussion, to be confident and comfortable in this, a moment when you are publicly, actively alone, doing something many would not dare to do. Dining alone is freeing. It feels super luxurious. It’s the epitome of mature. It’s a great way to practice for traveling alone, another one of life’s great adventures. And in reality, what’s so scary about this activity? It’s just eating!

When learning to take yourself out to dinner:

Build up to it, if you’re nervous. Try going to a coffee shop by yourself and just sitting there, with your coffee or tea for company. People-watch. Write or sketch in a notebook if you want. But mostly, just enjoy sitting in public with your drink and observing what’s going on around you.

Choose a target restaurant. Pick a place you’ve always wanted to go—somewhere you’ve been curious to try, or somewhere you keep suggesting to friends and family but keep getting vetoed on. No one will go with you? Who cares? You’re going solo!

Leave your phone behind. And all reading material. You are going out to dinner with yourself—it would be rude to be on your phone all evening, or to have your nose in a book!

Remember this: No one is judging you. Seriously! No one is looking at you and thinking, “Oh, that poor soul has no friends to eat with them.” LOL. If people notice you by yourself, I guarantee they are thinking you are a boss who looks very comfortable doing something they might not be comfy doing. I once had a woman come up to me as I was eating in a fancy Indian restaurant and say, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but you look so happy. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out to dinner by myself. You look like you’re having a great time.” I told her I was having a great time, and as she walked out of the restaurant with her date (husband?) she eyed me thoughtfully and waved.

Mentally describe what you’re eating to yourself, bite by bite, to help yourself stay in the present. This is an experience for you and you alone to enjoy, so savor it. Think about your meal’s flavors; think about the textures, and describe them in your head. Or look around and mentally describe the scene, like, That baby just smeared chocolate all over her hands and now she’s about to touch her dad, who doesn’t see…whoops! You get the idea!

Eating at a restaurant alone can feel a little weird at first. It takes some practice! But I promise you this: This is a skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Learning to be happy by yourself, in any situation, is always worth it. ♦