A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post on the difference between loneliness and aloneness. It ended with a challenge to go on one of three sorts of date with yourself – without technology to distract you – and since I put you guys up to the challenge, I wanted to do the same and take a chance on a fine dining experience myself.
To give you a bit of context: last Wednesday wasn’t truly my first solo dinner date, as I’ve traveled solo quite a few times and have often eaten alone out of necessity. It was, however, the first time I’ve ever gotten dressed up and reserved a table just for one in my own city. Here’s what happened, along with 5 key mini-lessons about being alone.
I sat down at a table outside the restaurant near the river on a windy Wednesday evening. I was seriously hoping the quality of the food would live up to the prices on the menu, but otherwise I had few expectations for my first swanky dinner date with yours truly.
90 minutes later I left the restaurant with a smile stuck on my face, refreshed and empowered, having spent 25 Euros (~$30) for a damn good meal and a great lesson in aloneness.
Mini-lessons from a date with myself
If you’re alone, then…
#1 …people want to distract you from your aloneness.
Not five minutes after I sat down at a table meant for four people, my waiter (knowing I was eating alone) asked me if I would like something to read. I could tell he was trying to be helpful, which was understandable given the situation, but I immediately declined. The point of the dinner was to figure out if I could truly enjoy the time without additional distractions.
#2 …you suddenly become way more intriguing, in a good way.
A guy having a “date” with himself in a restaurant where all the servers were (heterosexual) females might have had a similar experience. Throughout the dinner I experienced literally the best customer service I’ve ever had. Picture being waited on hand and foot by all three servers, even though only one is actually your server. Not bad, eh? I guess I associated being alone with people leaving you alone, but it wasn’t the case.
*Side note: This effect of intrigue is a common occurrence if you travel solo. Besides the rare “creeper attention”, it’s awesomely helpful because you make connections faster, have adventures with locals or other travelers, and reach a deeper understanding of the country you’re traveling in.
#3 …you savor your meal more thoroughly.
I tasted 100% more of the flavors in that fab dish because I wasn’t distracted by chit-chat or my cell phone. (Though I have to confess, I did reach for it once to check the time so I wouldn’t be late for rehearsal). In any case, the marinated cherry tomatoes were more marinate-y, the jamón ibérico was hammier, the glass onions were glassier…all jest aside, there was simply more depth to the process of actually delighting in the stuff I was putting into my body. Healthy eating? Check.
#4 …you have the chance to enjoy your surroundings and slooooooow down.
Part of the reason I was so happy after the dinner was just for the chance to relax by the water, have time to myself and not have to carry on a conversation. The light electronica-lounge music playing in the background only enhanced the atmosphere. I’m sure some of you have already figured out how to recharge when you’re drained, but if you haven’t treated yourself lately, I highly recommend this “swanky dinner method”. I will definitely be doing it again!
#5 …you’ll be more empowered to do other, more significant stuff alone too.
This is the best part, the key which relates to true optimal living. Perhaps a dinner for one is too easy for you, but if you fall into the “oh man, that was one frickin’ uncomfortable meal” crowd, then rest easy; it’s about steady, sustainable progress in self-development. Once you’ve completed a few baby steps of being comfortable by yourself, you can start making leaps and bounds. I initially felt somewhat insecure with the bizarre feeling of getting dressed up and going out to a new place just to sit around and eat by myself, but after it actually happened I was left with a massively positive feeling and a renewed lust for pushing the limits of my comfort zone in other ways, in other areas of my life.
Afterthoughts on being happy alone
Thinking back to the waiter who offered me a distraction from my aloneness, it became clearer to me that society might not want people to be alone, as if it were somehow a bad thing, something a person “shouldn’t” have to deal with. Maybe the waiter was simply being nice, or maybe he was trying to shield me from my own potential discomfort of sitting and waiting alone.
I’ve noticed that this well-meaning protection from aloneness is common in cultures centered on closely-knit family ties, but in light of globalization, more and more individuals are choosing to live away from those ties. They move often, change jobs or lifestyles, and might not have that basic social safety net to “protect” them from being alone.
They have a choice. And so do you. You can view your time alone as a negative thing, a void which “should” be filled by interactions with others, or you can embrace and enjoy solitude and use it to discover more about yourself, turning aloneness into a highly beneficial part of your own human experience.
Now it’s your turn:
What happened when you completed your challenge? I’m excited to hear your results! Some of you have already sent in feedback, but it’d be great to get a dialogue going on the other benefits you’ve discovered from your solo escapades – just leave a comment below…