NTKOG #171: The kind of self-assured, elegant lady whosweeps into a glittery candles-on-tables type establishment and requests said table pour friggin’ un. Once seated, forget about books or computers: sparkling inner monologue all evening long.
I am: never truly alone when I’m fortunate enough to carry a slim volume of Wodehouse, Waugh or any of my other constant companions.
I am not: nearly as entertaining a dinner companion as they are. Also: not particularly nicely humored about suffering a meal with no amusement.
Hypothesis: eating alone, even once, turns you into one of these.
The Scene: A Yelp two-dollar-sign Thai restaurant in Harvard Square. (Hey, that’s what passes as a classy establishment when you’re living off of the change you find in old pants pockets.) While on a break from my nightly writing, was brain-hijacked by a brutal craving for Pad Thai. Made my way downstairs and asked the hostess for a table for one.
Hostess: Sure, take-out for one?
TKOG: No, a table for one.
Hostess: Yes, take a table while we make your take-out. Five minutes.
TKOG: Dude, I want to eat at a table. Off of a plate!
As I set myself up at my table (fingers twitching to grab my copy of Scoop), couldn’t help but notice it was apparently official Cambridge date night. To my left, an elderly couple held hands while nibbling dumplings; on my right, a pair of undergrads tenderly tongue-kissed noodles into each other’s mouths. Lovely.
Averted my eyes as I gingerly embarked on my fancy-empowered-lady inner monologue. And, guys, have you ever gone out for a one-on-one dinner with your same-sex best friend and, sometime between refilling their wine glass and trying to be a little extra funny, realized that the strictly-hetero hang started to feel a little … like a date? I don’t know how to describe it, but that kind of started happening to me. With myself.
“How’s your week going, dude? How do you really feel? I’m so glad you’re taking this time to reconnect with yourself.”
Gave myself a gentle but firm let’s-just-be-friends rebuff, then settled into thinking about a future writing project. Still, I was glad when the waiter broke the tension by ambling up. Swooped my napkin in my lap while he plonked on the plate — a brown paper bag of take-out.
TKOG: Excuse me! I’m sitting here! I wanted to eat in the restaurant!
Waiter: Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you waiting for somebody?
Sigh. Check please.
The Verdict: Once the staff transferred the food from Styrofoam to a proper plate, I actually enjoyed a lovely dinner, and felt not a whit self-conscious while I ate alone, brainstorming future projects. On the whole, though, I think dining alone without a book is a challenge people take on just to prove they can do it. In practice, I found it less pleasant than enjoying an inch or two of fine literature along with my cuisine.
Also, if you are questioning the reality of this exchange, let me assure you: although I’ve been occasionally known to exaggerate, every word of this tale is true. It’s probably the one time in a million that there would be so many miscommunications about the very normal decision to dine alone but, hey, sometimes the universe has a sense of humor, right?