Sep 18, 2008

Eating alone

I don’t like to eat alone without a book. With a book in hand I don’t like to eat with anyone. Today was one day, when I had to lunch alone with no book in hand. I missed the book I had left behind at home. I wished it were here, to keep me company.

When you eat alone at a table, without a book, people actually look at you twice – once when they begin to notice that you are alone and are eating by yourself and later, after some time to see if you have had company (with a book, you suddenly graduate to be an intellectual or a well-read person). They most likely presume that you were waiting for someone and that person must’ve arrived by the time they look at you again. I would like to call this ‘humane’ concern. We are all social animals – just that one animal thinks, the other cannot live without company. Again people who have company give a sympathetic stare at you – ‘oh, poor lady, she is eating by herself’. The sympathy is at its peak, just when that person is a woman. Woman can never be alone, can they! The stares one after the other make you aware of yourself.

Once, my ex-boss was worried that I didn’t have someone to keep me company when I had newly joined the organization. He was probably worried that I don’t move around with people. He asked me whether I had not made friends with co-workers or whether they were not forthcoming enough. I said neither. They just felt hungry an hour after I started to hear noises from my stomach. He asked me to lunch with him in the initial days. I thought I couldn’t eat normally with him. I was always conscious of the way I was munching on food, whether I spilled anything etc. Not that I spill and gobble without any etiquette. Just that lunching with your boss day-in and day-out for me was a little out of normal, particularly when you think his’ is an act of kindness on you, if you know what I mean. In that way, I think eating all alone is just an experience in itself. You can munch with your mouth open for all you care, with food streaking down from the sides of your mouth and wipe it just milliseconds before they spill onto your dress. Manners are just not required.

All said I am happy that these days, women do not get as many sideward glances as they used to get before, when they eat out alone. I know that many women have done it for ages now, eating alone. But again, my viewpoint is of a person who has grown up in a small town, slowly graduating into the life of a big city. Bigger cities are yet to be seen and lived in.

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