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Would you dine on your own?

Is it ok to prefer your own company? The women seem to think not.

Published on August 23rd 2010.

Would you dine on your own?

Over the weekend Confidential was listening to Sheila Hancock, the widow of late Manchester actor John Thaw. She was talking on Radio 5 Live about how she loves going to restaurants but until her husband’s death had never understood how weird it can feel to dine out alone.

Sometimes as writers this is an occupational hazard.

Say a review’s got to be done on a particular day for publishing, you arrange for a friend to come along then last minute they cancel and no one else is available. There’s a deadline so you can’t pull out – it’s time for going solo over the Merlot.

For people who have travelled alone it’s probably no problem either – especially when abroad. You have to eat and you might as well see what the local scene is like, gauge the quality of the food, find out about the local specialities. Eating on your own in an anonymous hotel seems like torture to many people. Where’s the fun in staring at hotel fixtures and fittings and stuffing down a steak sandwich?

Yet at Confidential we know some people – just about all of them women - who would prefer to eat in their room rather than dine out alone while away on business.

Maybe there’s a break in attitudes between the sexes here – especially when going for somewhere to eat in a swanky or upmarket place? Men we asked seemed generally less bothered about solo dining, women were far more reluctant to order a table for one.

It seemed the girls are thinking a proper meal out should be a shared occasion, something more than just a downing of food no matter how fine, but also about chat and company. In other words if you're alone you might as well snack rather than waste an opportunity to make a proper evening of it.

One little office princess - feminists turn away now - said nobody should have to dine alone because you should be asked out and treated. Old habits and attitudes die hard it seems.

Maybe the whole thing boils down to not wanting to be ‘Billy-no-mates’. The laughing couples or jolly groups of friends is the image constantly marketed to us on all the ad campaigns. Dining alone might cause others in the restaurant to stare at us and make up stories to explain our singleton behaviour.

Returning to that radio interview, Sheila Hancock, John Thaw’s widow, seems to have got over all that. If she wants a good meal and there are no friends available then she bloody well gets out there - and sod convention or curious stares. She takes a good book to read between courses and gets stuck into it, engaging waiters in chat if they want. She reckons other diners after the first glance will be more interested in each other than in lone diners in any case.

But when's all said and done, would you – do you – dine alone in restaurants?

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Simon14452August 23rd 2010.

There is nothing wrong with dining on your own - gives you time to enjoy good food, good surroundings and have time to think. Or am I projecting all my lonely hopes around?

Flip oneAugust 24th 2010.

In what other situation can you eat with your feet on the table with fork in one hand whilst scratching your nuts with the other, oh and I get to break wind at my leisure?! Dine alone? f*ck yeah!

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Depends on the venue really. Somewhere like Trof with a relaxed cafe/bar type vibe then no problem, I'll quite happily eat alone, enjoy a drink and absorb a book, but I doubt I'd do the same somewhere more high end. I can cook quite well and most of my enjoyment for eating out comes from the shared experience rather than the food.

Your office princess have a disgusting attitude, real people actually died for your right to earn money, have the vote and go dutch - it's a slight to their memory that you should play the weak female that needs looking after or the strong female that uses men.

mancangelAugust 24th 2010.

the main problem for women dining alone is having to deal with unwanted attention from predatory men; sad but true. the same often happens at gigs. i am perfectly happy with my own company thanks and dont want to have to fend off ridiculous lines or arse gropers or (almost worst) weird sympathy from staff who cant seem to compute sometimes i choose to be alone. for this reason i dont tend to eat out or see bands on my own any more but when i do i love it; very different to going with friends as you can watch, listen, notice more.

Happy MuncherAugust 24th 2010.

There is nothing nicer than a meal with convivial company. There is equally nothing nicer than dining alone having selected time, place and menu all alone with narcissistic pleasure. No arguing over what to eat and no hassle with the bill. If only restaurants realised the potential market of single diners and offered more 50% off menus rather than 2 for 1 when trying to entice us in in these parsimonious times.

LonerangerAugust 24th 2010.

I am a lone female and often have to travel quite a lot on business. I have absolutely no problem dining alone and quite enjoy it sometimes especially when in a strange city as I then get to people watch at my leisure. Far from being bothered by people staring at me, I actually stare more at them, lost in my own little world thinking about 'who they are, where they come from, whats their story?'

I am lucky enough to have enough friends in Manchester that I never have to dine alone, but even if I hadn't, if I really wanted to try a restaurant, I would have no problem going it alone. The 'Office Princess' needs her pathetic crown knocking off and perhaps replaced with a modicum of self reliance and an appreciation of what our Bra Burning Sisters before us went through to help change more than just the right to dine alone.

PS - I have never been pestered or chatted up simply because I'm dining alone (but maybe thats because I'm a fat, ugly, butch feminist?)
PPS - I'm not BTW!

AnonymousAugust 24th 2010.

Couldn't have put it better myself loneranger. I don't travel so much now but the thought of sitting in a hotel room eating over-priced, piss-poor room service food used to fill me with horror. Off I'd go and explore wherever I may have been and eat in the local restaurants - alone. Great me time IMO

dandy16837August 24th 2010.

sad but unsurprising that you include the rather pathetic princess quote in the story and twice refer to sheila hancock only in relation to her dead husband; pretty sure she has achieved a few things in her own name too. The frequent casual sexism of mancon is depressing and really lets down the quality of the site.

John14798August 24th 2010.

Well Dandy 16837, if you think that the sexism at Mancon is casual then you've obviously never met Gordo

THE EARLAugust 24th 2010.


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