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The Pleasures of Dining Alone In or Out of the Dining Hall

Posted: 10/19/11 03:32 PM ET

My lipstick is on, my dress smoothed, my heels buckled tight. My timing is perfect. I grab my bag, my keys, and I stride into the night. I am hungry. The night is an open plate: filled with promise.

I'm going on a date. With myself.

I'm not a particularly "zen" person. I don't do yoga. I don't meditate. I don't particularly like green tea.

My "zen" is dining alone.

Some people look at this as weird, antisocial. They think I must be lonely, self-hating, or, most commonly, crazy. It's not, and I'm not. In a world of tests, papers, roommates, parties, classes, libraries, and dining halls, on repeat, spending time alone is therapeutic. Spending time alone is necessary.

So just as some treat themselves to a new pair of shoes, or a slice of cake, I treat myself to a quiet meal. I choose the place, I choose my drink, I choose my food. The night is, quite literally, mine.

Don't get me wrong -- dating, or going out with friends, are pleasures unto themselves. This, though, is a different kind of fun: a quiet fun, a mature fun. There are no Facebook albums to show for it, no group Foursquare check-ins, no Twitter handles to grab and say "Best din ever!"

So shut off your phone. Bring a book, or don't. Sit, eat, drink, and savor it all. It may be just what you need: a night out on the town (or even just in the dining hall), a night that is yours -- only yours. A new kind of date.

**Tips and Tricks**

Feel Good. This is your time to feel good about yourself. Dress the part. Whether that means your brand new dress or no makeup (or both), feel happy and comfortable in what you're wearing.

Learn something. I like to go to places where I can learn something new: a wine bar, perhaps, or a restaurant with an open kitchen. Talk to the bartenders and waiters. Ask questions. You have nothing to lose, and knowledge to gain.

Put away the phone. Constantly texting or checking your Twitter feed defeats the whole purpose of going out alone. Calm down. Nobody is judging you. Put your phone in your bag; the others can wait.

Be nice. Give out good vibes, and I promise you, your waiter and/or bartender will give them right back. Smile at other diners. Leave a nice tip. You'll leave feeling even better about your evening, and if the bartender has some extra wine leftover at the end of the bottle, he may just give it to you on the house.

Brette Warshaw for Small Kitchen College

Brette Warshaw is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a student of European history, creative writing, and jazz studies. She will be eating her way through Rome during the fall semester, leaving a wake of empty plates, flabbergasted waiters, and ripped skinny jeans behind her. Read more...

 

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