When was the first time you ate by yourself in a restaurant? Was it when you were forced to during a business trip? When you were early to meet a friend for a movie and needed some sustenance? Or was it when you, like HuffPost UK Life reporter Sophie Gallagher, discovered that it’s one of the great pleasures of adulthood and started indulging in it as much as possible?
Sophie’s story about the “unexpected joy of dining alone” speaks to something so critical about growing up and feeling comfortable in your own body. She came to the discovery unexpectedly.
“The first time it happened, I was meant to be meeting an ex-boyfriend for dinner and he just didn’t show up… hence why he’s an ex. So I just sat and ate by myself. I think I felt more self-conscious because I knew I was meant to be with someone, but I just tried to embrace it.”
And it’s not just eating out alone that she believes in — she points to shopping as an activity she enjoys doing at a pace that annoys her friends and partner, so she heads out on her own. She’s also well aware she’s fighting an uphill battle in today’s society.
“I think as humans we are pack animals and we’re taught from a really young age that being alone means you are lonely — which, of course, in some cases is true,” Sophie said. “But we have to fight against that instinct of social conditioning that makes us want to appear popular and/or busy with lots of people.”
And if the prospect of asking for a table for one is daunting, Sophie suggests trying out an activity you enjoy but that no one you know is interested in. “If you’re doing an activity rather than eating alone, for example, you’re less likely to feel like people are really watching you,” she pointed out.
I remember when I discovered the pure, unadulterated freedom of traveling on my own — which, of course, included many, many tables for one. I loved being able to do exactly what I wanted when I wanted, to pick and choose the people I would spend time with, and most of all, to know that when push came to shove, I could rely completely on myself. It taught me confidence in a way that nothing else can even touch.
A little further down in this newsletter, we have stories from women who have traveled by themselves, explaining why it meant so much to them. Have you had a similar experience with solo expeditions? I’d love to hear about it at [email protected].
Follow Sophie Gallagher (@scfgallagher) on Twitter to read her exciting work on sex, relationships and cyberflashing, a beat she’s been covering extensively and that might soon see dividends in the form of a change in law in England and Wales. Follow HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) for more stories from the United Kingdom and beyond.
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