Great debates. Table for One

27 May

Jacq and Ellie take on eating alone. Lady style.(NB: not a euphemism)

Jacq Kelly

 Candlelight is best enjoyed alone – sometimes maybe with a book for company, and pretty much always with a nice glass of wine and a tasty plate of nosh. Apart from anything, a candle in the middle of the table can often seem to be burning a hole in the face of your dining partner. That’s some sinister shit.

I know that some people find the prospect of walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one to be the worst of all the terrible nightmares. This is something I can’t get my head around – to me, getting a good seat in a decent restaurant and an hour and a half in which to spoil yourself with a decent meal and no distraction is the best treat of all. I love eating alone and take myself out for lunch as often as I can. It has never troubled me.

I should point out that it’s not as though I never have dinner with other people. I’m can’t wait to go on a dinner date I have planned with my girlfriend next week. We’re looking forward to pulling on our nice togs and taking ourselves out to let someone else do the cooking and the dishes while we simply enjoy each other’s company and conversation. I also have a pretty packed social life and a job in lobbying and communications. That’s part of why I like dining out by myself. A long lunch between meetings or on a Saturday afternoon is sometimes the only time I get to sit alone and not be expected to talk to anyone; with only my own thoughts to think; I can order what I like and eat as slowly as I need to and I don’t need to share a section of my paper with anyone.

In a world where Facebooking, emailing, texting and twitter is the norm for most of the people I know, putting the laptop away and switching off my phone gives me a much needed break from the constant thinking, talking and listening. I don’t have to react to anything more than a question about what I want to eat and drink. It’s freaking brilliant. Quality time isn’t just something that you need to have with those around you – it’s something you need to do for yourself as well.

I get that public space is a funny thing though. Many of the women I’ve spoken to about it seem to find the prospect of lone dining completely daunting. You’re worried that people will make assumptions about you being alone. Waiters sometimes make inappropriate and sexist comments even when you are with other people and there is a particular kind of man (the lame-ass mid-life crisis case who think the height of ‘smooth’ is to send a glass of rank wine to your table) that thinks a lone woman in a bar or restaurant must simply be gagging for his woeful banter.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Find restaurants that you’re comfortable with, with waiting staff who know sexual harassment isn’t a part of the job description. And remember, that there are lots and lots of men who are decent and won’t bother you – they’re actually busy getting on with their own lives for the most part. But if you do get bothered by an arsehole, male or female, tell them to fuck off. Loudly. It usually works a treat.

Don’t let anyone keep you confined to a Boots Meal Deal on a park bench.

Ellie Hutchinson

Now, I love a Boots Meal Deal and I love eating my meal deal on a park bench. And I’ll tell you why. I am currently sitting in a bar/restaurant writing this piece and it’s an odd-o experience. I got here about an hour ago, the tail end of the lunch time shift and it was mainly older people or small groups of friends. I also had a table at the back of the room behind some menus but my shitty laptop died, and the only power point is of course RIGHT AT THE FRONT OF THE BAR. But this isn’t the reason I’m feeling self-conscious. Nope, it’s because of my vagina. Not that it’s got drunk and is now serenading the bar with an off-key rendition of all by myself, but rather that I have one. Apparently that’s a green light for creepy middle aged men. Men my age, not so much. No, men my age seem to know that talking to women who are on their own in a bar with a laptop out aren’t really up for conversation. Men my dad’s age though.. well that’s a different story.

And this is precisely why I hate eating on my own. I don’t mind the actual process of eating, in fact it’s one of my favourite things to do. Matt once told me that I didn’t actually have to eat until I was full to bursting (what does he know? Loser), and one of my proudest moments was when my manfriend swapped his ‘man’ sized dinner for my ‘lady’ one without saying anything. Never have I loved him more. I could quite happily always eat on my own, if dad age men weren’t allowed in.  Because when I do eat on my own, I can guarantee that at some point someone’s Dad will come and talk to me. It’s no fun. Now, it could be that they have a soft spot for me and I shouldn’t take it so seriously (bleugh), or that I’m now a superhero and this is my rubbish power, or (more likely) it’s a product of patriarchy that age+man= entitlement.

Every second, somewhere in the world, someone’s dad is asking some unlucky lady if she’s out on the tiles tonight/where she’s from/marvelling at that massive report next to her that she’s supposed to be reading rather than writing a blog post. It’s at best annoying and at worst intimidating. So for this reason, and this reason alone, I do not like eating on my own, and will avoid it if I possibly can. Which is a shame, because I’m a grown up, and I’d like to do whatever the hell I want. (Jesus! You don’t understand! I wish I was never born! etc etc). Ruddy patriarchy. Who knew it would be so restricting?! Oh wait..

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4 Responses to “Great debates. Table for One”

  1. Jacq May 28, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Ellie – seriously, tell these miserable rank old cunts to fuck off. You’re speaking at Reclaim the Night FFS. RECLAIM THE RESTAURANT. If they ask you if you’re out on the tiles your response should be “fuck off you dirty arse wipe I have no interest in speaking to or shagging you, you miserable piece of shit”.

    Seriously girlfriend, I’m gonna train you up.

  2. Webbo May 28, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    You told me yourself that you didn’t see the point in starting to eat unless you were going to keep eating until you were full to bursting! Don’t put words in my mouth!

    Ps. I agree with Jacq – reclaim the restaurant. Although rather than telling them to fuck off, just make loud vomit noises until they leave.

    • Jacq May 28, 2011 at 11:26 am #

      Ha!!! I actually like that tactic too!

      I’m not the kind of (aherm) lady who is oft approached by men in restaurants (pubs during the footy seem to be where they bother me) but if it ever happens I’m gonna definitely try the vom noises.

  3. dance ricky dance May 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Both of you are right. of course. But on a side note- I genuinely do enjoy just having a packed lunch in the park. £3.29 for a whole lunch?! amazing.

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