Table for one
YOUNGBLOOD

Table for one

/ 05:05 AM February 14, 2024

Being alone shouldn’t be synonymous with being lonely—especially when it comes to mealtimes.

On a vibrant Friday evening, I found myself at a newly opened restaurant in Quezon City, a place I stumbled upon while mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed. I had never been one to venture beyond my usual choices, but for some reason, I wanted to treat myself; after all, it was the end of a week full of work.

Before going to the restaurant, I already made a reservation—a table for one. I arrived around 8 p.m., just right on time. As I stepped through the restaurant doors, a waiter warmly greeted me and escorted me to the reserved table. The restaurant was bustling, typical for dinner time, with only a few seats left unoccupied. At a nearby table, a family of five savored their meal. Across from me, a trio of friends engaged in lively conversation, and at another table, there was a couple I assumed to be enjoying their regular weekend date. Then, there I was—sitting alone at a table a few steps away from the bar.

This isn’t the first time I’ve reserved a table for one, exclusively for myself. It has gradually become a habit to dine out and treat myself now and then, a mindset that evolved from my college days when eating alone in public posed a challenge. Back then, I consistently sought out friends to join me during breaks, and to have company for lunch or dinner. While eating alone in the comfort of personal space wasn’t an issue, whether at home or in the dorm, dining alone in a public setting is a different story.

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It was only recently that I learned to be more comfortable with solo dining as I navigate through the chaotic phase of adulthood. I’ve come to accept the reality that there will be countless times when I have to eat alone, whether intentionally or not. I’ve simply learned to find the joy in it.

After a few minutes of anticipation, my order arrived—a serving of their specialty pasta and house cocktail. Greeting me with a smile, the waiter kindly said, “Enjoy your meal.” Before eating, I took mandatory photos of my plate I could post online. As I relished the flavors of my food, I couldn’t help but observe my surroundings and listen to my thoughts. Sometimes I bring a book with me or listen to music on my earphones, just some tricks I do to keep myself entertained.

Getting used to eating alone in public also means setting yourself free from the idea that others are judging you for doing so. Solomangarephobia, the fear of eating alone in public, encapsulates this feeling of worry about being judged. I know because I can’t help but think that others might be looking at me as I savor my meal. I try to think what theories they might have as they glance at me, perhaps assuming the lonely gentleman got stood up by his date.

Recently, a photo of someone dining alone went viral on social media, accompanied by a heart-wrenching caption both of resilience and loneliness. This has sparked a new fear within me—not the act of dining alone, but the possibility of being posted online for doing so.

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“Huwag sanang ma-picturan,” I often joke to my friends whenever there’s a situation where I have to dine alone. It’s unsettling to think that while you’re simply enjoying your dinner, the next moment, you could be viral online, portrayed to have a miserable, friendless, and lonely life—all because a single post painted you that way. I hope people won’t replicate this behavior, because taking photos of strangers without consent is ethically wrong, and the act of dining alone isn’t something to be frowned upon.

While it’s natural to feel judged, I’ve learned to overcome it by not overthinking what others might say because, ultimately, what matters most is savoring and enjoying the food in front of you.

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Perhaps it’s a Filipino thing to believe that mealtime is meant to be a shared experience. After all, we love a good fiesta, and we often embrace the saying that a family that eats together stays together. Growing up, I was accustomed to the idea that dinner time is family time and that the dining table must be large enough to accommodate all family members.

But consider this—dining out alone is still a communal experience, albeit in a more personal sense. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in your community, partake in its flavorful gastronomy, and savor the ambiance of its eateries—all without the pressure of accommodating a companion. This principle extends beyond solo dining; this also includes going on solo trips, attending workshops, visiting the market, watching a movie, or simply exploring your city.

That night, I left the restaurant with satisfaction, not only because of the great food but also for the time I had for self-reflection. Trust me when I say that engaging in more activities alone can unveil surprising possibilities about oneself as you experience the world unfolding around you.

So for those seeking a sign, hear me out: it’s not lonely to do things alone sometimes, let’s face it, you won’t always have someone by your side. Don’t hesitate to create good experiences exclusively for yourself. Embrace the opportunity to explore and discover the richness that comes with observing the world at your own pace.

Book that table, plan that trip, embark on that solo adventure.

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Jason Renz Barrios, 24, works as a junior project manager in a digital marketing company. He loves Vietnamese coffee and Japanese literature.

TAGS: mealtime, opinion, Quezon City

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