For All The Singletons and Their Table for One

Eric Green



It was the night before New Year’s Eve, welcoming in 2022, and my wife and I were doing our once-a-year thing -- eating dinner at a fancy restaurant. The special occasion was celebrating my wife’s birthday, and we intended to finish early before the place got too crowded.


We kept our masks on as the masked hostess showed us to our table, but already there was a hitch--a mid-30ish lady was eating by herself at the next table, and she looked unhappy to have new neighbors seated close by – and probably worried about possible COVID infection.


We felt the same way, and we wanted a greater distance too, even though we are both fully vaccinated.


What struck me about the situation was that the lady seemed to have the courage, self-confidence, and nonchalance that she didn’t care what people thought of her eating by herself in a popular restaurant during the holidays. My wife had a similar reaction.



Just before we were directed to another table, the woman’s facial muscles relaxed and she thanked us for moving farther away. I told the woman we felt equally relieved. She smiled, and we wished one other a Happy New Year.


I remarked to my wife that this woman had guts to sit by herself at a fashionable establishment, especially around New Year’s Eve when society says you’re supposed to be partying with friends and family.


I know when I was single, I avoided eating out alone unless it was at a hamburger joint or diner and I could sit at the counter. At nicer places, I would feel too self-conscious and fear the stigma that I must be worthy of pity--that I apparently had no friends or I was just a weirdo that no woman would want to be seen with.


I made only passing glances at the diner eating solo, knowing how when I too was by myself, I didn’t want to feel conspicuous with people staring at me. On those rare occasions when I muscled up the nerve to dine as a singleton in a restaurant, I’d bring along a newspaper to read, which always proved to be a wonderful companion in blotting out whatever else was going on around me and to keep from reflecting on why I was alone.



But even now that I’m married, my wife says half-jokingly, that my habit of reading the newspaper at dinner has carried over to when we’re at home having supper together. I guess that’s not any better than staring hypnotized at a smartphone while you're eating.  


As the evening progressed on our dinner-date, and still waiting for our food to arrive, another mid-30ish woman arrived by herself and was seated at the next table six feet from us. I thought she might have a companion who would join her by the way the waiter filled both of the water glasses on her table. But no, she must have been thirsty, because she drank the two glasses of water herself.


She glanced over at me and smiled, and I waved back and then whispered to my wife that I was surprised that here was another woman eating by herself on the holidays. I did notice that she jumped on a cellphone, but I didn’t hear her talking to anybody. But maybe that was because more people were arriving in groups large and small and the restaurant was getting noisier. Not to sound mean-spirited, but I actually wondered if she just pretended to have a phone conversation.


When I was on travel for a work assignment, I had to figure out my dinner plans in a strange new city, assuming I didn't prefer to go hungry rather than having no one to eat with. Often, I would get carryout Chinese food or buy a 12-inch turkey breast sandwich and chips from Subway and bring it back to the hotel with television serving as my faithful dining escort. I also knew that being by yourself in a restaurant for an evening dinner was totally different from having breakfast or lunch alone.



That’s what made me speculate on these two women’s circumstances.  Were they on travel for their job, and wanted to have a delicious dinner that their company was paying for? Or maybe they were emulating the bachelorette Mary Tyler Moore to prove to themselves that they just might make it on their own after all?  Or were they perhaps going through a trial separation or divorce from a husband or partner and wanted validation that they didn’t need anyone else to delight in their own company? Or they didn’t need any reason; they just liked the food at this restaurant.


In any case, I salute these two women for coming to the restaurant alone, especially during the holiday season.


If in the future, my wife goes out of town to visit family, I can take inspiration from these women that I too can have, and maybe even enjoy, an evening meal in a fine restaurant at a table for one.


Author Bio:

Eric Green, a Highbrow Magazine contributor, is a former newspaper reporter, U.S. congressional press aide, English as a second language teacher, and now a freelance writer in the Washington D.C. area. His articles have appeared in various newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.


For Highbrow Magazine


Image Sources:

--Cottonbro (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Andrea Piacquadio (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Andrea Piacquadio (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Arthouse Studio (Pexels, Creative Commons)


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