Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dining Alone?

My new single existence is one to which I am trying to become accustomed. I won't bore you with hateful and self-pitying mentions of the hurt, anger, loneliness and a myriad of other emotions which surge through my being. Or of the panic to find somewhere to live which is steadily setting in.

But being alone does tend to open one's eyes and mind. I refuse to withdraw into my own little world and to never venture out into the wide world, to spend every meal time at 'home' just because I may not have a 'date' for that particular lunch or dinner.

Dining alone is a rather strange experience and one which differs between the lunch and dinner sittings. At lunch, the solitary diner is easily explained and tolerated. But come the evening, and one is treated either with sympathy, suspicion or downright rudeness (I'm sorry that I'm not going to spend as much as a couple, but is my custom any less valued? Clearly). And so I have rather come to enjoy lunching on my own, and by refusing to bury my head in a book or magazine, behaviour often exhibited by other solitary diners, I choose to use it as an excellent opportunity for people watching.

There are the business lunches where an awkward hesitation hovers over the wine list. Will the client imbibe or not? One can audibly hear a breath of relief exhaled by the hosting agency as the phrase “I think a little glass of wine might be in order” is uttered. The couple of gentlemen of a certain age who guffaw with added gusto to avoid any confusion as to their sexuality. “Not that there’s anything wrong with queer chaps you understand. Heavens, Cynthia was married to one once.”

The ‘yummy mummies’ whose attention is diverted to their wailing offspring and who only manage to half consume their by-now cold lasagne (“I need the carbs sweetie. I’m breastfeeding.”). And of course, no musing on lunchers would be complete without mentioning those legendary ladies-who-lunch. The mineral water sipping, Silk Cut Slim puffing, Chanel encrusted brigade are not just an urban myth. Fearful of not fitting into next season’s Manolos if their weight creeps over seven stone, they appear to exist on greens and the occasional prawn. Oh, and a glass of champagne on a Friday.

The couple whom have been married forever, for whom food is solely fuel and whose only conversation is “I hope that’s not salt Geoffrey, you know what Dr Hughes said.” The young couple who are caught in the heady whirlwind of fresh love and whom devour more of each other than their shared fruit de mer (she daren’t tell him that there is a risk that shellfish might make her eyes swell to the size of gobstoppers).

Yes, lunchtime offers a fascinating insight into human behaviour and relationships. And that's the positive spin I shall try to continue to put on my new life.

But of course, all dinner dates are very welcome.

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