I’ll admit that I’m bizarrely nervous about eating alone in a restaurant. I don’t mind eating alone at home in private, just not in a public restaurant/food court setting. I attribute this to my long-held belief that only sad, friendless, lonely people eat by themselves at restaurants. However, I half admire and half loathe happy loners who are able to unselfconsciously wolf down food while talking animatedly on the phone. Someday Sapna, someday!
Food – and more importantly, sharing a meal with others – is such an integral part of Indian culture that many people still consider the idea of going out alone, at least out of choice, a little bemusing.
When out eating alone, I can usually feel all eyes on me and hear little voices that say, “They’re looking at you” growing louder and louder until I can’t even taste the food. My dining experience becomes a scene straight out of a Stanley Kubrick movie.
I was made acutely aware of this fact on my first night alone in Beijing in October 2015. So, I bought a bag of roasted chestnuts, some local fruits and candy and went back to my hotel room. Please note that I love Chinese food and I chose to sit on my bed stuffing my face with chestnuts over even contemplating eating out alone.
It takes a lot of energy for me to walk into a restaurant alone. The first time I remember having to eat alone was in 2009 during a Boxing Day shopping trip in Melbourne. Hungrily, I walked around the food court several times, peering into the display menus, finding it almost impossible to pluck up the courage to order. In the end, I gave up and ordered an ice cream instead. This was food I could walk around and eat, in my mind this type of food carries less of a social stigma – than sit down with a meal and get stared at. So, I’ve noticed I often gravitate towards stuff like popcorn, fruits, nuts, ice cream, corn on the cob, peanuts, chips and such when I’m out alone.
Actually, I generally end up getting takeout or order in at the hotel. Back at home though, I don’t have to think twice about my solomangarephobia – yup that’s what the fear of eating alone in public is called, apparently. Thanks to my husband, friends and family, I’m rarely unaccompanied.
One other phobia of mine that I notice while traveling alone is – Selfiephobia, fear of taking selfies in public. This is for real! I’m not even sure if I can call it fear because it’s really more of a hatred.
As much as I want to capture the travel memories, I find myself taking pictures without me in them. I mean putting yourself in front of cars, oceans, buildings, monuments, scenery – what is the point of that?
I attribute this to my belief that one ought to live in the moment and be 100% present with real people as opposed to carefully curating an exaggerated version of one’s life for social media via selfies/photos. Besides, I think these types of photos are superficial and they are nothing but a loud cry for attention and validation. In fact, I’m clicking fewer and fewer photographs these days. Who’s going to want to see the thousands of personal photos I’ve clicked? Other people have a million photos of their own to look at anyway. Right? My brother tells me I can be quite dystopic when I want to. But, please don’t mind – I’ve been reading too much Kafka. Here, taste some Kafka for yourself:
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” – Franz Kafka in a letter to Oskar Pollack dated January 27, 1904.
As with much of Kafka, it’s impossible to entirely agree with his point of view, yet once you read it it’s impossible to continue to think in the same way.
Do you have any fears – real or imagined? Tell me in one word. Comment.