"Can I have a table, please."
The waiter looked around. "Wherever you want, Madam".
I eat out a lot. Sometimes out of compulsion, most times, out of interest. I am an absolute foodie, but I usually have little company to indulge me - my boyfriend lives far away and is a vegetarian, my roommate is always stuck in office, and, well, I am always hungry. So I wind up eating alone... a lot.
When a woman walks in alone, the waiter will always fill up two glasses and leave two menus on the table, as a polite gesture. As if its bad to assume that she's alone. Maybe its an understood that women take it as offensive if it's assumed that they are dining alone - as if they are THAT unattractive that it's implausible that ANYONE would be joining them for a meal.
Then you have to say, nicely. "It's only me."
Or, you have to wait until the waiter does not come to take your order.
Then begins the bout of self consciousness. When you order, for one, one woman, it becomes a nightmare for the binge eater. You can almost read the waiter's mind...
Anorexic. Poor thing.
"Fish and Chips"
With your waistline?
"Just chicken curry. No bread"
I usually do the last thing (Atkins!) I restrict myself to doing it at the quaint Parsi restaurant near my office. All Parsis are eccentric, so the waiters are not surprised at anything. Once a guy ordered for his food to be packed for a take away, and he sat down at a table, opened the packets and began eating it right there in the restaurant. He even refused the waiter's offer of a plate and cutlery.
The thing about crowded restaurants is that a single woman diner is a huge liability. Three men come in, and the table is occupied by the little woman dressed like a penguin eating salad, for God's sake. Do we ask her if they can join her? Do we not?
I personally have no reservations with sharing my dining space in say, an Udipi. If I have to share space at a nice place, it kind of defeats the purpose. Speaking of Udipis, once I had the pain of dining with a guy who was shifted onto my table, who then insisted on getting my phone number and talking to be to seek advise about his girlfriend who wasn't talking to him anymore. This South Indian Thali nearly ended in a bloodbath, with me screaming at the guy and the management of the restaurant for actually billing us together and passing the bill to the idiot in question, who was all ready to foot it. Too bad, I actually liked the Thali, and in a moment of pride and absolute disregard to the quality of South Indian food in fort, I yelled that I would never step foot in the restaurant again. Thankfully, they have a separate section for idli dosa.
And then of course there was the time that two men joined me at the table at the Parse place, and then stood up as soon as they noticed what I was eating.
"She's eating NON VEG!"
It's a Parsi place. Give me a break. At least I'm just eating it in front of you, and not putting it in your food, which is probably what's happening to your order right now. Did you really think the veg Dhanshak gets it flavour from the Potato that's floating in it?
I'm just kidding, guys. Really.
The other thing you get is inquisitive looks from other diners. Boyfriend claims that the reason men stare at single women diners in fancy restaurants is because of the possibility that they are "rich AND available". Perhaps. But I think its more because men, well, they stare.
So, as roommate is stuck at work, and these are the last few days to relish ramzan specialities, I think I will head over for some Jafferbhai Kababs, alone. I recently read about a place which gives single women diners a complementary date at their table - a goldfish in a bowl, called Henry.
How patronizing can you get? Also, Henry would make a sucky date. At least I can get away with a few winces from my tam brahm boyfriend when I dig into plucky prawns. :)