If you've ever had to dine alone in public and felt nervous or self-conscious about it, you shouldn't. In fact, you should relish the opportunity, according to Alissa Wilkinson, who says she can't imagine not asking for a table for one on a regular basis. In an essay for Vox, Wilkinson advises to get over your solomangarephobia, because "solo dining is one of life's great pleasures—and privileges." Wilkinson has been doing it herself for years, and she notes that now, "a life without eating alone is unimaginable to me." She calls it an "almost meditative" experience that's a form of self-care—a way to "sit with my thoughts, watch the world around me, eavesdrop on fellow diners, maybe have a conversation with the bartender if I'm seated at the bar."
Wilkinson acknowledges the stigma and challenges women have historically encountered in venturing out for solo meals, from being barred from restaurants altogether to the harassment they faced when they finally broke down those barriers. She also talks about the modern-day coping mechanisms women have incorporated into their dining-alone routines, such as reading a book or using one's cellphone, signaling a "let me be" vibe. But Wilkinson advocates for a more "present," mindful experience, one in which women can eventually put down that novel, take in the "ambience, the flavors and textures, the chatter," and even chat up the bartender. "Most of all, have fun with it," she writes. "As someone wisely once told me, 'Nobody is thinking about you, because they're all thinking about themselves.'" Read more from Wilkinson here. (Read more dining out stories.)