March 12, 2006

Women, alone, in restaurants.

So, what do you think of a woman, eating alone, at a good restaurant? Do you feel sorry for her? Do you think she would like you to ask her to join your group?

Etiquette tip from the linked piece: Don't approach her. Use the waiter as an intermediary.

Fashion tip for women: Wear blue silk clothes with matching high-heeled shoes.

46 comments:

Dave said...

What do I think f a woman eating alone in a good restaurant?

I think she's (1) wealthy enough to afford to be served and (2) savvy enough to be served in a good restaurant.

Given those two things, she is doing better than 99% of the people who have ever lived. This is not a woman to be pitied but rather envied.

anonlawstudent said...

As someone who does a lot of things alone, I don't particularly notice when other people are alone. To me it seems perfectly natural to eat at a restaraunt alone. It never occurred to me that it would be different for women than for men. It does seem slightly more natural to be out alone for lunch than for dinner.

me said...

I like to read when I eat out alone, which doesn't really work in a good restaurant. What the hell difference does it make if it is a woman or a man eating out? Who cares???

Pogo said...

It is considerably rarer for a woman to be eating alone than for a man to do the same.

When travelling alone, I usually eat alone, preferring solitiude to do some reading after an exhausting day of being with people. (Where others seem to be energized by a day filled with conversation, I feel drained.)

Heterosexual men dining alone are usually left alone because others think, "He's alone; there must be something wrong with him". Unaccompanied women, in contrast, are viewed by men as potential companions, and thus can be approached.

Steve Martin's 1984 film The Lonely Guy is an otherwise dull film, but has a fun restaurant scene about the pitiable act of eating alone.

Bruce Hayden said...

As a guy, I have eaten at restaurants alone a lot over the years, and often would rather doing such. But there seems to be an idea that women are only happy when with other people, so can't be expected to be happy eating alone, and, thus, should be invited over, etc.

But of course, that is silly. Maybe, on average, women are more social and socially driven than men are, but that still leaves a lot of room for women who want to eat alone.

I, for one, would never invite such a woman over for desert, send a drink, etc., just like I typically would not like it if it were done to me. Not because I wouldn't appreciate her company, but because I think it rude.

I see it a quite different situation from a woman going into a bar alone, and, in particular, sitting at the bar alone. But that is a social situation where new relationships (however brief) are expected to be initiated. Most often, in restaurants, this isn't the case.

nina said...

I have listened to this discussion on and off for decades and I just do not understand what the issue is. I have been traveling alone all my life, going through Europe to visit my home town, Warsaw and I have always saved enough to eat at decent places. I would work at any odd job, even when I was a lowly student, just so I would have money to eat decently, at good places.
And so, adding it up over the years, I will have dined alone hundreds of times. Not once has it bothered me. Never am I so atuned to my environment, so engrossed with the food, the movement of waiters, the people at other tables as when I am undistracted, alone.
I keep a notebook and take notes and they always reflect a joy of sitting there, watching, waiting for the food to arrive.
I am not a loner, but dining alone is a thrill.
And yes, I also love eating with people.

Ann Althouse said...

I have read that in hotels, women eat in their rooms much more often than men. A lot of women feel uncomfortable or even vulnerable eating out alone, especially at night. I know when I'm traveling, I care a lot about staying in a place where, when I'm feeling vulnerable, I can eat in the hotel (not necessarily always in the room). It's nice that other people, like Nina, feel more adventurous, but when traveling alone, I like to be able to get back to a very secure environment if I feel like it. I've been robbed while on vacation, and, really, it screws up the whole trip. A woman alone is an easy mark, and even if nothing happens, it's not fun knowing you are that person.

Also, I think a lot of restaurants do not like to give a table to a person eating alone. You have to feel apologetic and unwanted. I have had restaurant people tell me this quite directly. I would eat out by myself much more often if I didn't think that nice restaurants don't want solo customers.

vbspurs said...

It wasn't as romantic as I had imagined. Still, the moment was pleasant enough, if only on a very superficial level. When she offered another Scotch, we declined and said good night. "She was no Garbo," I told Ira as we walked back to our hotel.

Well boo-hoo.

With this sniffy little ending, it seems that Bob and Ira wanted more to get the dope on the single Scandinavian lady, than to extend any courtesy or real human warmth to her.

I am not stunned to find out that people find single diners slightly sad.

But it is much more common to be hyperaware of your surroundings, when you are on holiday.

I have lunch, dinner alone at good restaurants all the time, and like anonlawstudent and others, I don't find this odd of me.

But nor do others, from what I've experienced at least.

Just this past Friday, I was at Taboo in Worth Avenue.

What stuck out for others was not that I was a single woman having lunch at the most exclusive eatery in Palm Beach...

...but that I was the only person in the place under 70.

Dining alone isn't that much of a social prohibition as Bob Morris makes it out to be (he refers to a 1930's writer who used to dine out by herself).

Perhaps in the 1880's. But by the start of World War I, when few men were about, and rationing had taken hold of the restaurants, and populace, it was a very common sight indeed.

Not impressed by the conclusions of this article, though good eye on spotting it nonetheless.

Today's posts are meatylicious.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Also, I think a lot of restaurants do not like to give a table to a person eating alone.

I'm stunned really.

You're a married lady (twice so), and I'm still a single one, and yet never have I experienced this or heard such a thing from waiters, or maitre d's.

And I've travelled to the four corners of this world, from Bolivia to Indonesia.

It just goes to show the extreme selectivity of circumstance, because certainly your personality does not indicate that you would be a wallflower, or treated as such.

(Nor does mine, obviously)

There is only one variable that pops to mind, but I refrain from mentioning it.

For a change.

Cheers,
Victoria

Ann Althouse said...

Victoria: "You're a married lady (twice so)..."

Where do you come up with these facts?

Ann Althouse said...

And where do I come up with my info on restaurants?

1. Talking to a family member with a long history working as a head waiter and maitre d'.

2. Talking to other people who have worked in restaurants.

Brendan said...

I frequently eat alone on the road thanks to my job. Not once has another party asked me to join them. Guess I'm not showing enough leg. Of course, it's best to do so at a diner or bar and grill, instead of conspicuously sitting all by your lonesome at a table. That just screams "loser."

vbspurs said...

Where do you come up with these facts?

Once, Ann, sorry about that. The moment I hit send...

And your facts are not wrong.

That was why I said what I did, "extreme selectivity of circumstance" bit.

It all depends on the experience of each person, see what I mean?

Cheers,
Victoria

Christopher Althouse said...

Victoria: I'm a waiter, so I'll tell you. We don't particularly like one tops. But it's not the worst thing in the world. The worst is when people decide to hang out in the restaurant after they're done eating and they've already paid (camping), which is really no different than stealing money from the waiter if it's busy. You won't make very much money off a one top, though, and they'll take up a full table that you could have made four times as much from with a group of people.

bill said...

What do I think? That she's probably hungry. And if you're thinking otherwise, then you are probably one of those annoying extroverts always trying to impose your presence on other people.

So, just sit down, shut up, and mind your own damn business.

vbspurs said...

We don't particularly like one tops.

One tops! I love it.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes finding out the secrets of every trade, like insider lingo.

"Two dogs and a cow".

But it's not the worst thing in the world. The worst is when people decide to hang out in the restaurant after they're done eating and they've already paid (camping), which is really no different than stealing money from the waiter if it's busy. You won't make very much money off a one top, though, and they'll take up a full table that you could have made four times as much from with a group of people.

First, thanks for the reply to better throw light into the situation for us, Christopher.

I can tell you that THAT last bit you mentioned, I have personally witnessed many times, but always through the capacity of customer, never server, so my viewpoint is different.

One of the most depressing things in the world for a diner, is to be told to run along.

Well do I remember being in one of the famed outdoor Copacabana cafes on Avenida Atlantica, when a waiter told our party to scoot, since they could be making money off of the gringos and not off of us with our rounds of beer and Coke (for me).

Although we were all gringoes, he didn't realise that, because we just happened to speak Portuguese.

Now, I understand -- we're talking of a person's livelihood.

But I'll never forget those times when a wonderful evening out was ruined by being told you were judged a nuisance and to please leave.

Can you imagine if someone in a department store on a commission told you such a thing?

"Hey lady, you gonna buy that bottle of Britney perfume or what? I got kids to feed!"

Now, what your mum described is usually a question of inner monologues "oh isn't she sad, just sitting there all alone?".

But this other situation, let's just say it's very much in your face.

P.S.: Guess what I'm eating, guys? Paella!!

Alone. :)

Cheers,
Victoria

Sean said...

What do I think when I see a woman eating alone? I usually feel sorry for the woman in question. I can't imagine my wife or my two female law partners doing such a thing. Why can't she round up a girlfriend at least? It's a little different in a hotel, where the woman might be travelling on business, but in a neighborhood restaurant, it seems sad.

I must say, it would never occur to me to attempt a non-sexual friendship with someone who was alone in a restaurant or bar. So now that I am married, I can't imagine trying to interact with someone in that position.

Hecla Ma said...

I sometimes eat alone in a restaurant. I can't imagine that anyone is thinking anything of me as I read and eat, anymore than I would be wondering about someone else who is eating alone. What's to feel sorry for? Why should we make any assumptions at all? If I'm eating alone it's because I've chosen to. It's kind of nice, sometimes, to eat a wonderful meal with no one asking you a question just when you've put food into your mouth! :-)

Ann Althouse said...

"Why can't she round up a girlfriend at least?"

That assumes a person is always in the mood for conversation. Sometimes you've been talking all day, and you want some time to think or read or write. Plus, you're hungry. I don't see why you should assume that everyone always prefers to be with someone. A lot of people enjoy having time to themselves. Personally, I like to be around other people some of the time, but I sometimes feel bored or irritated around other people. Being by myself never makes me feel bored or unhappy -- though it does mildly irk me to think that someone else thinks it does.

Wickedpinto said...

If a woman is eating alone in a restaurant it depends heavily on the restaurant, how she's dressed and how she's eating.

If it's an uperish-scale place, and she's eating alone, I think she's patting herself on the back, it is only if I notice that she's hot, that I would observe anymore, and if she's hot, and eating alone, and patting herself on the back, then I MIGHT notice if she is rubbernecking. If she rubbernecks, then I think she got stood up. But doesn't matter, a decent place is not a place to pick up chicks, except at the valet, or coat line or whatever.

If it's a mid level place, pretty much the same thing.

If it's a low level place, I think she's hungry.

As a guy, who has been hungry, who has been proud, and who has been abandoned, I have this to say. If I START in any of those situations? I don't anyone messing with me. I kinda treat it like a dog who thought his master was gonna give him a bone, only to find he was stuck with sqeeky toy. Don't F with me, while I'm with my bone, or my squeeky toy.

Women eating alone, are eating alone, interact with them later. Thats what I would prefer.

Chum said...

Bill: 'And if you're thinking otherwise, then you are probably one of those annoying extroverts always trying to impose your presence on other people.'

The one time I did join others (we were all attending the same conference) I spent the remainder of the dinner regretting my decision.

vbspurs:

You'll enjoy waiterrant.net, then.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Christopher Althouse Cohen: What if a one top tipped at twice-four times the normal rate? Would that make it better? Should a one-topper tell the waiter at the beginning "I know I'm taking a full table and cutting into your tips so I'll be doubling my normal 20% for your excellent service." That way, you actually make more. You've served one, but received the tip of two. There are still tables just for two, right?

chuck b. said...

I do think about taking money from the waiters by occupying a table alone, so when I want/need to eat out by myself, I try to pick the restaurant carefully and go either as late as possible/reasonable. And I eat at the bar whenever I can.

Eating alone can me more (un)comfortable at some restaurants than others.

I often find dining alone the waitstaff is extra friendly and I've gotten extra service on many occasions, including free appetizers and remainders of wine from nearly empty bottles.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with Chuck B. I eat out alone a lot, but almost never when there is a shortage of tables. If half the restaurant is empty, I figure that my business alone is better than no business at all for the wait staff.

Of course, it helps that when I am alone, I don't have to hew to normal eating times. So, I may find myself eating dinner at, say, 4 in the afternoon.

Ann Althouse said...

Wickedpinto: "If it's an uperish-scale place, and she's eating alone, I think she's patting herself on the back, it is only if I notice that she's hot, that I would observe anymore, and if she's hot, and eating alone, and patting herself on the back, then I MIGHT notice if she is rubbernecking..."

These remarks seem awfully strange. "Patting herself on the back"? You think women eat in nice restaurants to congratulate themselves? Why? People eat in nice restaurants because they are hungry, they want good food, and they can afford it. They do it alone because they aren't so self-conscious that they avoid doing what they otherwise want to do.

Wickedpinto said...

Ma'am Althouse?

I think I showed that I was speaking in terms of a man eating alone. If I didn't, that was what I meant. I intended to show how _I_ would react to a woman eating alone, and then I went into the various OPTIONS of opinion that a man eating alone might consider.

the "patting herself on the back" statement is really built on the cost, and heuteishness of the restaurant, and I don't care what your income is, you ain't gonna order fat goose liver, or abused cow loin, or any creatures fin, if you are not trying to validate your own position. Noone will treat themselves to a decadent meal unless there is a reason to feel that you have a right to it, THAT was my point.

And If you think anything I said was specific to women, look at the post again, I compared expensive meals, for MEN, to getting a meat bone, OR a squeeky toy.

ALSO, I didn't judge that woman who MIGHT be eating alone once, I assumed that she deserved it, and if there was to be any interraction, it should occur AFTER.

I might be confusing, because I was inserting a mans point of view into the same independance of a woman enjoying a reward after a job well done, just like a man, who was the dog, loves gnawing on the meat bone :)

Women ain't that different babe.b

Brendan said...

It's only "sad" if you eat alone in your own home town (fast food joints excluded).

Wickedpinto said...

Women eating alone, are eating alone, interact with them later. Thats what I would prefer.

previous quote from me.

I mean that people are people, the only time I care, is if I based on a judgement I can't understand, but I MIGHT find myself willing to say hello as we both left the restauraut.

Wickedpinto said...

It's only "sad" if you eat alone in your own home town (fast food joints excluded).

I eat regularly at hometown joints. Only because I have NEVER enjoyed "country fried steak" when it was made by a person, and I can't get skirt, or flank steak as cheap as I can from my home town restaurant. I eat alone at my home town restaurants, because of the particular food.

Thats not sad, in fact, Home town singles are MORE forgiveable, because they aren't being decadent, they are just eating.

Mark Daniels said...

Years ago, I was having lunch with a female friend of mine when we spied a woman, sitting alone, eating. Said my friend, "I think it's always so sad when someone eats by themselves." I nodded with agreement.

But a few moments later, my friend said, "Come to think of it, though, I always enjoy eating alone." To that, I nodded in agreement, too.

I guess the bottom line is that whether female or male, eating alone can be a good thing. But nobody wants a steady diet of it. (Bad pun intended.)

Mark Daniels

Christy said...

It was M.F.K. Fisher who first gave me the courage to eat out alone, and at the finest restaurants, when traveling. I must confess, however, it was easier when I was young and pretty.

Wicked, I eat at the best places with my pals, why should eating alone be different? Heck, I even eat at one of Baltimore's nicer eateries when I wait for my car to be serviced. I'm a food snob, so sue me.

I do try to avoid busy times. I've found that showing up at the slow times and tipping well means I get treated like a queen when I show up on a busy night with friends.

OddD said...

It's not just a female thing as Loudon Wainwright pointed out once:

I can cook a little
but it's not a lot
to shout about
It's kind of mean cuisine
So I eat out
...
You can put me in the corner,
in the table in the back,
Unless you got one in the telephone booth,
I'm here and I'm alone again,
It's sad but it's the truth,
No, I'm not expecting anyone,
Is that beyond belief?

Maxine Weiss said...

It's not just one woman. Remember that episode of Lucy, when she and Ethel---two unescorted women going to the club.......

There's still the idea that a woman must have a chaperone.

Cruise ships always provide escorts for single women dining alone.

Men dining alone don't have to fend off would-be suitors and pick-ups.

A single woman dining alone, sexily dressed and wearing make-up....

A group of attractive single women hanging out by the bar....

If the woman is attractive and/or heavily made up.....we all know what the assumptions/perception will be.

Although, if the woman is unattractive, the ensuing pity is probably worse than the other, former assumptions.

Ann, get a chaperone, or a professional "walker" to escort you socially.

Life is unfair.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

The tipping aspect is ridiculous. At an upscale restaurant, the server is getting, percentage-wise, the same amount of tip.......for doing less work!

Larger parties are notorious for being cheap, what with the added work to serve 'em.....that's why most restaurants have had to assign mandatory gratuities to large parties.

I'd think servers would love single diners----socially unacceptable though it may be!

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

" I don't see why you should assume that everyone always prefers to be with someone."---Ann

In America, mealtimes are a social event. And, certainly, going out to dinner, going to a restaurant, is certainly much more than filling up/sustenance.

What does it mean to be social?, to socialize? It doesn't mean sitting alone, to my way of thinking.

I'm not fooled by people in coffee houses sitting with.....a laptop as a social substitute, I feel just as sorry for them.

What's sad isn't the idea of being alone. We are all alone. What's sad is nobody treasures socializing, polite/platonic conversation. The idea of a travelling companion, or even a platonic dinner companion.

These things don't exist anymore, and that's what sad.

Peace, Maxine

Hey said...

This is definitely a conceit of old folks, especially those who are lower-middle income and/or do not work a professional job.

Speaking as a young consultant/investment banker whose friends are young consultants/lawyers/investment bankers/accountants etc eating alone is absolutely unexceptional for men and women. I tend to do it 2-4 times a week, though when traveling most of us never eat alone, since travel tends to be done in groups in these professions. Once we get past the monstrous mysogynism of the Boomers (especially that of the left wing feminists), no one will get excercised by this.

To the "patting on back" "extravagant" guy: I'm sorry that you are poor and feel it necessary to take out your obviously justified feelings of uselessness and inferiority on others. People who do actual work and make a real salary find that a late night at the office makes it hard to pick up supplies to cook, so one must go to some declasse restaurant like Per Se, Le Bernardin, The Ivy, J. Sheekey, or Morton's to get something decent.

Really, old and poor folks. Just can't understand either of them.

vbspurs said...

You'll enjoy waiterrant.net, then.

Thanks, love, I'll check it out, but I'll doubt I'll be posting to it.

The only rants I initiate are about MSM, Hollywood or liberal academia, which falls under the big Liberal-Elite umbrella.

P.S.: Just to add what Mark Daniels said:

Listen, one of the greatest pleasures we humans have, is to observe people around us, especially whilst we are seated. It's kind of like cover, when we are the hunters, and others are the prey.

And we judge people, not just observe them, at times.

It's human.

But I have this sinking feeling that some woman, SOME woman reading this thread, will think twice, ...maybe thrice, now about dining out alone.

Let that woman not be you. Eat up, alone!

It's called not giving a hoot what people think about you, and it's the most liberating feeling in the world.

Cheers,
Victoria

Goesh said...

First off, she probably makes more money than me. Secondly, she doesn't need or necessarily want conversation during a meal. She is probably one of those rare Americans who can enjoy good food for the sake of good food and doesn't need dim-witted babble to distract from the taste of expensive, quality food in a nice atmosphere.

Sean said...

To: Hey

I hope you're not billing the client for dinner at Le Bernardin!

Wickedpinto said...

okay christy, you'are right.

Wicked, I eat at the best places with my pals, why should eating alone be different? Heck, I even eat at one of Baltimore's nicer eateries when I wait for my car to be serviced. I'm a food snob, so sue me.

I left that out of the situationals. "or she's a food snob" and that doesn't mean I want to interrupt you.

I created the situationals as a microscopic look, puting my male perspective over the top of a female one, and so. "or she's a food snob, and is too busy enjoying her meal to not let it be tainted with the lazy interaction of a complete stranger trying to interfere with a private experience in the hopes that he can brag about his jag."

I don't have a problem with food snobs, I'm not, but we used to schedule extravegant (spelling?) meals. Some buds and gf's of ours would schedule a ridiculously expensive and thorough dining experience. If you got the bucks? good for you, though if you are gonna pay that much on a meal without sharing it with those whose company you enjoy, I wouldn't judge you, I would just figure that there is no way in hell we could interact.

And anyways, in summary.Don't F with a woman eating alone, let her enjoy her meal, or let her treat herself to a decadent pleasure after a job well done, or let her stuff her face, cuz she's just plain hungry.

With men. Don't F with him for the said same reasons, unless you have REALLY large juggs, in which case you better know the heimlich.

Other than that, I like the squeaky toy comparisson, gonna go play with some sqeaky toys, and then eat a country fried steak.

bearing said...

Does it change the equation if she's reading a book? I used to do that, maybe three times a week (if you define "good restaurant" as "really fabulous hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant" --- somewhat less often if you define it as "more than marginally expensive restaurant.")

Now that I have two small kids, trust me, if you ever see me alone in a good restaurant, don't feel sorry for me. :-)

Maxine Weiss said...

Oh, I guess I was mistaken. I thought this thread was about eating alone, period.

Apparently the scenario is limited to wealthy, and/or professional women at elite restaurants. This is all about the plight of the upscale.

A working-class, or needy woman, dining alone, at a McDonalds is a completely different issue, eh?

Peace, Maxine

37383938393839383938383 said...

A woman alone in a resturant is like a woman alone in my bed. I'll be there in a jiffy.

Maxine Weiss said...

OK, here's the deal, Bottom line:

In the final analyis, this woman in the article didn't want to be alone.

It's so obvious.

She was biding her time, waiting to see if someone better came along. Nobody better came along, so why not go with the gay men? Better than nothing-muses. A distraction for her.

A blond Scandinavian woman in Babados etc...

How many blond women are over there? She's got her pick of any number of men.

And therein lies the essential truth: When a woman says she wants to be alone---when Ann claims she doesn't want conversation, what she is really saying is, she doesn't want conversation with YOU !!!

Would that George Clooney, or Bill Clinton, or Henry Kissenger (Hey, why not?) came ambling up to a single woman's table......you bet they'll welcome the company!

Let's face it: a woman dining alone is being selective. Ok, in all fairness, at hole-in-the-wall coffee houses, or street-side cafes.....maybe those places are meant for single diners.

But at Le Bernardin, Le Grenouille?------a woman dining alone at those types of places is (no matter what she says) very open to male companionship, depending on the status and prestige of the male.

Women talk a good game, but the minute George Clooney come stumbling in....or whoever, Neil Bush etc.......all this single diner/leave-me-alone stuff goes right out the window.

I don't even believe Garbo wanted to really be alone. She was just biding her time. Gable was taken. Tyrone Power hadn't found his way to her yet.

A very good ruse, this single diner game!

So obvious.

Peace, Maxine

Wickedpinto said...

In the final analyis, this woman in the article didn't want to be alone.

It's so obvious.

She was biding her time, waiting to see if someone better came along. Nobody better came along, so why not go with the gay men? Better than nothing-muses. A distraction for her.


Then it's her damn fault. Why doesn't she find a MAN! who's eating alone? Or is she TRYING to play the needy Maid in Waiting role?

So, it's a guys fault that, she wants to play gender games? OH! but she's fabricating an experience in the hopes of defining gender relations?

If you want to understand "reality" you don't contrive a situation. I'm so friggen tired, I prolly dcked this post up 5 ways to october.

Hey said...

Given Maxine's post, I rest my case.

Sean: my expenses are a rounding error as compared to those of my bosses, which are themselves rounding errors as compared to our fees. I am thankfully not in the hourly billing business anymore, and my bosses believe in treating their employees well. I of course also end up expensing too many sandwiches, salads, Subway (tm) products etc when I'm on a hard deadline, so the blended rate isn't bad. You should see what the bill looks like from a trip to London, Paris, Bombay, or Shanghai. I need 3 credit cards just to manage my expenses (between the crazy amounts and simply random travel, 1 or 2 of my cards is usually suspended due to suspected fraud at any given time, a ridiculously hard problem to fix when you're in meetings 16 hours a day and 12 hours off from EST).

Anyways, enough about work.

I do encourage all of the bigoted and prejudiced old folks on this board to cast off their blinders and realise that someone eating alone is just someone who wants to eat. It's shocking that all of these people have never heard of travelling alone, working late, living alone, or having a S.O. who can't make it. Beyond the stated prejudices, I think that it also stems from the neediness of people who have siblings. Only children don't tend to have hangups about being alone, nor about other people happening to be alone.