Table for One

Table for One

Britizens (which is my new portmanteau for British citizens) will know all about Today – the quite frankly rather good radio news programme that airs every weekday morning on BBC Radio 4. It’s a perfect mix of John Humphreys shouting at politicians, John Humphreys shouting at foreigners and John Humphreys shouting at so-called experts on the news topics of the day. There are some other Today presenters, but they all sound like John Humphreys.

Then, every edition, there’s a fluff piece buried somewhere in the mix – usually sandwiched between a debate on Iranian nuclear expansion and a package about the impending, bloody revolution in Greece.

One day this week it was a section about people who eat in restaurants alone. I didn’t actually hear this piece as I am far too busy on Twitter experiencing things second-hand to be bothered with linear media.

It triggered a bloody debate online with the hashtag #solodining .

Respondents on the Twitter fell into three categories. Category one – quite numerous – are the solo dining evangelists:

@FaithWardle I solo dine a lot. Don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I didn’t realise so many people were so insecure…

@Susan_Rae1#solodining don’t knock it – it’s dining with the one you love…

Category two are the reluctant solo diners:

@drumting had to often dine alone when working away as a trainer. Makes you feel like a social leper #solodining

Then there’s category 3. I call them the “OH MY GOD! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT YOU FRICKING WEIRDOS??” crew:

@lookalibi I’m bemused that #SoloDining is being discussed. Is it just a way to try and profit from loneliness?

@sayitstraight what else r husbands 4? 😉 #solodining

Full disclosure – I am firmly in category one. I greatly enjoy going to restaurants alone. I like the respite from chatter, the time to think and observe. I can take things at my own pace and my own time and not compromise. I never have conversations like “No, you order the lobster and then I can have a taste of that… then I can have the lamb, but without the jus…” with myself…

But it’s more than dining. There is, embedded in those category 2 and 3 responses, an assumption that we are only alive or real when we are with others. That humans are like the tree that falls in the empty forest – silent and theorietical unless observed.

These people think that being alone is always lonely. That is simply not the case.

And why stop at solo dining? I’ve travelled Europe on my tod. Not for business, but for pleasure. I’ve explored Brussels and Amsterdam, Dublin and Edinburgh, Paris and London, with little more than Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for company. I’ve broken that other great taboo too – going to the cinema alone. Many, many times. Though, it has to be acknowledged, I got a few funny looks when I went to see Toy Story 3 one afternoon at half-term.

What does it say about us that so many assume that people who dine or travel or go out alone are doing it under duress?

If you can’t abide your own company – then what does that say about you?

I’ll leave the last word to this chap:

@TweetSofa_stoic If a man is uncomfortable in his own company, he has greater things to worry about than where to eat.

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