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Table For One? Um, Ok.

Savoring The Freedom Of Dining Solo

By Jennifer Lancaster @jenergy17Published 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 7 min read
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Table For One? Um, Ok.
Photo by Mgg Vitchakorn on Unsplash

Day 8/366 days of writing and publishing articles in 2024.

“I will not be judged by you or society.”- Samantha Jones SATC

As a life coach, one of the things that I often hear from women is that they don’t feel confident doing things alone. When you start to venture out of your comfort zone it can be a bit intimidating.

I want to share a personal story of what I learned the first time I got a table for one. But first...

One grating observation I have made after working 29 years in the Service Industry is this: Most often when a person walks into a restaurant and requests a table for one, the hostess insists on reiterating “Only one?” As if one isn’t enough; insinuating that one is frowned upon. Why is this?

Furthermore, staff always seems to make this person the center of conversation: “Ahhh, I feel bad for that lady that she’s sitting alone.” Why is it we feel uncomfortable? Is it because we personally aren’t okay with being alone? Let’s be honest, there are a myriad of reasons she could be eating alone (none of which are really our business, but let’s go there).

Maybe she chose to be alone.

Maybe she’s traveling and been in meetings all day and this is refreshing for her.

Maybe she just got out of a horrible relationship and she’s finally able to get some peace and quiet.

Maybe she’s in a great relationship and she and her husband have a really healthy understanding of making sure they each get “me” time and this is her night for that.

Why do we make assumptions as a society that being alone is unusual or wrong? My thought? Because we haven’t learned how to be with ourselves, that’s why. I don’t remember ever learning from my family or in school about how it’s important to learn to “be” with yourself. However, I have learned that it’s crucial to learn the value in doing things alone.

Yes, You Heard Me, Table for One

I was only twenty-three years old when I booked my first reservation. It was at an upscale French restaurant in New Orleans. Here’s the thing, if it were under different circumstances, I may have not followed through with it. But it was an unusual situation that forced me into it.

I was visiting a friend who was going to grad school at Tulane. We used to tend bar together. It was over Halloween weekend. This was my first time ever traveling to New Orleans. On my last night I wanted a delicious and memorable meal. However, my friend was on a deadline to finish a paper. So, she opted out. She reluctantly threw in the towel and forfeited her seat.

I knew that this meant I had two obvious choices: cancel the reservation or (gulp!) call and change it from two to one. This was a reputable restaurant. The Cafe Degas, a French Bistro. It was known as one of the most intimately romantic places in the city. Somewhere that most people dine at on dates. But I am a foodie and I don’t care if it’s a romantic place. I wanted to try the food there. I was faced with a painfully uncomfortable decision. To dine or not to dine. Hence the reservation for ONE.

Fuck It, Let’s Do it

Even at the ripe young age of 23 I was already a foodie. I had worked in the restaurant business for 7 years at this point, but not quite experienced in fine dining yet. But, I was no beginner when it came to enjoying amazing food. Or so I thought. For example, I had escargot for the first time when I was 8. I started drinking coffee with my parents at the breakfast table when I was seven. When we would eat out at restaurants my mother would return the kids menu to the server and kindly inform them that I’d be ordering off of the adult menu.

Many times I’d order lobster, or steak, or prime rib. When I ordered a Shirley Temple it was similar to a scene out of when Harry Met Sally: “I want a Shirley Temple, but here’s how I want it. Grenadine on the rocks, please, with a bottle of Perrier on the side. Don’t give me ginger ale or Sprite. And, please don’t put an orange anywhere near my glass. I detest oranges.”

Now here I was faced with a fine dining experience, alone. I was born for this moment. I was surely not going to miss the chance to eat at Cafe Degas. Nope. Certainly not because I had to sit by myself. I phoned the restaurant and changed my reservation to one.

I took a cab and walked into the restaurant. I walked in alone to the maitre d’ and asked for my table. I don’t recall whether there was the condescending tone or shameful assumption. I was led to my table and I sat down. To say I was Intimidated is an understatement. Mostly because the menu was SO French and I hadn’t yet worked in fine dining. Therefore, I didn’t know what the menu items were.

I ordered a glass of champagne, because this was a moment to celebrate. I felt proud. “I’m growing up!” I thought to myself. “I’m in a different city, in an amazing restaurant all by myself and I’ve never done this before!” I remember thinking that I would imagine myself as a food critic. I was doing what I now teach women to do in my life coaching practice without even realizing I was doing it: embodying self-approval and having fun using my imagination. I was envisioning being whomever the fuck I wanted to be.

It Had To Be Me

Had my friend been sitting with me I might’ve been distracted from being so present with myself. This is a skill that’s not taught in our school system or in our homes. It is the fine art of being okay with your own personal company and not needing anyone sitting across the table. I felt liberated. I felt...special. I was in a romantic French restaurant in the company of myself relishing and loving of this moment. This wasn’t like anything I had experienced before.

I ordered sweetbreads. I had no idea what sweetbreads were. It just sounded good. I like sweets. I like bread. So I must like sweetbread, right? Well, lucky for me I like veal. Lol. Because I didn’t know that when I ordered sweetbreads that I was ordering veal thymus gland. Ignorance is bliss. Further, I didn’t know that’s what I ordered until maybe 6 months later. A close friend was telling me about the dishes on the menu at the fine dining restaurant that she worked at. Whoops.

When my order of sweeetbreads came out, I ate it and loved every bite without knowing WTF I was eating. I simply pretended I knew exactly what I was doing. And by doing so, it felt natural for me to be there. I recall my check was like $150, and I had no problem with that. Even at 23 years old in the 90s. It was worth every penny and every minute of hard work I spent in the restaurant the week before picking up extra shifts to pay for this trip.

Hindsight is Delicious

Looking back I see how this experience set the stage for many other experiences to come. Now I love dining by myself. I love exploring new experiences by myself: whether it’s going to an art museum, a restaurant, a different city for a day. I always learn something new and discover something new about myself. It's even given me the courage to relocate and live in interesting places where I haven’t known anyone. One example? I moved to Hawaii in 2004 by myself, not knowing a soul there! That experience forced me to be open to possibilities. It was one of the best times of my life.

So often I have women say to me,”I wish I could do that!” You can! You really can experience these things. The key is willingness. Are you willing to do it for the experience? Are you willing to work through the uncomfortable feelings that may come up? Are you willing to do it for the breakthrough you’ll have in the process? Are you willing to let go of your fear and control? For my friend, if the answer is yes, what you will see is on the other side is deliverance. It’s the deliverance of self-approval, amplified.

Just One? Yes, Please.

Me, myself, and I. The holy trinity of a Goddess.

This isn’t my first time and it won’t be my last. I’m a fucking expert. A professional. I don’t need anyone’s company. I’m here to connect to the food, the art, the adventure, the world on a spiritual level. And you can too.

If you found this piece interesting, please consider leaving a 💜 or even a tip. Your support means a lot to me as a writer! You can also read more of my work here. My goal is to publish one a day during 2024!

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About the Creator

Jennifer Lancaster @jenergy17

Multidimensional Creative-preneur

Life Coach, Personal Trainer, Artist, Writer. Formerly in restaurant business for 3 decades. Soul expression is my ❤️ language. Spirituality,music, art, food and creativity fuel my life. IG @jenergy17

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  • L.C. Schäfer3 months ago

    I don't think I've ever eaten at restaurant alone 🤔 I think I should.

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