Words such, Starbucks, Cafe Nero or Costa – form an image in our mind of individuals alone with their books or laptops, sipping their beverage at a regular interval. A story of a restaurant is other wise.
Both my parents were out of town and I had the cravings for chicken steamed momo and stir fry.
So I walked into the restaurant quite confident. I was only going there to eat right? and I have enough money for the bill too so what can go wrong? No other thoughts ran through the mind of the 17 year old me.
‘Table for how many ma’am?’ asked the manager.
‘For one please’ I replied confidently.
His facial expression shifted from a smiley welcoming one to a mixed confusion and doubt, this was enough to break my confidence and doubt my decision instantly. Am I doing something wrong? why does it seem like he is he judging me?. However without breaking his professional etiquette he lead me to a table ‘for two’.
Midst the bustling of the vibrant restaurant I was quite happy with my spot which was aloof from the groups of friends and family. I took a quick glance of my surrounding before taking a seat that faced the rest of the eatery. Being handed my menu by a friendly waitress who nodded her head with a smile, walked away to a table of four to take their order.
The restaurant’s decor was simple yet elegant with Chinese paper lantern hanging from the ceiling, plant creepers hugging the wall and muzak music.
Once left alone, I realised how uncomfortable I was. I wanted to take my bag and walk out of the restaurant however as one of the double doors of the kitchen opened, the sizzling sound of the food cooking and it’s waft convinced me to stay.
The ambience of the place was satisfying in the sense the lightening wasn’t too bright. ‘Perfect’ I thought to myself. No one would be able to see my face. I caught myself silently praying not to bump into someone familiar.
I had the feeling of everyone’s eyes on me and whispering amongst themselves of the possible reasons why a 17 year old girl would be by herself?
‘bet they are thinking I have been stood up’ I whispered to myself and let out a tiny smile while studying the menu, hunting for the items I have been craving for the past two days.
The whole experience from when I came in to now was just weirdly different. I had no one to discuss with about the food and pretend to care about why they would or wouldn’t order certain dishes. It was all me! Like whatever I wanted I could have without justifying it. Forgetting my uncomfortableness momentarily, I grinned wide with the realisation of treating myself to a lovely dinner.
So with a shaky voice I gave my order to the waitress and sipped on my water, preparing myself to look up.
When I look back now, I realise how out of place I felt. It’s the society norm to go to a restaurant at least with one other person. Whether that is your best friend or a family member BUT here I was all by self at a table right by the window assuming the entire restaurant had nothing else to do but to talk about my circumstance.
When I finally looked up and observed the people around me, *drumroll* NO ONE CARED!
A mother was busy hushing the cries of her baby, a group of friends were taking selfies, a couple seemed to be in a deep serious conversation, a man struggling with his chopsticks and someone dropped their cutlery taking a quick a glance around embarrassed by the sound it created.
Shaking my head slowly, I realised how silly I had been this evening. Instead of enjoying this first-time-eating out-by myself experience, I was busy feeling out of place and reluctant about the possible thoughts of the restaurantees.
Enjoying every second of observing the passers on the road outside and those around me. It was a serene meal in the middle of the waiters hustle and bustle and the public’s chatter and laughter.
A friend asked me not so long ago ‘Wanna go out for a meal, don’t wanna go alone, it’ll be weird’. My reply with a smile – ‘Mate, if you haven’t done it yet then do it. It’s a simple experience that no one should miss out on’.