solo

25 Sep
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Hummus and pita. Made onsite. When in Chicago’s Greek town….

Many moons ago when I used to watch Friends, I recall an episode when Rachel was trying something new: eating out alone. Apparently, there was this whole bru-ha-ha about her eating alone because apparently, only pathetic people eat in a restaurant alone. Admittedly, I thought this was a strange issue to tackle on a TV show. I eat alone all the time. In fact, I enjoy it. (Yes. I’m eating alone right now. In a cafe. In Chicago. And I really don’t give a shit about what the people around me are thinking.)

Granted, I understand why people don’t like eating alone. Our class readings addressed this issue, stating that eating alone is embarrassing and no one likes to admit they eat alone. Perhaps this is why I do so with such pride. Sometimes I need to be by myself so that I can escape my crazy life. When I eat alone, I take my time. I indulge in the menu and order way too much, just so I can have leftovers to take home and reflect on my marvelous meal alone.

For my students, I know that this next assignment was to share a food experience with someone else. I also know that I’m not quite addressing the assignment. However, I do want to tackle this notion of eating alone. For women, eating alone becomes this stigma because the assumption is that you have no one in your life. In contrast, men eating alone has a completely different meaning. Personally, I believe in these small acts of rebellion. Maybe this is why I have no problem eating alone. Besides, just because I entered the restaurant alone, doesn’t mean I’m necessarily alone.

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When traveling, I try to catch up on work. This is why I like eating alone. The waitress suggested this dessert. It was kinda’ custard-y inside with phyllo dough outside. It was okay, but definitely not a total stand-out.

When the Manpanion and I started dating, we reached the point where I would take him to my usual spots. He was impressed that I actually knew the owners and the people that work in the restaurant. For me, establishing this relationship is important. I like to know the story behind the restaurant. How did the restaurant come to be? What compels the owners and workers to do this work? What are the popular dishes? How is this different from the chef’s specialty dish? (Yes, there’s a difference. Always opt for the chef’s speciality!) Admittedly, I have made some wonderful friends by simply starting conversation and community while sitting alone in a restaurant. (OMG. There was this one time, this guy next to me paid for my meal because his daughter happened to be a professor whose work I was familiar with!)

I have this relationship at certain places I shop too. This past summer, I was taking a dear friend to my favorite shoe store to meet my “dealers” (a term I use to refer to the shoe pushers who work at the store). After he purchased two pairs of shoes, he said, “Joanne, the people there aren’t your ‘dealers,’ they’re your friends. They actually enjoy your visit and vice versa. You have an actual relationship with them!” I responded, “Of course! How else does one interact with other people?!”

Maybe that’s the key to navigating solo: make meaningful contact. Living in Phoenix, I’m alone a lot, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m alone. I try to make conversation and make good company when I’m out and about. On occasion, it’s not  me that starts the interaction. I consider myself a fairly sociable person, so I respond accordingly. If I’m not feeling social, I make that clear too.

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Heaven in a glass.

Yes, I’m here at Artopolis, a bakery/cafe located in Chicago’s Greektown. The wait staff are very kind. The woman helping me is particularly chatty and I like her recommendations. I’m enjoying the Frappe, a cold version of a traditional Greek coffee. It’s delicious, but without all the grit of the traditional hot version. Of course, I’ll snack on other traditional-for-Chicago Greek fare. I’m glad to be here alone because I don’t think I’d have the patience to wait for a group of people to join me. Everyone should experience this Frappe, as I’ll surely miss it when I head back to Phoenix.

Live deliciously,

-joanne

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