Opinion: Let Me Eat Alone Without Your Unsolicited Pity, Thank You

Filipino families love to eat together, forever living by the words "A family who eats together, stays together." While I do love cooking and eating adobo with pork and beans with my siblings and value the time sipping glasses of pink Moscato with my friends during happy hour until dinner, there are times when I want to dine in without any company.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with going against the norm.

So why is it that, occasionally, I get these side glances from people when I request a table for one? Why do I have to be at the receiving end of, "Parang ang lungkot naman kumain mag-isa?" Why is the concept of solo dining received with such bewilderment akin to finding out about a scandal?

Eating alone benefits "Me". 

I love eating alone for several reasons, and the first one that I know like-minded diners can relate to is when I say that solo dining has healing properties. I once knitted an iPad sleeve while sipping my favorite iced White Mocha in between taking bites of a grilled cheese sandwich and, in no exaggeration, those two hours alone inside the packed coffee shop made me relaxed after a stressful work week. It feels like a well-deserved reward.

Photo by Pixabay

It gives me time to pursue my hobbies and interests, such as knitting and sketching, outside of the house where a pile of dishes and laundry will pressure me into labor. There's also no pressure to fill in the silence because I can zone in on what I'm doing, preferably while listening to all my K-pop favorites. 

My time is "My Time". 

Another reason why I prefer solo dining is that I come and go as I please. I don't have to deal with finding a common free time with busy friends or sudden cancellations, and I don't have to roll my eyes (endearingly) every time that always-comes-in-later-than-the-call-time friend messages the group chat, "Paalis na ako ng bahay," when I know damn well she's still in the shower.

I can go at my own pace as I leave the house, choosing which restaurant and cafe I'll go to, I can stay for however long I want, and I can leave whenever I'm ready.

It's easy to find a seat for me.  

And lastly, my favorite of them all: It's easier to be seated if you're requesting a table for one! I can sit at the smallest table or the communal table, whichever is available and ideal. And when I do have the urge to socialize, I can always call a friend on the phone or if I'm sitting by the bar, I can strike up a conversation with the barista and ask about my drink, their passion, and whatnot. 

Photo by Pixabay

In an event that my colleague attended, one of the key speakers mentioned that solo dining is a trend we can look forward to this year. While I wasn’t there to hear those sweet words with my own ears, my colleague sent it to our work group chart and tagged me specifically. The first thing I said was, “Oh, I wonder why?”

Is it because the pandemic has made us all a little more introverted? Are people valuing their alone time more? Or is it because the universe is fed up with those “Bakit ka mag-isang kumakain?” side comments with a condescending tone?

Dining alone is not for everyone... but it is for me. 

For the sake of people like me, who love to dine alone, I hope it's all of the above. I need people to understand that dining alone is not for everyone but that there are people who most definitely, 100%, without a doubt prefer it because it's therapeutic, regardless if you’re extroverted, introverted, or somewhere teetering in between.



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