Alone Time

At 4:30, I preheated the oven and started mixing meatballs. Dinner was ready by the time Ed came home from work, but I only set 3 places at the table. I was going out to have dinner and margaritas! As I was about to leave, I recieved a text message–dinner was postponed until another night. My friend’s daughter was sick.

So now what? Ed and the girls were headed to the park. I could have had meatballs for dinner, but I was all ready to go out. I called my neighbor just in case she could go out at the last minute. Unfortunately, since she has two little ones, last minute was not on the agenda.

“Go out to eat anyway!” she advised me. “Bring a book and enjoy some alone time!”

I lived by myself for ten years after I graduated from college, and I hardly ever ate by myself at a restaurant. I was too self-conscious to sit by myself. I wondered what people would think about me. Would they think I didn’t have any friends? Would they feel sorry for me? Stare at me? Ugh, it was just better to have take-out.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting to a point in my life where I don’t care (mostly) what people (especially strangers) think about me. I’m still self-conscious. Yesterday, I spent the whole day at home painting my bathroom ceiling and doing laundry. I went to pick up the girls from school and realized I forgot to put on make-up. (Dark under-eye circles! Flippy hair!) As I stood at the playground with other moms, I missed my mascara…but tried not to worry about it.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of going out to eat alone. I didn’t want meatballs, and I didn’t want to just bring something home and eat in my messy kitchen. I was supposed to be out enjoying myself, not cleaning up the kitchen just like I do every night.

Off I went to Panera, to eat by myself. As I drove myself there, I thought maybe I could find a secluded little booth where no one could see that I was by myself. Then I could really have some alone time. I had never been to this Panera before, though, and a secluded booth was not an option. I chose a little round table with good lighting, got myself situated, and opened my book.

Instead of the self-conscious feelings I thought I would have, I felt comfortable. More comfortable than I ever thought I would. “Look at me! I’m eating by myself because I CAN!” I exclaimed enthusiastically to myself. The reading material I had brought was perfect, too. I’m in the middle of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I was reading a chapter where Rubin forced herself to step outside of her routine and here I was, doing something outside of MY routine. I ate my dinner leisurely, read my book, and relaxed. A group of people sat next to me, ate, and left while I was still reading. No one was staring at me (I didn’t catch anyone staring), no one thought that I was friendless (maybe they did, but did I care? No!) and wonder of all wonders, I was enjoying myself.

As I drove away, I looked forward to putting the girls to bed, a task I’m ashamed to say I don’t always enjoy. That’s one of the perks of going out; when I come home the girls are already sleeping. Tonight’s hour away was too short to avoid putting the girls to bed and just relaxing enough that reading another Babymouse book to Emmy wasn’t as tiring as it could have been.

reading to Lily
I started reading to Lily and Emmy when they were very young. 🙂

Do you enjoy eating out by yourself? Am I the only one who feels totally self-conscious?


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13 Replies to “Alone Time”

  1. I used to feel too self-conscious to eat alone, but now I say it is pure heaven! Sometimes a mama needs some solitude!

  2. One thing I really love is going to the movies alone. My favorite! As for restaurants, it depends on the location and setup. A cafe? Easily. A diner? At the counter. And I do enjoy it. Once I drove from Jersey to Maine all alone because I was mourning an ex and wanted to do something nutty. I remember eating alone at a diner and hearing a group of women talk about a town dance and how they didn't have computers. What a different life from the tech-crazy Jersey I lived in. That was an experience.
    My recent post Exposed Roots.

  3. I don't mind eating by myself. As you said, it's quite relaxing. The years I spent in college, I carried such a heavy load of classes that I often couldn't meet up with friends. I learned to eat out by myself, go to movies and lectures by myself, and some activities too.

  4. Way to go! When I was going through my divorce I had a book that challenged me to do things alone. Actually I remember going to the show at the mall off the Eisenhower freeway (at least I think that was it) where therre use to have a Carson Pirie Scott and Goldblatt's department stores. Also I ate at a restaurant that use to be in Oak Brook Mall where they would make crepes. Wow, that was a long time ago. Now I don't mind doing things alone. If my husband doesn't want to see a movie I still go to see it. So how is that book, I've heard good things about it?

  5. I am so happy for you!, I knew you would like it! Eating alone and reading a book is very underrated. I am happy you were able to get out of the house even for a little while 🙂

  6. As a single woman and a writer, I do a lot of alone time at restaurants and coffee shops. The first time I ate alone (on a business trip to a reading conference in Texas), I felt very self conscious. I chose a McDonald's to eat at, so I could get it over with quick! LOL!

    Since then, I've eaten alone many times and have even traveled alone–Prince Edward Island! The alone vacation was fabulous–much like making an extended retreat. In fact, I'm already planning my next "alone trip" (although I won't argue if someone wants to join me). I figure as an unmarried female writer I'm pretty much required to have a mid-life crisis in Italy (a la "Eat Pray Love" and "Under the Tuscan Sun"). So brace yourself, Italia, I'm coming summer of 2014! During which time, I'll write such a fabulous book that they'll make it into a movie, and Amy Adams will be forced to play me. 🙂

    My recent post Monday Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

  7. Very often it came with the job: eating out alone. And it gets very boring very quickly. Although I will still do it occasionally. But I prefer eating out (or in for that matter) with friends and loved ones.

  8. I'm glad you like your alone time. I love Panera Bread, although there isn't one very close to where I live. I've only eaten out alone a couple of times and that was when I was traveling for work.
    My recent post Beautiful Lilacs

  9. What s great post. Glad you'd took time for yourself and did something out of your comfort zone.

  10. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't. When I travel for work, it can be a bit lonely but I usually bring my computer or a notebook so I can write while I eat. When I went to Vegas, I just sat for a few hours in a buffett and people watched. That was pretty fun 🙂 Glad you went out of your comfort zone!
    My recent post Music lessons for toddlers?

  11. Good for you, Ginny! I'd love to go out to eat alone, but since I don't drive I can never really go anywhere alone 🙁 I told my hubby that the next day he gives me "me time" I want him to drop me off at Panera's with my laptop. I might actually get some blogging done for a change 😉
    My recent post Thank you, Mister Postman!

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