Immediately, I thought it was a brilliant idea – especially for someone like me who has a tendency to dine solo at times. That and the Dutch being Dutch, no matter what they do, they will always know how to apply good, practical design.
Eenmaal is a bigger idea than just a place for people to eat alone. It cultivates a different kind of culture and mentality for those who are either comfortable doing things alone, or open to doing things alone. You not only get ‘me’ time, but also see life the way you don’t usually see or might miss out on when you’re out with a group of people.
People watching is a lot of fun actually when you have time to spare. If that’s not your cup of tea, bring along a book to read or sketchbook to map out your ideas.
Essentially, eating alone helps you focus and expand your thoughts without any distraction. Well, as long as it’s not your phone that you’re hooked on to. Some even say that by dining alone, your food tastes more intense because there are no distractions.
A brave new world
After reading the article, I decided to comment on my friend’s post only to realise there were comments from people before me which left me baffled.
I would liken this eye-opening discovery to being able to see the world for the first time. Overdramatic, but that’s really how I felt.
Up until that point in time, I didn’t think dining alone was “Pathetic!” or had ever wondered, “Why would anyone want to eat alone?!”
To me, it’s the same as going for dinner with a friend. Just without one. And surprisingly, some of these comments came from people I know personally.
That bubble I’d been living in suddenly popped.
I got responses like “You’re so brave!” which I found very strange. It didn’t occur to me such an activity required strength or courage. Yet here I am, now, wondering why so many people think about it negatively, with anything that involves going solo freaking them out.
Are we wired to conform to the idea that being alone means one is antisocial, or has society simply become less comfortable in one’s own skin?
Last weekend I went to catch a local production of an international musical, and a thought came when Nell Ng, the director for Merrily We Roll Along, said in her speech that had it not been for the audience, none of this would have happened.
If more people break out from their comfort zone and feel more confident to go out on their own, many industries like the arts will benefit greatly from their support.
Often, I realised as a Malaysian, we tend to do things when there’s someone else we know who would do it with us. Otherwise, we risk abandoning the whole idea altogether. Which is a shame because you’ll never know what good things might come out of it before you even try it by yourself.
Evidently, one of the reasons why the arts are struggling to get the public to watch a show is this fear in attempting something alone. Personally, an art that is dying is not because it’s irrelevant in today’s world, but because no one attempts to try it by themselves.
Get comfortable with being alone
I can understand how nerve wrecking it can be to do something new for the first time alone. I get that feeling all the time but with each time, I slowly get de-sensitised. If anything, I end up making more friends sometimes.
Or, if you’re really that terrified at attempting anything alone like dining in a restaurant, there’s a website called Invite for A Bite (iFAB for short) which enables you to join or invite another person for a meal around the area. This is perfect for women who travel alone but detest the idea of requesting a table for one. So it doesn’t matter if you’re in Mexico City or Birmingham, someone like you might be looking for company to eat too.
There are many other websites that cater to gathering people for a good time. I created a monthly outing solely from this dilemma of not getting the right people to do outdoor activities for a state tourism board for whom I used to consult.
Without realising, #TSDayOut has resonated with like-minded people and it turned into a cult following for those who looked forward to new experiences with strangers.
This is why I think it is important to be ok with the idea of being alone. You could be inspired and create new platforms to connect with other people to make something exciting. Imagine that!
Mind you, being alone it is not the same as being lonely. They have two different meanings altogether.
Honestly, you can go run a marathon, watch a movie or go for a photography workshop by yourself and no one will think you’re a sad case. If anything, you get to do what you want to do without following what others think about it. You’re not allowing others to dictate what you might be missing out on.
Sure, it’s fun to have company around, but we have to first decide: why do we do what we do in the first place? Is it mainly because of other people or because it’s what we want to do?
It’s imperative that we shake off this idea about what other people think. More often than not, other people don’t even care why you’re doing it alone. Be it catching a concert or dining in a restaurant for one – they are more concerned about their own experience than anything else.
So go out and do something by yourself once in a while. It’s really not as daunting as you may think it is.