The Sin of Eating Alone

I actually meant to write this last week, when the idea first occurred to me, but I was too down and didn’t have the mental energy.

A few weeks ago, I went to Hooters after I failed my certification exam.  I don’t go to Hooters that often for two reasons: the closest restaurant is about fifty miles away, and; I tend to leave the restaurant depressed because it tends to remind me how utterly alone and bereft of female companionship I am (which is a whole long story of itself).  The exam was near the closest Hooters, and I was really in the mood for their buffalo shrimp, so I had decided to go there regardless of how I did on the exam.  I was seated at a table near the back corner of the restaurant.  My waitress was very nice (and obviously pretty), but I noticed that, except for when she brought my food, I didn’t see her.  In looking around, I noticed that tables that had three or four people (especially all men), the waitress would hang around the table, talk with the guests, sort of flirt with the guys and so on.  When I left after that lunch, I felt even more depressed than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, my brain started to think about this, and at first, it made me think I was too fat and ugly, and that was why the waitress did not hang around to talk to me.  But then, it started making other connections.

Like those few times I’d been to Bonefish Grill by myself.  Every time I ate there, I would order an appetizer, a salad and an entree.  Invariably, the salad would come before I had finished the appetizer, then the entree would come just as I was starting to eat my salad.  Or, once, the salad came after the entree.  And once, the salad and entree came at the same time.

Like those times that I went into Red Robin (yum!) by myself and the first choice offered was in the bar and not at a table like everybody else.

Like those times I’ve been to Applebee’s by myself and the waiter or waitress would be there every two or three minutes, asking if everything was okay and seemingly trying to hurry me along.

And it hit me: restaurants don’t like to waste tables on people who are alone.  I can see the economic reason–one person at a table is not going to generate as much revenue as a party of four, so it makes sense to get parties of one rotated out as quickly as possible.  But still, it doesn’t feel right to me; it feels discriminatory (insert your own Indiana joke here).  I’m there to eat, just like everybody else, so why should I not have the same experience as those other customers?

Am I suggesting this is a conspiracy among restaurants?  No, I’m not that paranoid.  But given the fact that it happens at this many places kinda makes me wonder.  Should I just not eat out?  Should I hire somebody to go with me so I can be treated like everybody else?

Now, it’s not all bad.  Since I usually have a book with me wherever I go, sometimes I can get some reading done (unless I’m in a place like Applebee’s that is overt in trying to get me out by having the server at my table every couple of minutes).

But sometimes, I want to take my time, eat slowly. look around, maybe even try to talk to the beautiful woman who happens to be bringing me food or refills on my drink.  You know, just like everybody else.  I don’t want to feel like I need to apologize for being there alone, or at all, or that somehow, my presence there is hurting the establishment.  But more and more, it feels like that.

So tonight, before bowling, I will probably go to Red Robin (yum) for dinner.  And I will probably end up in the bar, because that’s where single people are encouraged to sit, away from the tables with the normal people.  And I will probably feel like apologizing to either the person who guides me to the bar or maybe the server.  I hope not, though, because I’m tired of eating my own guilt.

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