11/15/2013 09:02 am ET

On (Not) Eating Out Alone

Tom Grill via Getty Images

A stigma I’ve never understood is the one placed on people who are comfortable doing ‘social’ activities alone. For whatever reason, it is assumed that they’re to be pitied; that they are alone because they have no other choice. When you walk into a restaurant by yourself, the default presumption is that you’re waiting for someone else — not that your entire party has arrived. Then, you have to do the whole “party of one” song and dance for your host, the raising of a singular finger, the silent admission that there is no one to wait for. Whether we have Hollywood or Harry Nilsson to blame for it, one is predominantly thought of as the loneliest number — even if the solo person believes otherwise.

I like to eat out, and I like to do it alone. I usually have a book with me, or I bring some work along, and when the meal is over, I’m actually hesitant to trade in my solitude for the obligation to bat lashes, trade barbs. I choose to be in public because the luxuries of home — the television, the bed, the dearth of pressure to do something worthwhile — these things are tempting, and I often lack the will power to choose productivity over a nap. Getting dressed and leaving home to read a book, take a walk, or just be alone with myself for a moment provides me with peace, not despair. Overall, I view contentedness with being alone as a positive thing, one that ultimately makes me better at spending time with other people.

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