Eating by yourself in public. Is there nothing scarier? Doing anything alone is something that scares a lot of people. I know that when I was younger, I’d refuse to do near anything by myself. I couldn’t go out to eat, couldn’t go to the movies, shopping had to always be done with a buddy. I’d lie, telling myself that I needed someone there to help you decide, when in reality, it was because being alone in public was something to be feared. Because I’d worry too much about what others would think of me.
And, that’s the thing about eating alone, or doing anything alone, isn’t it? It’s not the being alone part (although that part can have people in a nervous twitch right easy), it’s the worrying what others would think to see you sitting there, eating your salad all by your lone. It’s always a salad, because you’d never eat anything that would make you look like a fat pig, right?
Which is beyond stupid. You’ll pig out on wings, fries, poutine, cakes or chips with your friends, not worrying about the fat content or worse, people’s stares. Suddenly, when we’re alone, we become the healthiest eaters so judgment won’t rain down. But, why? If you want to go to a bakery and eat a slice of cake, then do it. Even if no one is coming with you.
Funny enough, I became quite content with going out to restaurants by myself in University, and have drawn back in afterwards. I would often head out to a favourite cafe, restaurant or Starbucks while in University. I'[d order dinner, or a hot chocolate, or a snack, and write to my heart’s content. Sometimes, I’d read, sometimes I’d begin my essays for school, editing carefully while sipping on a mocha. Other times, I’d write whatever came to me. Because when you’re sitting there, allowing to wander, things just come to you. Your creativity seems to open up as you allow your mind to quiet.
Those nights spent in my favourite cafe (Stella’s in Osborne Village if anyone is curious) are some of my favourite memories of University. I felt relaxed and cozy and care-free. But, after I graduated, I ended up with less free time. That meant less time spent being creative or spending nights reading in a restaurant for no reason. It also meant that I’d feel like I couldn’t be seen doing this. That I’d be some sort of a failure if I allowed myself to just….relax.
So, when I had hours to kill before a yoga class earlier this year, I decided to do it, again. I hastily bought some magazines because I had forgotten my book and set out for my old
stomping reading ground.
I ordered a favourite, shot out a text or two to ease myself into the experience, and began reading one of the magazines. Luckily, blindly grabbing at the magazine rack in a small bookstore that smelled of incense turned out alright. The magazine was interesting and I happily leafed through, reading the well-written articles. But then, my food came and I turned my attention tot he nibbles in front of me. And, the confusion that rippled through my body.
I expected myself to keep reading while I ate, mainly so I had things to occupy my mind with and that it wouldn’t wander over to the thoughts plaguing me: what will everyone think if I just enjoyed my meal? Would I look disgusting as I ate? Would they wonder if I had any friends or family? Why was I eating alone?
But, I actually stopped wanting to read what was in front of me. I found that I felt rushed and upset whenever I brought my focus from the meal back to the page. Not because of what I was reading, which funnily enough, was about meditation and giving into boredom. No, I was upset because I wanted to feel the moment that was happening right now. I wanted to taste the food, stop thinking for just a moment, and be.
I didn’t want to check Instagram, text anyone, or even check the weather or news. I wanted to be present and feel everything that was happening in that moment.
In between people between bites of food, I drew my attention outwards, pulling it from the small table in front of me to look around the restaurant. I took in the people behind me, listened in on some convo’s (obviously) and just enjoyed my evening. It brought back those same feelings from before, but instead of being shot with creative fire and urged to write more, I simply felt at ease. Maybe not the best outcome for a writer, but still a pretty damn good one.
I left the restaurant to shop and continue enjoying my evening by myself. I even stopped at the Starbucks for a brownie and ate the damn thing. In the closed confines of my truck, of course.