OKAY (That is what my International Studies prof says all the time, in that precise manner).
One thing’s for sure (and my mom can attest to this too), I hate eating lunch, or any meal for that matter, by myself. And by myself, I mean alone in public places. I feel that eating is a social thing, and though one might argue that it makes everyone eat slower because people are trying to talk instead of eat, I think most people agree that eating with friends is more fun than eating alone.
Now, I think that I do not just hate eating alone but I also fear it. There is apparently a term known as “solomangarephobia” that precisely describes my fear – the fear of eating solo.
So why do I fear eating alone?
Many times when I go out with family or friends for a meal, I enjoy the company that they provide for me. It gives me a sense of security and does not make me feel awkward while I’m eating. From time to time I glance around at the array of people in the restaurant, and 9 times out of 10, there will always be solo dinners.
I am curious as to what is going through their minds while they eat by themselves. I do not pity them per se, but I do wonder how they feel about eating alone. I almost feel awkward for them. I feel that same awkwardness when I am asked to go and eat by myself.
As I am learning in university, there is very little time to eat. Sometimes, an older and wiser friend told me, you have to go eat by yourself.
Maybe this is because I am such a social being that I have this notorious fear that will not let go of me.
This fear was also prevalent in high school too. Once everyone was able to drive out of school to eat lunch, I would come out of meeting after meeting with the threat of eating alone. The feeling was something incomprehensible, yet, it seemed so simple. I just did not want to eat by myself.
But yesterday I was forced to do that. After exploring SFU Vancouver for the first time, I was hungry for lunch. The thing was, I was in the middle of downtown with no friends. I had nothing with me but my bag and a craving for Japadog.
So I went, in search of the Japadog. And then I went, in search of a place to eat, alone.
I was petrified of this experience – sitting out in public, alone. It almost seemed like high school all over again, with office workers and tourists alike passing by and thinking that I was a loser, eating all alone. To make thing worse, a couple tourists had asked me to take their picture. Being a polite Canadian I agreed and helped them get a few shots. When it was all over, the asked me, “Dear, why are you eating lunch all by yourself?”
Officially a loser.
I had nothing to hide but the truth. “I’m down here by myself today.”
The tourists nodded knowingly. One of the elderly ladies spoke. “It’s good to take some time for yourself though. Get away from all the yapping mouths”, she said, making a talking motion with her hands behind her husband. We laughed together and I wished them a good day.
In time afterwards, I realized that she was right. I did take that afternoon for myself.
I very rarely go to downtown, and I go even more rarely by myself. But on Friday, with the sun shining down through a perfectly cloudless and brilliant blue sky, I took in everything around me. I became invisible, like a piece of architecture. I just observed everything around me, took in the smells and the sights and looked ahead, instead of behind.
Sitting by the water, I looked at the ripples of the water. I watched seagulls fly to meet others on rocks. I looked at my reflection in the water. And as I sat and listened, I began to regain sight on a person that I had lost while I was so busy trying to conform to the social standards of society – me.
When you are by yourself, you see the world differently. In many ways, you become vulnerable. But this vulnerability allows you to look introspectively into yourself. The quietude allows you to breathe and not be choked out by the voices around you.
So maybe, in the end, I became a winner.
Here are some of the shots I took from yesterday:
And of course, to fulfill my obsession with panoramas:
So take time for yourself! Be a tourist in your own city, fulfill your cravings and sit in the quietude of yourself. Never be afraid to eat by yourself (as I will try to be now!) and spill more ink while you do.