Last Friday I took myself out for a much needed lunch break during work. Since my full-time job is located in the middle of downtown DC, I have the luxury of walking three short blocks to indulge in just about any cuisine I might be craving for lunch. On Friday, I decided I wanted ramen. Actually, let me rephrase - I needed ramen. Two days prior, a friend and I had treated ourselves to some mid-week ramen at Daikaya [pictured above], and an undeniable craving for another bowl of umami heaven had consumed me over the following few days.
I had no valid excuse for succumbing my body to ungodly amounts of sodium, pork fat [I’m very bad at keeping to a primarily plant-based diet], and MSG. However, I knew I wouldn’t be truly satisfied if I didn’t have a second bowl, and instead had eaten the sad desk lunch I had packed for myself the night before. So, Momofuku became my lunch destination that day.
While slurping away over another bowl of pork ramen, I noticed two other women, also sitting by themselves, at the bar. The sight of these two women then got me thinking about the concept of dining alone, and I asked myself why it is so often viewed as something negative; implying loneliness, exclusion, or sadness.
Dining alone has become a regular routine for me. As someone who curates a food blog and Instagram, I often take myself on dinner, lunch, and breakfast dates. I’ve become quite comfortable with the fact that many of my culinary adventures are spent in the company of myself. I do have a wonderful community of people with whom I share a love of quality food and dining experiences, but there’s something very enjoyable, even meditative, about slurping your ramen in some peace and quiet.
While I enjoy the occasional solo dinner dates, many people are uncomfortable with the idea, and they often dread situations that require them to dine alone. I’ve found this to be especially true among my female friends. Perhaps this is because pop culture often depicts women who are alone in such settings to either be mourning a recent romantic breakup, sad after having been stood up, or dealing with some other isolating life crisis. While these experiences certainly aren’t unique to females, I’ve found them to be depicted much more for female characters in movies, tv shows, and books. Perhaps this also has to do with society's opinion of women having to remain "sheltered" from the world. This opinion is definitely disintegrating in the United States, but if the Women's March on Washington revealed anything, it's that we still have a long way to go in terms of receiving the full equality and respect that us women deserve.
I also find it ironic and mildly humorous that, while it may be more “understandable” for someone (especially a woman) to sit alone at a coffee shop while doing work on a weekday, dining alone for dinner on a Friday night is almost completely unheard-of; as if spending time alone on the weekend inherently means you are lacking a social life.
This certainly isn’t the case, but unfortunately, society has placed a great emphasis on the weekend being the time to socialize. So, if you are not partaking in social activities Friday through Sunday, you can easily fall victim to being called unsociable, unfriendly, or isolationist.
I cherish my alone time, and am mostly comfortable being alone in public settings. However, I would be kidding myself and my readers if I didn’t admit to the times I’ve felt that dreaded FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out.” It’s a pretty ridiculous phenomenon, in my opinion. I blame it on social media and the apps that now allow you to document every second of every day of your life in near “real time.” Without this ability, you wouldn’t have this fear of missing out because you wouldn’t know what others were up to on a daily basis. Remember back ten years ago when we only had Instant Messaging? I miss those days sometimes.
It takes a great deal of self confidence, self-awareness, and self-acceptance to feel completely at ease being the sole person at a table for two, especially on a Friday night. I haven’t quite reached this full level of consciousness yet, but the many times I’ve spent dining alone in various settings has edged me closer.
To wrap up, I’ll leave you with this simple takeaway:
Take yourself out to that ramen joint you’ve been dying to try on a Friday night. Enjoy some alone time over some salty, fatty noodles. Disconnect from your phone for that hour..after snapping some photos of your food, of course. Allow your mind to wander while taking in your surroundings and the deliciousness you’re about to savor. Try your best to let go of the need for approval from others and listen to your own desires [i.e. your desire for a second bowl of ramen in three days]. If you do this enough, I guarantee you’ll be happier within yourself, and certainly more full.