Table for 1

Nerd Girls have self-confidence. We know what we want. We dare to go against the normal social strictures, but we also tend to be social creatures. Even though we love to spend time with others, I realized lately that there is really something to be said about dining out alone. I’m not talking about Chipotle, but getting a table at the kind of place where they put your napkin on your lap for you, or at least have interesting décor or big windows with an awesome view (if you ever find yourself in Southampton, hop the Hythe Ferry and check out The Seagull — I spent hours there).

If you haven’t gone out alone, it’s a worthwhile experiment, and almost a rite of passage. The Australian Aborigines have walkabouts, certain Native American cultures have vision quests, you probably know somebody who spent a year hitchhiking through Europe… these are all incredible solitary experiences that a Nerd Girl quite frankly rarely has time for in her busy schedule. But everybody’s got to eat, and woman cannot survive on Luna Bars alone (well, you can… you just shouldn’t).

From the moment you say “Table for One,” it’s a different experience. The hostess asks for your full name sometimes, so they can check if you’re a food critic and/or welcome you back the next time you return. Come in having done advance research on the menu and where you’d like to sit and you’ll be treated by the servers like Anton Ego from Ratatouille, except much more pleasant and much more beautiful. Bring your manners and your smile and they will not see you as a loner but as a girl who is there with one key purpose: to enjoy good food.

When the dish is delicious we tend to eat in silence anyway, so there’s nothing wrong with getting lost in your meal. Dining alone just means you remove the socially-constructed sense of obligation to speak. When my cravings for flavor are fulfilled, and I have spent time in quiet absorption, it’s incredible how often I am hit with creative breakthroughs towards the end of the meal. Forget about valet parking for once and you might even find that those creative juices keep flowing after you’ve left the restaurant as you walk to the car or ride public transportation (it’s difficult to harness inspiration and operate a motor vehicle at the same time). Ever since I let go of the stigma that dining alone meant “desperation,” it has become my go-to solution to writer’s/thinker’s block.

If you can make a little more time for yourself, traveling alone is a great way to encourage yourself to make that first reservation for one, with the added bonus of getting to plan your itinerary around unique destinations that your companions might not have as much interest in visiting. Just note the experience will be somewhat different at places that specifically cater to gastro-tourism.

Final note: a smartphone counts as digital company. If you want to do this right, keep the BlackBerry in your purse.

What’s YOUR verdict? Dining alone: Love it or hate it?

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