I just graduated from college and moved back home.
I'm taking a break from dating and spending more time by myself right now.
To conquer my fear of eating alone in public, I decided to go on six solo dates.
I'm in my mid-20s and a recent college grad. I recently moved back home to Dothan, Alabama, and decided to take a break from the dating scene to focus on myself.
To pass the time, I decided to take myself out on six solo dates and eat alone in public over a week. I've been spending a lot of time alone and enjoying my singleness, so I thought dating myself would be the perfect experiment.
Working myself up to go on the first date was nerve-racking. I live in a small city where everyone basically knows everyone. My worry about eating alone in public was rooted in a fear of judgment, as well as loneliness. I kept coming up with excuses to not go and would convince myself that I wasn't hungry or that I could make myself something to eat at home instead.
For my first meal out, I brought a lot of things to distract myself
I threw on my comfiest sweats, grabbed a book, a devotional, my iPad, and my Beats headphones for entertainment, and headed to McAlister's Deli. I needed those things to feel secure.
Before entering the deli, I recorded myself explaining what I was about to do — not to post it, but to hype myself up. I did a quick fit check and headed in just after 6 p.m.
I ordered my food and found a place to sit. I made the mistake of facing the door, where I could see everyone coming in. I chose a booth because I thought it would be more comfortable, but I was aware of everything — the noise of the ceiling fan, other customers entering the deli, how I was eating.
My biggest mistake was coming out with my phone so low on charge. I normally watch TV when I eat, and not being able to do that pushed my limits. I was nervous about being alone with my own thoughts.
The second place I chose was Vibe Nutrition, where I typically go to work remotely or meet friends. While I always enjoy the food and beverages there, forcing myself to enjoy my own company in a place seemingly made for socialization was a bit harder.
I ended up FaceTiming my mom at one restaurant, but it was for good reason
The third restaurant I went to was having a Taco Tuesday special. I learned that I enjoy being seated facing away from the door. I ate and enjoyed a margarita while FaceTiming my mom — though I wondered if that was against the rules of my experiment, I'd called her because I thought I was having an allergic reaction to the ceviche. In the end I was fine and had a good time.
I knew I wanted to go to IHOP because I'd never seen anyone alone there. Usually I order online or go with my mom, and I wanted to see what going by myself was like.
Quite a lot of people were there, though they were decently spread out. It was surprisingly peaceful despite all the stimulation. I did feel lonely, though. The restaurant was larger than the others I'd been to, and I was probably the youngest person there. I gave myself a mental pep talk and reminded myself it's OK to be alone.
Eating alone became easier over the week
By my fifth date, I wasn't super nervous to go out to eat alone. Instead, I was starting to feel excited.
For this outing, I decided I'd go to The Toasted Yolk and get some work done. There were mostly other groups of people there. I was super hungry, and I was nervous because it was a new place for me. I didn't know what to expect aside from breakfast and brunch foods.
When I got there I was the only person eating by myself, though eventually someone else came in and sat alone. By the end of this date, I realized no one was paying attention to me, which was liberating.
For my final solo date I got dressed up a little more than I had on the other dates. I wasn't nervous about eating alone in public, and I was excited to visit Fire Stone Wood Fired Grill because I love the food.
It was a nice surprise to see the restaurant had live entertainment that night. The waiter sat me near the performer in between two large parties, but I asked to be moved because I felt overwhelmed. I ended up seated in a corner by myself, and I loved it.
I felt more confident after having gone on so many outings by myself. I kept my headphones on and had a mini Taylor Swift jam session while eating.
I did catch people glancing at me in the restaurant. Before going on these solo dates, I probably would've worried about what they thought of me. By this date, though, I didn't care. They probably had a good laugh watching me dance, sing, and record myself on my phone. I felt like I was the only person in the restaurant.
My favorite part of this experience was seeing myself grow and get comfortable with myself on a new level. For now, though, I think I'll stick to just one solo date a week.
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