Long before I met my wife, Teresa, I would occasionally go out to eat at sit-down restaurants by myself. It wasn't easy early on. I was very self-conscious about it, and I figured all eyes were on me as I was seated at a table alone. But after a while, I got used to it, to the point that I enjoyed it.
It was especially neat when I was traveling solo around the country on my many road trips, and I would enter restaurants looking like a tourist. That would always create conversation opportunities with the locals, which led to unsolicited advice from the waitstaff regarding things to do in the area. I know, nowadays, I wouldn't do that, since it's possibly dangerous to let strangers know you're traveling alone. But back then, it was kind of fun, especially if my server was a young lady around my age. I had many of them flirt with me. I guess knowing we'd likely never see each other again caused us to drop some of our defenses. I remember conversations being very easy with some.
One of my favorite moments was stopping at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Chicago, and the server, a young lady, single, about my age, actually sat down at my table with me to chat (I guess it was a slow time of day), and asked a lot of questions about where I was going (I was on one of my Route 66 trips). I really enjoyed the attention, though I was still a little too self-conscious to allow the conversation to get too serious. She was very nice, and it was obvious she was interested in me. Usually I was oblivious to that kind of attention. She seemed to be intrigued by the idea that I was traveling by myself, though less so my destination.
Fast-forward a few years, not too long after Teresa passed away, and I would go out to eat just to escape for awhile (while my parents or in-laws took care of my daughter), and I was back to feeling self-conscious about eating by myself again. Maybe it was an age thing, or it was just too soon after Teresa's death, but I felt like everyone in the restaurant was looking at me. I was convinced that other people were feeling sorry for me being there all by myself. The reality is they likely didn't even notice, but that was the way I felt. Of course, being so much older, and the waitstaff being so much younger, there was no longer that connection with them that I might have had in my younger days. I really felt lonely. In fact, I don't know why I even bothered since it was so difficult for me.
As the years have gone on, it has again become easier, but I definitely prefer having my daughter with me. There's a sense of comfort having her with me, especially when I'm traveling, and I feel like, if anyone is observing us, they see a father and daughter spending time together. And that's a nice thing.
Being alone is okay. I usually take a book with me, or my journal, which I will write in while waiting for my meal. The waitstaff doesn't question me anymore. The young women don't give me a second look. I'm no longer a "single guy". I'm now an "old guy", even in my mid-40s. Who picks up women at restaurants anyway?
Have a nice evening, everyone! Go USA!