Skip

“Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”
September 16, 2010 7:43 AM   Subscribe


 
I don't need something else to be paranoid about thank you internet.
posted by The Whelk at 7:45 AM on September 16, 2010 [36 favorites]


Cheque please.

(I'm on thin ice when it comes to taking swipes at single serving tumblr sites, but this one feels a bit mean-spirited, doesn't it? Or am I projecting? I feel awkward enough eating alone in restaurants without having to worry that someone's going to take a photo of me and be all LOL LONELY PEEPUL)
posted by Jofus at 7:46 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


LOOSERS!
posted by mazola at 7:47 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My old friend John Jones once commented to me that friends are the only real wealth that anyone can have, which is a nice couterpoint to the above statement that lonliness is the most terrible poverty. Even so, I often eat in restaurants by myself. I have friends, but they are not always available to eat with me. I enjoy my food anyway. Possibly more than I should, judging by my weight. I enjoy food and I enjoy socializing; these things work for me whether they are done separately or in combination.
posted by grizzled at 7:47 AM on September 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


So, all those times I felt perfectly content about dining by myself, enjoying my own company....I should actually be watching for someone trying to take my picture to prove my point? Some of these people might look lonely, but others just look busy or occupied by their own thoughts.
posted by heurtebise at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


My point? = Their point.
posted by heurtebise at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2010


Ha ha! Look at that old guy! His wife probably died! What a dork! Ha ha ha ha ha!
posted by theodolite at 7:49 AM on September 16, 2010 [87 favorites]


If you have a good book to read, you're not alone.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:50 AM on September 16, 2010 [38 favorites]


This site would be more interesting if it had better photography. Or better locations than the local strip mall. Or more than 33 photos.
posted by Nelson at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Evidently, existentialdespair.tumblr.com was taken.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2010


Eating out by myself is one of those things that I love doing even though society tells me it's wicked awkward. There's something glorious about somebody else cooking something wonderful for me that I can then eat in perfect silence while reading a book or writing in a journal or thinking deep thoughts, and then THEY have to clean up and I can just continue on my merry way. There's no pathos in it, at least not for me!
posted by ChuraChura at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2010 [107 favorites]


Eating out by myself is one of those things that I love doing even though society tells me it's wicked awkward.

Add going to the movie theatre to this as well. Something about going to a film and watching it on my own. I can be alone with my thoughts and just enjoy the film, not have to whisper a conversation or anything like that. People underestimate the enjoyment of alone.
posted by Fizz at 7:54 AM on September 16, 2010 [54 favorites]


My God we should fear being alone, even if it's just for a lunch break or a quick snack.

And don't forget to fill in any silence with ... well just about anything! FILL THE SPACE!

FILL IT! FILL IT!

If you're alone with your thoughts the terrorists have WON!
posted by mazola at 7:57 AM on September 16, 2010 [24 favorites]


Being alone does not necessarily equate loneliness. This is projection.
posted by jefficator at 7:58 AM on September 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's kind of annoying that there's a social stigma against eating alone in a restaurant. I wonder how many people end up getting food at a drive-thru fast food place rather than a better meal at a restaurant just because they don't want to eat alone at a sit-down place.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:58 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love having lunch by myself on work days. Never have understood the social stigma.
posted by jbickers at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I used to eat out alone all the time, when I was living in places more cosmopolitan than I am now. Single people have to eat too, right?

But all that has stopped. When I go out as a single rider now, I'm made to feel like such a social leper for doing so, that it becomes genuinely uncomfortable and no fun at all. Most of the time it's not deliberate, just minor things like being seated at the shittiest table in the house despite the place being near-empty, just in case that party of twenty comes walking through the door.

Hey -- you can make some money by serving me like any other customer, or you can have that table empty instead. Your business -- you run it how you want.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I worked as a server there was a period of time when I often waited on a woman who greatly enjoyed her lunch break, because it was when she could escape the hustle and bustle of her office to enjoy her lunch and her book and some solitude. Occasionally she would bring a coworker with her to discuss whatever business was necessary, but she always seemed happier by herself.
posted by alynnk at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


In case you missed it: How to Be Alone.
posted by swift at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I literally do not even understand this tumblr. Or, what theodolite said, I guess.
posted by clavicle at 8:01 AM on September 16, 2010


If you have a good book to read, you're not alone.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:50 AM on September 16


Exactly. I expected to see a a picture of myself in there, nose buried in book, next to plate of food. It's a pleasant experience.
posted by kingbenny at 8:01 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't actually get my head around how mean-spirited and unpleasant this is. It's also an interesting example of a particular kind of thinking that holds that solitude of any kind is creepy, wrong and unhealthy.

Fuck you, internet.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2010 [67 favorites]


Happy people! They get to enjoy their meals in peace, without having to listen to some idiot droning on about his or her problems and trying not to stare at the fleck of scrambled egg gyrating on their lunch partner's upper lip. Why should I have to look at some fool's face, two and a half feet from my own, while trying to eat and talk at the same time, and drag the two of us through the moronic rituals of ordering and paying? If it's a woman, and I'm in love with her, I have no appetite anyway. Blissful, contented diners alone!
posted by Faze at 8:05 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is that David Archuletta? Nah. He's too cool to eat alone.
posted by morganannie at 8:05 AM on September 16, 2010


As I've got older I've grown to give less of a shit about eating on my own, often its simply a function of needing to eat when I'm working away and it may well benefit from the thinking that I'm spending someone else's money and even in the slightly bizarre position that my work want me to spend up to the limit for hositality as it looks better on their figures. I am at the stage where I will quite happily have 3 courses of good quality food, read, think, drink some of the local beer over an hour or two. It's quite pleasant.

The other thing I am happy with doing alone is going to the cinema, I started when I had a job with antisocial hours and weird days off making it difficult to find company to fill a Tuesday afternoon for a film I wanted to see. Now I just pop down the hill if its anything with zombies in it (ie SO-unfriendly).
posted by biffa at 8:06 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Eating alone is fine.
Leave these people alone and let them eat.
posted by PHINC at 8:07 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sad
posted by Duug at 8:07 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eating alone in undiscovered hole-in-the-wall places is one of my favorite things. About two weeks ago I went to a new taqueria operating out of a former Italian/generic deli (signs haven't been changed yet) and ordered about two pounds of tacos and sat there in a carnitas coma watching new construction go up across the street. I don't know anyone else with the patience (or stomach capacity, or taco addiction) to wait half an hour for street food, but it was well worth it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:08 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am so very, very afraid of eating alone.

This fear transcends photographs, and has more to do with someone watching my back while I'm practicing that most intimate animal need.

I envy these folks their solitude, something I can only experience in private.
posted by poe at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2010


“Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”

Not compared to eating with someone who makes you cry.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


Dinner in a nice place, alone with my book and good food and drink, is a delicious pleasure.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:09 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't actually get my head around how mean-spirited and unpleasant this is. It's also an interesting example of a particular kind of thinking that holds that solitude of any kind is creepy, wrong and unhealthy.

Not to single you out, specifically, but I think it's worth noting that the blog itself is free from any sort of framing, context, commentary, or judgment.

It has a (professional) white background, photos of people eating alone, a title, and that's it.

The mean-spirited, unpleasant, creepy, wrong, and unhealthy vibe you're getting from this site is your own doing, or perhaps influenced by the framing of this post--the title "loneliness is the most terrible poverty," and the use of the "sad" tag.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:10 AM on September 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'm on thin ice when it comes to taking swipes at single serving tumblr sites, but this one feels a bit mean-spirited, doesn't it? Or am I projecting?

Without any commentary, there's no way of knowing if this is a mockery or celebration of people eating alone. It makes the whole thing sort of empty.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:10 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's too cool to eat alone

He's not cool enough.
posted by jontyjago at 8:11 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dine alone now and then, mostly when I travel for work. I find it easier to eat at the bar if that's available, no one really notices. But otherwise, I bring a book or magazine and take my time.
posted by tommasz at 8:13 AM on September 16, 2010


It's funny how everyone seems to be projecting their emotions onto these comment-free images. Some people in the pictures are sad looking, some are happy and some are just there. I'm not sure how anything about the photos seems mean spirited, in what way is taking their picture (with their permission? who knows) mocking them? To me they look relatively content. Maybe that's because I kind of love being alone, having only recently learned how to do it right.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:13 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I prefer Edward Hopper for my lonely people.
posted by bjrn at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2010


Huh jinx, with like 4 other commenters.

It makes the whole thing sort of empty.

I would qualify this as a success. Or at least an eSuccess.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2010


This seems cruel.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2010


sometimes you gotta eat by yourself.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2010


This reminded me that soon it will be winter and I will be able to patricipate in one of my favorite things: A long winter bike ride ending with dinner near the fire at my favorite bar, sippin' drinks and reading a book.

I agree that without commentary this is just something to project onto, but there isn't much wrong with that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:17 AM on September 16, 2010



It has a (professional) white background, photos of people eating alone, a title, and that's it.

The mean-spirited, unpleasant, creepy, wrong, and unhealthy vibe you're getting from this site is your own doing, or perhaps influenced by the framing of this post--the title "loneliness is the most terrible poverty," and the use of the "sad" tag.


A fair point, and I think I'm honestly reacting to the framing of the post more. That said, these are crappy mobile phone pictures, clearly taken surreptitiously. Maybe it's projection, but the sneaky way these have been taken and the commonality of setting (strip-mall plastic seating, food court ennui) scream 'LOOK AT THESE LOSERS' to me.

Maybe I'm totally wrong and this is an art project exploring people's reactions to solitude in our society and the stigma of eating on your own, but I don't know, I doubt it. I think it's a mean-spirited, voyeuristic tumblr blog started by some arsehole with a smartphone.

Although, unless the author of this blog routinely deals with questions from their co-diners about why they're taking pictures of other, random people, they may themselves be dining alone.

*head explodes*
posted by Happy Dave at 8:17 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Count me with the folks who enjoy eating alone and going to the movies alone, as well as relaxing at a bar with a few drinks alone or with my book. This of course doesn't work at your local watering hole where you know everyone, but it's so pleasant to have a couple beers at a quiet spot after work, just me and my novel.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:18 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


People underestimate the enjoyment of alone.

Get it straight, folks. Some of us are simply not bored in our own company. Narcissistic? Nah. Just focused.
posted by philip-random at 8:18 AM on September 16, 2010




I hate assholes who take pictures of strangers and then post them on their theme blog.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


Eating alone is great fun if you sit at the bar/counter. There you can watch food prep & service & join conversation of other solos if you choose. & If you just want to be quiet there, that's ok too. Most solo diners disappear into the woodwork & are not as noticed as the self conscious would think.
posted by yoga at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2010


"The mean-spirited, unpleasant, creepy, wrong, and unhealthy vibe you're getting from this site is your own doing […]"

Actually, creating a blog of what appear to be covertly-taken photographs of people engaging in a given activity, which said blogger assuredly knows will inspire certain negative interpretations in a majority of viewers, seems like a pretty clear-cut dick move.

I've got some pretty serious hangups about food and eating, especially eating in front of others. The only reason—when eating out is the only option—that I prefer not to do it by myself is that I suspect having someone else there with me will, perversely, deflect attention from me.

So thanks for confirming that suspicion, Tumblr-asshole.
posted by wreckingball at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some of my most potent nostalgia is of being twelve, going to Harry W. Schwartz in the Grand Avenue Mall--they had a Tom Baker scarf there--and buying some Doctor Who novelization. Then I'd repair to Wong's Wok at the third-floor food court and devour shrimp fried rice and tales of Sontarans, or Daleks, or what have you.
posted by everichon at 8:22 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I went through all four pages hoping there would be one shot of someone punching out the photographer.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


In principle a Party member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed. It was assumed that when he was not working, eating, or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreation: to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: OWNLIFE, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity.
posted by Ratio at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2010 [54 favorites]


Look At This Fucking Loner
posted by Ratio at 8:25 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Boo.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:26 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sometimes pass grossly overweight people eating alone in Subway late at night and I have to battle myself so hard not to go inside, wrap my arms around their entire girth and sob loudly into their shoulders.

Thank you, internet, for pictorialising my subconscious fears once more.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 8:27 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am staying with some good friends who have a couple of rowdy little dogs who won't let me alone when I eat, the cat and kittens are not much better. My friends like to all eat together and most of the time that's fine. But I really don't like the animals creeping up on me! So when I eat a meal elsewhere I enjoy the peace and the luxury of eating calmly. I LIKE eating alone. Not that I have anything against eating with friends or family.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2010


being alone ≠ loneliness
posted by raztaj at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


My boyfriend and I like to make up stories about the folks we see eating alone when we go out to eat. The fake back-stories generally end up being pretty cool. Like that one guy who was totally a hit man.
posted by phunniemee at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Actually, creating a blog of what appear to be covertly-taken photographs of people engaging in a given activity, which said blogger assuredly knows will inspire certain negative interpretations in a majority of viewers, seems like a pretty clear-cut dick move.

Thank you for articulating what I meant better than I could.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:29 AM on September 16, 2010


Most of the time it's not deliberate, just minor things like being seated at the shittiest table in the house despite the place being near-empty

That sucks, I live in a smaller place and I usually get a good table when eating alone and lots of attention from the waitron.

I love eating alone. An hour by myself with a book with nobody stealing my fries or demanding my attention or complaining that blue cheese is gross? HEAVEN.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:30 AM on September 16, 2010



What would be worse is if these people were alone, AND didn't have any money to buy food. Alone but with food? Not so bad.
posted by The otter lady at 8:30 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Eating alone is so boring.
posted by smackfu at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2010


Eating sushi by myself was one of the awesome things about Chicago. I felt a little self-conscious in other kinds of restaurants, but for some reason sushi just felt natural alone. Even if I wasn't at the bar. Sushi with friends was even better, but my best sushi-loving friend lived in Brighton Park while I was in Lakeview, so we didn't meet up as often as we liked.

(God, I miss Matsuya. Every sushi restaurant around here seems to feel it's required to have mood lighting and loud music and hip furnishings. Just give me the damn sashimi, I don't need to feel like I'm a club.)
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2010


When I take my lunch at work, I prefer to eat alone. That is; I actively seek not being around other people when I'm eating. I like my co-workers, I have plenty of friends, but at the half way point of a day filled with customer interactions, sometimes it's nice to have a half hour to yourself.

I'd be pissed if I showed up on someones blog trying to make some point about how sad I am. That "lonely" lunch is often my favorite part of my work day.
posted by quin at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2010


No, solitude is NOT the most terrible poverty, thank you very much.
posted by blucevalo at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eating alone as I read this discussion. I have zero hang-ups about eating alone and enjoy it for many of the reasons mentioned above. Feel bad for anyone actually worried about it. Also, mean-spirited tumblr.
posted by itchylick at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2010


Is there any legal recourse to having your photo on such a website? Is a restaurant considered a public place even though it's private property? These type of blogs don't do much for my social anxiety; this morning I ran a quick errand in sweats with unkempt hair and briefly wondered if I'd end up on YouTube.
posted by desjardins at 8:35 AM on September 16, 2010


Pretty much what everyone else is saying.
This conversation reminds me of Ghostworld.
posted by zoinks at 8:36 AM on September 16, 2010


Fuck this website and the horse it rode in on.
posted by ND¢ at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2010


I don't know what's worse sometimes, Big Brother or assholes with camera phones.
posted by desjardins at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


> I don't know what's worse sometimes, Big Brother or assholes with camera phones.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a blogger tagging a human face - forever.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


I eat out alone frequently enough that when people who don't find it strange I become confused as to what reality they live in.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, there's something wrong with eating alone in restaurants? I actually prefer it - I can eat when I'm hungry instead of waiting for someone else, I don't have to agree on the restaurant with someone else, there's no discussion about splitting the check (or, if the other person pays, understanding that I should pay next time - and is there going to be a next time?)

But even more confusing to me than this stigma is the stigma attached to going to the movies alone. You're not supposed to talk during the movies anyway! And if I want to make out with somebody in a dark room, I have a room, and there won't be an armrest in the way.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2010


Bullshit on the idea these are neutral photos with no implied judgment. They're poorly lit photographs of shabbily dressed people in crappy restaurants, generally taken covertly. They are voyeuristic. They are curated to be dispiriting. They make a statement. Maybe the statement is "this tumblr author has shitty taste in photos", but I'm guessing he's going for something different.

Here's some alternate photos of solo diners, presented without any extra commentary: one, two, three.
posted by Nelson at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Wow. This is the most amazing instant reaction I've ever gotten to any one of my hundred-ish posts.

I guess I didn't frame it any more than I did because I didn't know how to. The site didn't give me anything to work with but the pictures. Didn't hit me from a mean-spirited, creepy, unpleasant, wrong, unhealthly, or any other particular perspective, other than - yeah, what I tagged it with: sad.

I was in a Wendy's once in Pittsburgh, and for a variety of reasons it was the most alone I had ever been in my life at that point. But, I wasn't even alone, I was with people. It was the first time I had realized that I could feel that lonely in the presence of others. It was a strange feeling.

Across from me, there was a guy, sitting, eating. He had a brown hoodie on, looked like maybe a mid-30's construction worker. Not old, not ugly, just an average guy having dinner alone. Maybe it was the expression on his face, maybe it was more influenced by where I was in my life at the time, I don't know. But I do remember *that* guy, of all the thousands of people I've ever sat next do dining alone. Him and only him. And I remember feeling an ache in my heart - both for him, and that I'd never be in his position.

Maybe he went home to his happy little family, how the hell would I ever know.

I've probably eaten alone now more times in my life than I haven't, roughly guesstimating. Most of them have been neutral, many pleasant, and a few not so much. All I know is that when I chanced upon this website, it was via a mass-email from a list I subscribe to - and they had taken the "haha look at these losers" general gist. I didn't find it funny at all. I didn't find it particularly sad, but I certainly NEVER intended the tag to deride the people in the pictures in any way. I guess maybe I just felt about the pictures how I felt about that guy in that Wendy's that one random evening. And what I suppose I projected upon him. And these pictures.

I just wish all those people in those pictures - at least some of whom, by sheer odds - would have preferred someone to eat with - I just wish they had that someone. The same way I wished that guy in the Wendy's had. The interesting thing is that no one ever would have noticed anyone in any of these pictures if such had been the case.

I couldn't think up a decent title about how looking at these pictures made me feel so I used the words of a better person than myself. I'm sorry if I over-framed. It was a six word quote. 7 if you include the sad tag. I was really trying not to, I thought.

I absolutely never ceased to be amazed by how much harder I can fail at this site when I don't think I can possibly do so again.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


The Roman politician Lucullus was so noted as a gourmet that he became an adjective for "luxurious". The story goes that on a rare night when he was not entertaining some dignitary, his cook expressed the hope that he might be able to relax a bit? His master corrected him, "Tonight, Lucullus dines with Lucullus."
posted by Joe Beese at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Big Brother is an asshole with a camera phone.

being alone ≠ loneliness

As blucevalo suggests (and my mom for that matter, when I was about eight years old), there's a very big difference between loneliness and solitude. They may both look the same from a distance but the former is a form of poverty where the latter is a special kind of wealth, which is why it would make Big Brother nervous.
posted by philip-random at 8:46 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think the creator of the site could have come up with some much better titles if they were trying to judge these diners.

It's just some pictures of people eating. Mean? No. Boring as hell? Yes.
posted by orme at 8:48 AM on September 16, 2010


No, solitude is NOT the most terrible poverty, thank you very much.

“Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.”

That's the other title I was toying with but it seemed too long.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:48 AM on September 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Only time I ever had an issue eating out alone was the first Thanksgiving after I moved to DC. I'd only been there a couple months so I didn't have a lot of friends yet, and I didn't want to cook a big dinner for myself, so I found a restaurant that was serving turkey dinners and settled down to eat. I missed the family, but I was in a new place with a new job and I was actually pretty happy.

Until the guy a couple tables over starts complaining to anyone who would listen about how lonely he was, and how depressing it was to be eating alone on the holiday, and how if it wasn't for his divorce he wouldn't be going through all this, and JESUS CHRIST SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY.

I flew home for Christmas.
posted by InfidelZombie at 8:49 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to say, I'm really surprised people found this tumblr to be mean spirited. I love eating by myself so very much, I just saw this as a celebration of people enjoying their food. I even checked back to the tumblr site to see if there was commentary I was missing. Nope. The title of this post is pretty nasty and mean spirited, but the tumblr itself has no commentary at all. It just presents pictures of people eating. What you take away from it has more to do with you than the blog.

In particular, I loved the last picture on the last page: This is a table MADE for eating alone. I would love to eat at that table.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:51 AM on September 16, 2010


The website is without judgement. But the headline for this post is overly editorial and regrettable, setting the tone for "loneliness", and stigmatizing the pictures.
posted by feneon at 8:51 AM on September 16, 2010


I absolutely never ceased to be amazed by how much harder I can fail at this site when I don't think I can possibly do so again.

Don't beat yourself up. You've triggered an interesting discussion, and likely expanded your notion of just how tricky and loaded with booby-traps simple communication can be. But don't stop communicating. That's where loneliness comes from.
posted by philip-random at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the best things about getting older: not giving a shit what other people think about whether I'm eating out alone, with friends, or a lovely lady - all things I've done in the last month.
posted by dbiedny at 8:57 AM on September 16, 2010


A Table For One Can Be Fun
posted by ND¢ at 8:58 AM on September 16, 2010


Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”

Not compared to eating with someone who makes you cry.


Person 1: You're ugly, you know.

Person 2: Please don't start this.

Person 1: Start what? Making observations? I'm merely stating the observable truth, that you are ugly. Shall I refrain from mentioning everything I notice? For instance, that your fork was filthy but you're eating with it anyway?

Person 2: You do this every time. I don't know why you insist on making me cry while I'm eating, but it's really really upsetting.

Person 1: I don't insist on making you cry. I don't know why you think I do, but I don't. I just can't help but be revolted by you while you're eating. Really, it's disgusting. You make these fleshy noises that are completely unattractive. I wouldn't be surprised if no one you met ever loved you because of your horrifically disgusting eating habits.

Person 2: It's not going to work. I know what you're doing, and I can tune it out, now.

Person 1: Tune what out?

Person 2: The insults. The petty jibes. The insinuations. I know they're not true, but that they serve some sick need in you to upset me during dinner.

Person 1: ... You're right. They're not true. I don't mean them. What I'm saying isn't even the point, as far as I'm concerned. I just want to hurt you.

Person 2: Why would you want to hurt me? This is sick. You know that, right?

Person 1: I resent you. I resent the time we've spent together. I hate that I can't stand to be around you but feel compelled to be so because you pay half the rent and I don't want a roommate and this city is too god damn expensive to live in by yourself. I think it's your fault that I'm unhappy with everything in my life, because I have to spend so much of my time pretending to love you when I can't. Stand. The sight. Of you.

Person 2: ... what?

Person 1: I dream about killing you. Not slowly, or sadistically or anything like that. But just ending your life, its carcinogenic impact on my life, my well being, my happiness. I dream that you don't exist and this charade we go through every night of pretending to be in love, as if that made this shrieking misery worth bearing, would never need to exist. I'm at my happiest pretending that you are not in my life, and that I am free to live as I choose instead of cowing to whatever keeps you here in this apartment paying rent.

Person 2: Why are you saying this? Why would you live like this? What is wrong with you? If you don't love me, why are you putting me through this?

Person 1: They are all the satisfaction I get, these small miseries. Knowing that I am too weak to affect the changes in my life I can see are necessary, I instead turn on you, hoping to create in you some small representation of the continual torment I bear. If I will live in misery thanks to your presence, I will make sure that being around me makes you miserable too. I hate myself for being around you, and I hate you for letting me go through with this. I hate you because you sit there and let me do this to you. I hate you because you're too stupid and weak and worthless to go and find someone who wouldn't do this to you. I have no respect for you. You're unworthy of respect. You're a dog. You're a doormat. I wipe my feet on you and you let me. I think some sick part of you craves this, and I am grudgingly willing to accomodate that rather than act out this fraud ceaselessly until we both die of misery and shame.

Person 2: *cries*

Person 1: whew! alright, then. Ooh! Dexter's on! Let's go watch!
posted by shmegegge at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2010 [24 favorites]


Wow. To me, a lot of these comments seem unnecessarily uptight. I find this collection of photos rather touching, not mean-spirited or exploitative. Maybe because I like to take photos myself and I'm very comfortable with the idea of photographing strangers in public places, with or without consent. I haven't photographed strangers in a while, because I wouldn't be able to say anything meaningful, but I think this tumblr is really well conceived.

Loneliness exists and it should be something that we can comfortably acknowledge. With this in mind, I think it's kind of irrelevant whether the loneliness in these pictures is real or imagined. I don't know if this makes sense (I'm kinda drunk); one thing I've come to understand about photography is that 'truth' in a photo has no bearing on the 'truth' that was photographed.

Approaching this series as if it were documentary photography is I think completely beside the point, or something.
posted by quosimosaur at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2010


hey shemegge how did you get a recording of the voices in my head when I haven't slept for two days?
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on September 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


What philip-random said, allkindsoftime. I don't like the blog, but I like this conversation, and I appreciate your owning up to having maybe framed it in a less-than-optimal way.
posted by Shepherd at 9:04 AM on September 16, 2010


This post just made up my mind for me. It's almost time for lunch, I'm alone, and I'm going to go to a restaurant and enjoy it. Now I just have to figure out where to go -- that's always the hardest part for me.
posted by HSWilson at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This made me terribly uncomfortable, to the point where I had to go through all four pages to make sure I wasn't featured on the site. Yeah, yeah, public place, therefore no reasonable expectation of privacy, but still, this is just really uncomfortable. Others have articulated why better than I could.

And now I'm having flashbacks to that godawful new Futurama episode about the "eyephone." Gaaaaaaaaah.
posted by Gator at 9:07 AM on September 16, 2010


I came in to post the video "How to be Alone" too (beware of sound), like swift did above. It's the best rebuttal to the idea that there is something wrong with eating alone.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:08 AM on September 16, 2010


I actually like "inkblot" posts like this, generally speaking. But the photography here isn't compelling enough to stand on its own.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2010


I don't get why so many commenters think this is mean-spirited. If you're of a voyeuristic turn of mind, it's interesting to see all these different people and ponder all their different ways of being and eating alone (or with something to read). I liked it.
posted by scratch at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2010


(And I agree with those who point out that solitude doesn't equal loneliness. Y'all are projecting. Go text someone, you'll feel better.)
posted by scratch at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2010


Sometimes pictures of diners eating alone are just pictures of diners eating alone.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2010


Ha! phunniemee, when I'm eating alone in restaurants, I make up stories about the couples eating around me.

I'm out alone less than I used to be and I miss it terribly some days.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:14 AM on September 16, 2010


For a place where I'd expect a lot of people to be like "be yourself, don't care too much about what other people think" to some hypothetical askme question the idea that you might be photographed eating alone is generating a surprising level of anxiety.
posted by quosimosaur at 9:14 AM on September 16, 2010


My grandfather cannot prepare himself a meal. I seriously don't know if he could boil water on a stove. He also absolutely refuses to eat by himself because he is mortified with the concept of dining out without a companion. This means that when my grandmother is out of town or otherwise unavailable, he is relegated to calling various people to ask them to go out for a meal with him. He always goes somewhere nice and he'll always pay, but he has a lot of dinners with folks (including myself) that are eating with him out of a sense of obligation rather than out of the joy that can come from sharing a great meal and conversation.

To me, that is a lot more sad than most of the people in these pictures.
posted by rollbiz at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Dining Alone
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2010


Being surreptitiously photographed by strangers for purposes unknown (but which can be only too vividly imagined) is freakin' creepy. Remember this AskMe?
posted by Gator at 9:17 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


allkindsoftime: I'm very sorry for overreacting to your framing. I guess I do get a little defensive. The default in US society is to castigate/marginalize people who are alone or who are alone or who enjoy solitude, and truth be told, I've always been something of a loner. I'm not antisocial. I have friends, I greatly enjoy going out to restaurants with people from work on special occasions -- but I also like eating alone, and do so most lunchtimes.

I'm not sure what the tumblr blog is attempting to do, but I do now get what you were trying to do and appreciated your eloquent explanation very much, though of course you didn't have to have an explanation. Thank you for the post, too, because it's definitely one of those posts that gets people thinking and talking.

quosimosaur: the idea that you might be photographed eating alone is generating a surprising level of anxiety.

Yeah, the idea of having my photo taken jeebs me out in general, let alone being snapped by a stranger while I'm eating alone somewhere and then appearing on some random blog. Not the healthiest thing, perhaps, but there it is.
posted by blucevalo at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some days at work I am on conference calls or giving presentations all day and it gets to where my mouth hurts from smiling and talking. Eating out alone then is a huge relief, not a sign of loneliness.
posted by pointystick at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2010


Yeah, yeah, public place, therefore no reasonable expectation of privacy,

For most of the photos that I looked at, I would guess this is not actually true. They were taken inside the restaurants/malls, and those places do have the right to chuck you out for taking photos without permission. They are not "public places" the way streets or parks are.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2010


On many days there is nothing nicer than having a quiet meal, alone, with a good book. It sure beats the shit out of going to lunch with asshole co-workers who want to nothing but talk about work.
posted by notmydesk at 9:20 AM on September 16, 2010


I find this annoying for all of the aforementioned reasons. Whether it's trying to be mean-spirited ("Haha look at these losers!") or profound ("Look at these fascinating studies of social alienation in the 21st century") it's just stupid, and invasive.

Also:

Avoid confusion.
You always know,
always know how much your paying.
I concentrate on,
on, what the people say,
the couple next to me.

posted by usonian at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interestingly*, I am eating a plate of beans right now, while reading this. Alone.

* For certain values of interestingly. May not be valid in your jurisdiction. Do not use for the other use.
posted by motty at 9:26 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I still find, all these years after college, that I read far better in a 24 hour restaurant than I do at home. There's way less distraction there and they bring you food and coffee. Well, in theory anyway. Denny's overnight servers are the reason I don't finish cups of coffee.
posted by khaibit at 9:27 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eating alone is definitely preferable to a noisy, shouty table full of people. Much easier to pay the bill, too.

on preview:
confidential to usonian- my mind immediately flashed on the quicksand song when I clicked on the tumblr link.
posted by palacewalls at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2010


I just wish all those people in those pictures - at least some of whom, by sheer odds - would have preferred someone to eat with - I just wish they had that someone. The same way I wished that guy in the Wendy's had.

I don't really understand this whole assumption that dining alone in particular is a sad activity. Go to any bar anywhere and you will see tons of people drinking alone. Go to a laundromat and you will see people doing their laundry alone. Take a ride on a city bus and see tons of people going somewhere alone. Most of the people reading this are alone in front of a computer. There is nothing inherently social about eating food in public, and yet there's an assumption that everyone who eats alone for one reason or another would rather have someone there with them.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I like finding new comics
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


drinking alone. now that's something I try hard not to do. In public, that is.
posted by philip-random at 9:36 AM on September 16, 2010


Go to any bar anywhere and you will see tons of people drinking alone.

What? For fuck's sake, I've picked up countless cold and flu viruses from decades of sharing this drink they call "loneliness" on the explicit promise that it was better. THANK YOU FOR NOTHING MISTER JOEL.
posted by Shepherd at 9:37 AM on September 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't really understand this whole assumption that dining alone in particular is a sad activity.

Eating is a far different activity than riding a bus or sitting in front of a computer. It's intimate. It's tied up with all sorts of social conventions. "The family dinner table" is a cultural cliche, even though many families don't eat at a dinner table anymnore. It makes sense to me that people could view dining alone as a sad activity, even though I may not think it is.
posted by blucevalo at 9:38 AM on September 16, 2010


Were this photographer to capture my solitary dining experience, with my luck I'd be caught picking my teeth (or nose) or something.

I travel frequently for business and hence eat out alone frequently. I am constantly surprised by the look of surprise I get from restaurant hosts when I ask for a table for one. Like, has a woman never, ever come into your restaurant alone and asked for the same?

And yes, sometimes I actually am lonely when I eat out alone. I'm human. But other times I'm relieved to be my myself, or just generally content, or sometimes bored.
posted by medeine at 9:39 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'd have to be a first class asshole to start a tumbleblog like that. Well done (whoever you are) on your utter lack of empathy, and belief that the moment people walk out their door anything they do is fair game for mockery and publication.

Even kids know that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
posted by modernnomad at 9:41 AM on September 16, 2010


I am constantly surprised by the look of surprise I get from restaurant hosts when I ask for a table for one.

I get that same look. Got it just the other day, at a not-crowded diner-type place near work, where you'd think not as much stigma would attach. The server's attitude was palpable -- rolling the eyes, almost "Let's get this over with, shall we, SIR?" Very irritating.
posted by blucevalo at 9:43 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a certain art to some of these photographs, in that many of them emphasize the solitary nature of dining alone by having only one person in the shot, surrounded by empty chairs and tables.

The pictures of the old people on this blog made me very sad. Hopefully they were dining alone by choice, and not just because their loved ones are gone.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:44 AM on September 16, 2010


There's a big difference between loneliness and solitude.

The next logical step after this site is taking pictures of fashion challenged/fat/ugly people eating alone in the McDonald's at Wal-Mart so we can all have a really big laugh at their expense.

Humanity sucks, and the internet has made it easier, faster, and more efficient to get the word out. This site is another piece of evidence of that.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:45 AM on September 16, 2010


Who was the photographer eating with?
posted by ardgedee at 9:50 AM on September 16, 2010


Eating alone with a book or newspaper is one of the greatest things on Earth.
posted by brundlefly at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I grew to love doing everything alone. Heck lonely people who can't cook gotta eat, right? Now, I wouldn't think twice about it. If there's a restaurant I want to try, I'm going to try it -I don't have very many friends (if any) - by the time I got someone to go with me, the restaurant would be closed!

I go to the movies alone all the time. If I want to "talk about it", I just read the comments on IMDB.
I went on vacation alone, once. It was fun.

Yes, humans are social creatures, but in my case, I just don't fit in. With anyone.
So what am I going to do - wait for a BFF to show up and save the day, just like a Hollywood movie? Life's too short!

And you know, who cares what other people think? Screw them! You'll never see them again anyway. But if you are still worried, if you dress up well and treat the waiter/waitress nicely and have a zen-like smile on your face, most of the people that look at you will look at you with admiration and not with disdain.

That being said, I don't have anything against the blog. I think it does the job, because it stimulates discussion, and strangely enough, if the author did allow comments, I suspect that most of them would be supportive as they are here.

Finally, allkindsoftime seems like a great guy. So I'll cut him all the slack in the world. The post did its job, but maybe I would change the post title to be a little less editorializing. Mayby something like "Eating Alone"
posted by bitteroldman at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nothing like a camera to give people permission to be the assholes they've always wanted to be.
posted by adipocere at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am constantly surprised by the look of surprise I get from restaurant hosts when I ask for a table for one.

My parents went to school in Iowa City in the 1960s. There was a restaurant near campus that they frequented that had a hostess who would always ask, "How many?" in a sneering, condescending way (she didn't seem to be too fond of the hippie-type students). My parents were regulars at this restaurant-- the answer was always two. That is, until the day they enlisted a group of their friends to wait outside. On that day, the script went like this: "How many?" "TWENTY-SIX!" as a whole troupe of hippies marched past the surprised hostess into the restaurant.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The next logical step after this site is taking pictures of fashion challenged/fat/ugly people eating alone in the McDonald's at Wal-Mart so we can all have a really big laugh at their expense.

Dozens of such sites already exist. I won't link to them (and I hope nobody else does either), but trust me, they're just as awful as you'd imagine.
posted by Gator at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2010


I hate assholes who take pictures of strangers and then post them on their theme blog.

But don't you see? That's what the blogger does when they're eating alone. They take their camera and "look busy" by taking pictures of complete strangers that are also eating alone.

The blog needs more mirrors, is the problem.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:57 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few weeks ago I ate alone at a seafood restaurant in nowhere, Maryland. A Richard Sharpe book, a completely empty room, an attentive waitress, a local beer, and the sun setting on the river marina outside the window. It was the most at peace I've been in almost a year, and my best meal in months.

Taking pictures of people eating alone and posting them on a blog (even without any "look at these losers" framing) says more bad things about you then it does about them.
posted by gemmy at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this has gone to a lot of trouble to say "look at these losers" without using those words. It is disingenuous to claim this presents a neutral view.

This website and its implied judgment of its subjects springs from the same narrow fucking parochial worldview that leads otherwise sensible people to dismiss Facebook by saying, "What is wrong with meeting your friends down at the pub? Why would you have to keep in touch with them over the intertubes?" Not everyone leads a life within a tiny circle an hour's drive across.

I travel for work quite a lot. If I have friends or relatives where I am (in this country or abroad), I make a point of trying to see them. Of course, this is not always possible -- sometimes there is no one there to be seen, sometimes people's schedules cannot be made to fit. When I am in a city or town far from home with no one to dine with, what are my options?

1. Eat hiding in my room
2. Eat alone in a restaurant
3. Do not eat for days or weeks.

The photographer thinks I am lonely? Fuck him with a splintery two-by-four. I have been called worse things by better people.

I am not lonely, or alone, I am lone. Like the Lone Ranger or a lone wolf.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:08 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I nearly starved to death one summer in London because getting dinner alone at a proper sit-down restaurant was such a stigma no matter how books I brought. Or a giant "please hit on me" flag, again no matter how many books I brought. But I had no kitchen and lived alone, how I was meant to get food in me? Gaah.
posted by dabitch at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like eating alone in nicer places, but only at the bar. The plates are cheaper and I usually only want one thing. Gives me excuse to dress up a little bit and pay attention to my hair and get out of the house in the day and push me along. Plus you can pretend you're a spy and make little mental plans on how you'd flee the room and make little gun noises to yourself with the fork - pew pew !
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Great, next thing you know going to the pub by yourself is frowned upon.
posted by chugg at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2010


I'm sure if people saw me alone at a restaraunt there would be lots of 'ooh, poor lonely fattie' projection going on. As for me, I'm focused on the food and the book I'm most likely toting and I don't give a damn what you think.
posted by sandraregina at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am utterly baffled by the reactions here. I understand the pro-eating-alone sentiment, at least. I love eating alone! I've gotten the weird looks from restaurant staff for requesting a table for one. I once even had multiple staff members come out and talk to me. Perhaps they thought I was lonely, maybe they were just being nice. Very odd.

But I really don't get the malice toward the photographer(s).

The photographer thinks I am lonely? Fuck him with a splintery two-by-four.

...where did the photographer say these people were lonely?

Nothing like a camera to give people permission to be the assholes they've always wanted to be.

I just.... what?

Taking pictures of people eating alone and posting them on a blog (even without any "look at these losers" framing) says more bad things about you then it does about them.

I'd say the knee-jerk reactions to these photos say more about the people here and their stigmas, fears, and projections than it says about the photographer(s).
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:32 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Although to most it wouldn't qualify as eating 'alone', I much prefer the solitude of eating with only my spouse. We realized recently that we really could not enjoy dinner out when we were with others. When we go out, it's to experience the quality of food, to be served, to be entertained. Not to entertain, chat, and not at all concentrate on the food being served. Sometimes we spend quite a few long moments in silence, enjoying it all, and it's nice to not have an obligation to talk.

I can't say I prefer to eat without my spouse. I've done it, and I like having him there better, but I love being 'without others'.
posted by Malice at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend and I like to make up stories about the folks we see eating alone when we go out to eat. The fake back-stories generally end up being pretty cool.

"She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy.
I said be careful, his bowtie is really a camera."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


These days, some of the only time I get to myself is while eating. It's nice.

(Also, it's great fun to dress up, and attempt to fool a waiter into thinking that you're a food critic)

My first gut reaction to this was similar to most of those here: The guy writing this blog is an asshole. On second reaction, it's a very narrowly-focused branch of street photography that explores how people spend time with themselves, whilst committing what is widely believed to be a social faux-pas. Few of the people pictured in the tumblr actually appear to be unhappy.
posted by schmod at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get why so many commenters think this is mean-spirited. If you're of a voyeuristic turn of mind, it's interesting to see all these different people and ponder all their different ways of being and eating alone (or with something to read). I liked it.

I'm not trying to slight you, but a lot of people (myself included) see something kind of mean-spirited, or at least thoughtless, in this sort of voyeurism. Of course it's interesting, but personally I would be really annoyed to find my photo on there.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hah! I just posted the Quicksand song on MeCha yesterday (along with some yummy others).

It really is an excellent song. =3

In fact, I'm going to go listen to it again now.
posted by Eideteker at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2010


I love eating alone. I haven't understood people so insecure about this that their insecurity has the power to create a social stigma. Amazing that.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2010


I love eating out with friends and/ or my husband. But when they or he aren't around, for example when I go on business trips, I love eating alone. It intensifies my focus on the food, and in foodie haunts that is all to the good. I like eating at bars, but it is also fun to sit at tables and get a chance to check out the restaurant ambiance and decor, the other diners, and the view. I usually cart a book, but seldom read much because there are other things to see.

I think my peak eating alone experience was at Lumiere in Vancouver, British Columbia. I did eat at the bar there, because reservations are hard to get in the dining room on short notice. The bar glows with yellow light from somewhere within it, and the bartender was a serious foodie herself, who had worked in several excellent restaurants. I never would have had the chance to talk to her at such length about the restaurant and the food, and food in general and in B.C. in particular, if I hadn't been on my own. And being on my own gave me a marvelous ability to really look at and appreciate the taste of what I was eating. As when we talk on phones in cars, being with someone else in a restaurant is distracting, even if in a pleasant way, and eating alone eliminates that distraction.

Give me a table for one, any day I can get one in a good restaurant.
posted by bearwife at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2010


(by "this sort" I mean "the sort where someone takes a picture of you minding your own business and put it on a blog apparently without your knowledge or permission." I'd be annoyed if someone took my picture eating with a friend, unless the blog was titled something like "Exceptionally Attractive and Interesting People I See in Restaurants.")
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:56 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are truly formidable dilemmas, more so than most other people will ever have to face in their lives, let alone when they’re 23. The time to start preparing yourself for them is now. And the way to do it is by thinking through these issues for yourself—morality, mortality, honor—so you will have the strength to deal with them when they arise. Waiting until you have to confront them in practice would be like waiting for your first firefight to learn how to shoot your weapon. Once the situation is upon you, it’s too late. You have to be prepared in advance. You need to know, already, who you are and what you believe: not what the Army believes, not what your peers believe (that may be exactly the problem), but what you believe.

How can you know that unless you’ve taken counsel with yourself in solitude? I started by noting that solitude and leadership would seem to be contradictory things. But it seems to me that solitude is the very essence of leadership. The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.


from a plebe class lecture by William Deresiewicz
posted by polymodus at 10:57 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The couple next to you think look strange
Alone, what are you aims?
Or do you have any?"

"You look like you have no friends
or can't keep up with the new trends
sorry, sorry for myself? I don't agree
no, I always go out eating with my best friends
it's less than normal"

I love how he flips it around, and is like, "Really? Do you really call a bunch of people up whenever you want to go out to eat? Because that points to some weird kind of insecurity, bub."
posted by Eideteker at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2010


I don't mind eating alone at all, in principle. The reason I don't is because people at other tables seem to have a habit of glancing over at me every few minutes in between their loud guffaws with their SOs and BFFs. Saying with their eyes "Oh dude what's with HIM?" What's HIS deal?" This could totally just be my paranoia, but whether it's real or imagined, I don't like the feeling.
posted by naju at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was a time when I'd go out and eat alone at my favorite off-the-wall restaurants in San Francisco. Of course, that was then, and this is now. That probably says a lot about me but it also says a lot about restaurants in San Francisco.
posted by blucevalo at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2010


I love eating alone. Like this woman, I eat alone (except usually a newspaper) every lunchtime, and value it hugely as my one escape from the peopleBLARE of the day.

As such, I sort of resent the "anybody eating alone must be sad cases" viewpoint which is so common.

I don't resent allkindsoftime though. Your long post makes it apparent you're didn't intend to be that sort of judgemental dick. Even if you had, you've started an interesting discussion. I think your alternative title is rather beautiful, and certainly much harder to take offense at; but I wonder if you had gone with that whether the debate would have been so lively.
posted by Slyfen at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I eat alone a lot. I usually prefer it.

Much harder than eating alone is drinking alone in a bar. Try it sometime without a book or a phone (or a TV to fall back on). It's become one of my new favorite activities. Difficult for the socially awkward, but I've met some cool people.

Not to single you out, specifically, but I think it's worth noting that the blog itself is free from any sort of framing, context, commentary, or judgment.

The selection of pictures is the biggest framing. The subjects skew older, and the locations tend towards fast food and mall-type experiences. As someone noted, the pictures are low-quality and blurry, likely taken by cell phones--a lot of factors that present the subjects in a less than ideal state.

The site doesn't need explicit commentary to show a bias.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:52 AM on September 16, 2010


I had to do this assignment in art-school, too, with a little fixed-lens Yaschica rangefinder. We all practiced our hyperfocal-distance range focusing and exposure estimation and covert ways to hold the camera that seemed cool to us but were absurd and blatant to anyone not attempting "street shots."

My photos generally were of bored consumers, too. I had a few fuzzy ones as well, and I kept 'em in as it added "veracity" to the image. We all nodded at the artistic merit of life captured as it was, but it was mostly bullshit. We took us some terrible pictures... much like the ones in the blog.

In my opinion, the only one who did the assignment well in the class marched up to the subject, composed and took the shot, and said, "Hi! I'm an artist, what's your name in case that photo turns out? Want a copy?"

It's like the gorilla walking through the basketball game - the subject was so not expecting to be photographed by an art-school paparazzi, they didn't register what was going on until after it was all over. Those of us being sneaky wound up with waaaaay more social embarrassment for some crappy pics of bored, grumpy or suspicious looking people.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Aloneness is a state of being, whereas loneliness is a state of feeling.
It's like the difference between being broke and being poor."
- Townes Van Zandt
posted by brand-gnu at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hey, you guys know what the blog reads at the top now?

burhanistan asked: This blog kind of sucks. Did you ask these people if they minded having their picture taken? Were you also eating alone at the time?

Check out a thread full of people who hate your blog:
http://www.metafilter.com/95761/Loneliness-is-the-most-terrible-poverty

posted by angrycat at 12:12 PM on September 16, 2010


In particular, I loved the last picture on the last page: This is a table MADE for eating alone. I would love to eat at that table.

That is at Whole Foods across the street from my office... I see that spot at least once a week.
posted by jbelshaw at 12:14 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I rarely eat anywhere with prices above $10, but big foodie friends of mine tell me that hosts at fancy restuarants like one-person parties, as they're less trouble and tip well. I have one friend who regularly goes to the hot new restaurants by herself - the ones that get big newspaper reviews and have month-long reservation backlogs - and gets seated right away. That doesn't seem to jive with what people in this thread are saying; is it a regional thing?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2010


During my mom's shiva last week, I got a little bit freaked out by the vast hordes of friends and family all descending upon me in waves, and couldn't bring myself to eat anything. I slipped out about halfway through on the first night by pretending I needed to go buy some tampax, and went to a nearby diner for some soup and some much-needed peace and goddamn quiet.

Had some asinine stranger taken a smug "look at this lonely loserface eating soup alone and staring into space" photo of me doing so, I would have beaten them to death with their own camera/phone with nary a shred of remorse.

Anyway, I prefer eating alone because other people steal my precious fries.
posted by elizardbits at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just realized that this blog does have comments, but you have to follow a strange mouse path to get to them. I don't get Tumblr.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Check out a thread full of people who hate your blog

On the upside, more ad impressions for Matt. On the downside, dude, that was gauche. And I say that as someone who actually does hate this blog.
posted by Gator at 12:20 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


roll truck roll: i honestly can't remember getting eye-rolling or impatience or bad service eating alone in a non fast food restaurant. Maybe it's regional, maybe it's just that particular server?
posted by crush-onastick at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2010


I go to the movie theater solo all the time and enjoy the experience. I don't see it as any different from watching a movie alone at home ... it's just that the screen is about a thousand times bigger. This past Tuesday I ate at a nice pizza joint on their patio. It was just me, my mushroom/tomato pizza and a glass of Boulevard on a nice evening. I still have to go to a concert/show by myself, but I suspect it's only a matter of time.
posted by bayani at 12:42 PM on September 16, 2010


I haven't understood people so insecure about this that their insecurity has the power to create a social stigma.

I am sure insecurity is sometimes the reason, but honestly, people in restaurants can often go a long way to creating that stigma. It's gotten better in the last decade (or maybe I am just getting old enough to be getting deference?) but years ago, I was often treated badly. Once a waiter sat me in a totally empty room and I said "why did you put me here, I want to be in the main dining room" - his reply? "I was trying to keep you from being embarrassed. "

Once in France, a restaurant I wanted to go to wouldn't take a single reservation. They acted like I had a disease when I asked to reserve a table for one. So I went back another day and reserved for Dr and Mrs Jujujive. Then I went to the restaurant that night and said oh my, the Doctor is so sick so I am forced to dine without him. They were totally nice to me.

I am social enough and am blessed with a huge family (OK, that's both a blessing and a curse) and I have good friends. But there is one strong hermit part of me and I love to do things alone ... museums, movies, dining, some travel... in fact, in travel, you probably are open to meeting more people than when you are with someone else.

But I get where people have trouble with it and find a stigma - I can't tell you how many times I've heard some variation "too bad you have to be here alone" or "too bad you never found a good husband." Grrr. Most people probably mean well, but the last time some jerk of a woman said something patronizing like that to me, I replied, "What's too bad about it? I get to fuck around and you don't. Poor you." That ended that conversation quickly.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:46 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Citrus: I'd say the knee-jerk reactions to these photos say more about the people here and their stigmas, fears, and projections than it says about the photographer(s).

First, I'm not sure it's a "knee-jerk" reaction, at least mine wasn't. Second, I disagree with you that the lack of framing means that there is no connotation of "look at these losers" with the blog. Eating alone is not considered cool in our culture. Rather, it's commented upon, flusters waitresses sometimes, and can lead to things like being seated at the worst table. By NOT providing context to the blog, there is no attempt to move away from that stigma. That is probably why many people here see the blog as being cruel and pointing fingers.

What motivation do you see for creating this type of blog then, if it's not to thoughtlessly comment and make fun of the people in the pictures? As a photographer, would you personally start taking candid shots of strangers and make them into projects like this? Wouldn't you feel like you needed to think long and hard about the impact of that on the people in the photos?

Given no indication that these people are willing subjects, I still say that it says not so great things about the person who took the photos and then created a blog about them.
posted by gemmy at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hey Sheila."

"Hey baby! You want coffee?"

"Not tonight. It'll keep me awake. Lemme get a Sprite and a patty melt and some hash browns scattered and burnt, please."

"OK, sugar. How's your wife?"

"She's good. Finished that big knitting project. She's selling knitting designs online now."

"Oh neat! She gonna knit me a sweater?"

"Probably would if you asked her."

"DEONDRE! PATTY MELT AND HASH BROWNS SCATTERED AND BURNT ON ONE!"

"I hear you."

"Hey, Deondre. I thought you were off on Thursdays."

"Yo, what up? Nah, picking up some OT. You want grilled onions on your melt?"

"Please. But don't drown 'em in grease this time."

"You don't like the way I cook it, cook it yourself."

"Deondre! Don't talk like that!"

"It's OK, Sheila. We just talking. Hey, Deondre -- you watch the game this weekend?"

"Nah. I had to go to my sister's."

"She have the baby yet?"

"Sure did. Little girl."

"Aw, that's great. Sheila, I'm gonna go outside for a smoke, OK?"

"Burn one for me, baby!"

"Will do."

At my favorite places to eat, I never dine alone.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:06 PM on September 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


This is one of my favorite essays on eating alone.
posted by Lycaste at 1:25 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before you begin to eat,
raise your glass in honor
of yourself.
The company is the best you'll ever have.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:39 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


big foodie friends of mine tell me that hosts at fancy restuarants like one-person parties, as they're less trouble and tip well.

I wonder if doesn't go down better at the extremes of the spectrum? At the very high end places it can be all about the food and you don't necessarily want any distractions. I'm not sure I notice it so much in the US (though it definitely goes on) but eating by yourself is an established and accepted part of English Greasy Spoon Culture, tacitly encouraged even . You would have to look quite hard to find one that didn't have a stack of paper for people to read and they often have a (non-breakfast) part of the menu devoted to ultra-traditional meat and two veg meals that is there to cater to a clientele of older, solitary diners, many of whom can't (or don't want to) cook for themselves and come in day after day. (There is also a custom of sharing tables if things get busy, so you can't always tell who is alone).

I was a regular at a greasy spoon in Bristol run by different generations of the same family and it was a great eating alone experience precisely because they treated their regulars as an extension to that family network. There is a wider point here that eating alone can occur in the contest of a wider social/community network and the provision of this can an integral part of how these sort of places work. There are social reasons for this, owner operated operations are going to be closer to their customers for fairly obvious reasons, but also solid economic ones. Mid-range restaurants, in particular, operate on notoriously tight margins (around 7% net) and have high overheads, especially staff costs so they are forced to concentrate on turnover and making sure seats are filled. For smaller places, with lower overheads, there is real economic value in being embedded in a community and in creating a welcoming place for regular clientele who will come back repeatedly especially when they can find that at the margins of the market that other places can't or won't provide for.
posted by tallus at 1:43 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


or, yeah, what Bitter Old Punk said.
posted by tallus at 1:46 PM on September 16, 2010


I eat all my meals with y'all (MeTa + Text-to-Speech).
posted by vidur at 1:47 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eating out by myself is one of those things that I love doing even though society tells me it's wicked awkward. There's something glorious about somebody else cooking something wonderful for me that I can then eat in perfect silence while reading a book or writing in a journal or thinking deep thoughts, and then THEY have to clean up and I can just continue on my merry way. There's no pathos in it, at least not for me!

Especially when you have left three young children at home in order to do this. Or, should I say, when I have left three young children at home in order to do this. As others have said, I have plenty of friends etc. I also have what we call "Mom's Hour Out" which usually takes place in a cafe and which is me being gloriously alone, usually with food I didn't have to cook and dishes I don't have to wash. You call it "the most terrible poverty," I call it "blessed solitude."
posted by not that girl at 1:49 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I eat alone most days. Either at home or out. Such is my situation. It's fine. I'm good company, most of the time.
posted by Decani at 1:55 PM on September 16, 2010


The key is neither to eat alone, nor never to eat alone. The key is to live without fear of eating alone.
is it a regional thing?

Honestly, I think it is an urban vs. suburban/rural thing. In my situation, eating alone in San Francisco or Oakland is very normal and I've never heard anyone comment about it (not that I've been particularly paying attention). When I am in Louisville, KY, I don't really get any comments either (I think I would if I were a woman, perhaps in both places), but the acceptance of it definitely feels different, and I usually don't see anyone else doing it.

That makes sense to me. In big cities, the loner is perceived as less of an anomaly or threat (that's where loners move to).

Also, I think there's a big difference in the perception of eating alone at dinner vs. eating alone at lunch. At lunch, I think most people can comprehend you might not want to fill your only free 30 minutes/hour of the day with the people who are yammering at you all week (all year ... all your life ...). At dinner, some people do think it's pathetic to eat alone.
Nothing evokes the end of the world more than a man running straight ahead on a beach, swathed in the sounds of his walkman, cocooned in the solitary sacrifice of his energy, indifferent even to catastrophes since he expects destruction to come only as the fruit of his own efforts, from exhausting the energy of a body that has in his own eyes become useless. ...

The only comparable distress is that of a man eating alone in the heart of the city. You see people doing that in New York, the human flotsam of conviviality, no longer even concealing themselves to eat leftovers in public. But this still belongs to the world of urban, industrial poverty. The thousands of lone men, each running on their own account, with no thought for others, with a stereophonic fluid in their heads that oozes through into their eyes, that is the world of Blade Runner, the post-catastrophe world.
- Jean Baudrillard, America
posted by mrgrimm at 2:09 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another person here who really enjoys eating alone - especially work lunches. For as long as I can remember, I've always craved that hour or so in the middle of the day to be completely & purely by myself. In fact, it really shits me if anybody tries to tag along or rope me into their lunch. Quite truthfully, it ruins my lunchbreak when that happens.

Anybody who doesn't understand that is obviously unfamiliar with the "I" side of the Myers-Briggs spectrum, where so-called "introverts" find interaction to be tiring instead of uplifting, and prefer to recharge by being alone - although this does not prevent us from being sociable when required; it's just not the preferred mode of being.

Dinner alone is slightly different. I'm required to do this a lot these days because of work travel interstate. It's not that it's uncomfortable, more that large parties are noisy & usually get de-facto preferential service, because the chefs are busy trying to get all the dishes for a table out at the same time, so your solo dish gets shuffled back to whenever they have a gap between the larger orders. That, and the fact that a lot of restaurants & cuisines presuppose a bunch of people sharing dishes. Chinese alone, for example, isn't even worth thinking about, and Indian is hardly any better.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:45 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Eating alone is not lonely, lonely is eating in a crowd of your friends and acquaintances surrounded by an overwhelming and incessant wall of noise that keeps you from any kind of real connection. It surprises me how we can be a nation that simultaneously fears intimacy and solitude.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by one of Max's laws (SF bay restaurant chain):
If you are a single diner and are greeted with the expression, "just one?", dinner is on us.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:25 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tom Waits:

I've always kinda been partial to calling myself up on the phone and asking myself out, you know? Oh yeah, you call yourself up too huh? Yeah, well one thing about it, you're always around. Yeah I know, yeah you ask yourself out, you know, some class joint somewhere. The Burrito King or something, you know. Well I ain't cheap you know. Take yourself out for a couple of drinks maybe. Then there'd be some provocative conversation on the way home. Park in front of the house you know. Oh yeah, you smoothly put a little nice music on, maybe you put on like uh, you know, like shopping music, something thats not too interruptive you know and then uh slide over real nice and say 'Oh I think you have something in your eye'. Well maybe it's not that romantic with you but Christ I don't know, you know I get into it you know. Take myself up to the porch, take myself inside or maybe uh, or may get a little something, a brandy snifter or something. 'Would like you like to listen to some of my back records? I got something here' Uh Well usually about 2.30 in the morning you've ended up taking advantage of yourself. There ain't no way around that you know. Yeah, making a scene with a magazine, there ain't no way around. I'll confess you know, I'm no different you know. I'm not weird about it or anything, I don't tie myself up first. I just kinda spend a little time with myself...
posted by chavenet at 3:51 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing I love more than eating at a restaurant alone when traveling for work. That may have something to do with having it paid for too.
posted by trialex at 4:38 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Better to be alone than to wish you were"
--My mother, who endured forty years of an abusive marriage
posted by jefficator at 6:55 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


The only time eating alone sucks is when, after taking the first bite, you realize that what you ordered wasn't what you wanted after all. I hate that.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:42 PM on September 16, 2010


Only civilized people eat in restaurants, preferably with a book or newspaper.
posted by bardic at 7:59 PM on September 16, 2010


_eat in restaurants alone_, that is
posted by bardic at 7:59 PM on September 16, 2010


That may have something to do with having it paid for too.

We get a generous "per diem" - which means I eat cheap gas-station sandwiches in the hopes of saving up enough for most-of-the-way to a new Mac Mini over the course of the 7-day seminar.

Now you know why there are so many seminars held in Northern Virginia, and why so many hotels in the area border right on gas stations with food-marts.... cuz cab fare is "covered" in the per-diem, too.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:05 PM on September 16, 2010


We get a generous "per diem" - which means I eat cheap gas-station sandwiches

So you don't have any Vietnamese pho joints around, I take it?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:17 PM on September 16, 2010


I hate assholes who take pictures of strangers and then post them on their theme blog.

I don't really look at tumblr, but don't a lot of these blogs have little pictures of their creators (or rather, compilers)? That would make a good tumblr, just cutting and pasting those profile pics into a blog of your own: assholeswithcamerasandblogs.tumblr.com
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:17 PM on September 16, 2010


So you don't have any Vietnamese pho joints around, I take it?

You and your pho. You know where you can put your bloody pho? In your mouth and down your throat and into your stomach, because it is hearty and delicious.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:23 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I totally don't get the stigma about "eating alone."

There was a guy I knew in college who proudly ventured that he had not ever eaten a meal alone - when he was finishing his 4th (and last) year at (an expensive private) college. He had also never gone to a movie at the theatre alone, either.
posted by porpoise at 10:35 PM on September 16, 2010


Sounds like somebody has pho-ness envy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:38 PM on September 16, 2010


Gemmy: Second, I disagree with you that the lack of framing means that there is no connotation of "look at these losers" with the blog.

Here I go.

I am totally fine with eating alone. As I said, I do it and I enjoy it. Saying that one must insert some sort of disclaimer into their blog--CAUTION: I THINK THESE LONE-DINERS ARE TOTALLY NOT LOSERS, FYI--in order to explicitly state their position on the topic of eating alone so as not to be counted among those who find the behavior abhorrent is, IMHO, absurd.

Rather, your reasoning that the act of recording these images and submitting them for viewing by a wider audience is automatically, for lack of a better term, a "dick move" by the photographer says so much more--about you, about people, about our society, about gut-reactions, about the stigma of eating alone--than the photographer's decision to photograph and display the images of these diners in the first place.

I'd say that by refraining from injecting any of his or her own commentary, opinion, description, etc of the photos, the photographer is inviting and allowing us to provide our own. I don't see any of this as a condemnation of lone diners, or an invitation for the open ridicule thereof--in fact, most tumblr blogs that invite and thrive on the ridicule of others usually post (attempts at) snarky/witty/pithy captions for their photos.

Your last comment basically says that any photographer that takes candid photographs of subjects is doing so with ill intentions in mind. Right? If you disagree with me on that, ask yourself why that is.

Would a gallery of photos consisting of candid shots of strangers be a dick move (and forgive me for this paraphrase, it's the most succinct term I could think of to describe it)?

Would a gallery of photos consisting of candid shots of strangers, with a theme of them all performing one activity, be a dick move?

For instance, is Tomoyuki Sakaguchi a jerk with ill-intent for taking these portraits? Do we cut Sakaguchi slack because he takes more professional-looking portraits?

Or is it just because this is a gallery of photos of strangers all eating alone that you think the photographer is being a jerk? You just assume the photographer is of the opinion that eating alone is bad, despite the fact that the photographer gave no opinion either way on the matter, and therefore the photographer is acting in bad faith and attempting to ridicule the subjects of the photos.

As a photographer, would you personally start taking candid shots of strangers and make them into projects like this?

If I found the subject of people eating alone interesting and worth pursuing, and had the dedication to stick with it, I absolutely would.

I took this photo at the Boston Museum of Fine Art(s?). He was by himself, and he would take his camera, place it on a tripod, stand in front of the camera, and photograph himself in front of various paintings. All with that stoic expression.

Am I a jerk for taking his photo? I didn't ask him for permission. Since I didn't explicitly state my position on lone museum-goers, should you assume that the subtext of this photo is "haha look at this loser by himself in an art museum?"

I took it because he stuck out. He stuck out in part because he was by himself. If I spent enough time in art museums, I might make a little collection of photographs I took of people by themselves in the museum. They're unique; they stick out from the large groups of students and tours and all that. That is why they are noteworthy.

Same thing goes for lone diners. They are outliers. They are different from our perception of the norm. They are something that this photographer finds interesting and worth documenting and sharing with others. Who are we to judge, to attempt to shame the photographer for it?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:49 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you don't have any Vietnamese pho joints around, I take it?

No, you need to blow money on cab fare for that, and it's not terribly cheap here in the US the way fast-food or Chinese take-out is. Tho, ironically, we did splurge for it when I was at training last year. Next time, I'm hunkering down with a giant bag of cheeto's for the week and see if I can't turn it into an iPad. Wait. That sounded wrong somehow...
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:36 AM on September 17, 2010


I am not sure what this photo gallery is trying to say. That people sitting alone are lonely or unhappy? That being with someone (anyone) is better than being alone?

It's true that some people are needy, they need the validation that other people provide, but that is not true of everyone. I'm not saying that being alone is better than being with people. People need both (solitude and company). The balance depends on each person. It's unhealthy to be alone all of the time and it's unhealthy to need people all of the time.

There should be another photo-blog showing people with other people but showing how utterly bored they are with the other person and wishing they were alone.
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:34 AM on September 17, 2010


How about Vietnamese rolls? Seems like every neighbourhood bakery here is owned by Vietnamese, and they do these great chicken or pork baguette type rolls for only a few dollars. The pork ones normally contain about four different kinds of meat. [google images]
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:35 AM on September 17, 2010


I don't know, some of you seem very defensive in your loud praise of eating alone. I'm surprised more people aren't piping up to say that actually, they're not crazy about it. I will say for me personally I love love love watching movies alone, prefer it really (shhh don't tell my husband), I guess because the kind of movies I love best are talky and navel-gazing and quiet and you have to pay lots of attention to everything because nothing's very grab-you-by-the-sea-of-your-pants ever, stuff most people find boring, and being alone makes it easier and sweeter to savor that quiet quality they have. My idea of heaven is a weekend afternoon where my husband is too busy working on something to hang out with me so I get to curl up on a sunny bed and watch a Breillat or Rohmer or early Linklater movie, mm. That said, I hate eating out alone. I hated it in college and don't even like waiting for someone when I'm meeting them at a restaurant and have already been seated. And it's weird because I love eating alone at home--I don't like Amelie but the scenes about how the one guy's favorite pleasure in life is to just go to town on a hot-from-the-oven roast chicken all alone spoke to me!!--and the greatest thing about how my life is structured right now is I get to enjoy my lunch alone during the week. Nights spent alone with a dinner of Parmesan goldfish and a glass of red wine or popcorn and sparkling wine=heaven. (Trashy food or implausible combos are best solo!) But I hate being alone at restaurants, and yes, I am an introvert in pretty much all other circumstances. My happiest schedules have been when the majority of my day is spent alone.

The odd thing too is that paradoxically, I hate eating in front of people or a person I'm not yet close to. Early dates or meet ups with people I'm just getting to know before we're good friends are horrible; I don't eat more than two bites total and take forever to do that. At big evening parties where I don't know people well I usually end up going home hungry despite tons of food everywhere; only recently did I pick up on this and now I eat a small dinner beforehand. And I figured out a while back it was a great way to know how I honestly felt about someone--my eating habits around someone tell me the truth, my subconscious attitude towards them. I thought I was close to someone for a while but never got comfortable eating around them, and recently this year I finally admitted to myself for the first time I actually can't stand them most of the time and stopped trying to find a way to stay friends with them and sane. I knew things were good and comfy/trusty with my now-husband when it dawned on me my appetite had come back full force while around him; the first few months (we lived together as roomies) I lost a bunch of weight out of nervousness. Eating with gusto around someone definitely confirms to me I'm really close to them. /random rambling aside
posted by ifjuly at 9:33 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It may also depend on how much you enjoy eavesdropping and/or "people watching." I admit to being a fan of both, but not as much as a friend of mine in college who liked eavesdropping more than just about anything (half our dinners out were filled with "Hey! Ssh! Check out this couple behind us ...").

I bet he likes eating alone too.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


big foodie friends of mine tell me that hosts at fancy restuarants like one-person parties, as they're less trouble and tip well.

At a high-end restaurant there's a chance that solo diner is a Michelin inspector. Best if the staff doesn't give them attitude about being alone.

I don't know, some of you seem very defensive in your loud praise of eating alone.

If you really are an introvert who understands the need for and pleasure of time alone, I'm surprised you chose to phrase this in a way that implies "and you're lying about enjoying eating alone".
posted by Lexica at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not at all, Lexica. I'm just surprised at how loudly and severely everyone is like "duh eating alone is like the best thing, people who don't get are totally missing a big piece of life and self awareness" or something. But, you know, there's that attack-y defensiveness again. I was just puzzled by it, but I shouldn't be I guess if people took this post as an affront or something. Sheesh. I'm just saying, I guess I'll be the one to say I'm totally with you introverts about this 99% of the time, but it's odd to me NO ONE seems to be with me that eating alone in public is the one area I'm not crazy about. That is all.
posted by ifjuly at 6:17 PM on September 17, 2010


That, and the fact that a lot of restaurants & cuisines presuppose a bunch of people sharing dishes. Chinese alone, for example, isn't even worth thinking about, and Indian is hardly any better.

Fried rice and biryani, respectively.

It's also an upmarket-Asian thing; menus in Indian / Chinese restaurants in the US, for example, are more suited for non-sharing types. One additional possibility is to get to those places (perhaps you dont have them there in .au) where they do set-meals. The other trick is to order for two and take-out the rest for the next day.

To get back to the thread's main topic, while I won't pretend eating alone in a foreign town doesn't suck at times, I should say I'm often more wary of being lonely in a group than when I'm solitary. I get the best possible ideas when I'm in my zone, so being solitary isn't all that bad. But yes, I'm surprisingly extrovertial as well; I like people around me. Now whether I need your _sympathy_ or not is a different tale; chances are that I don't.
posted by the cydonian at 9:09 PM on September 20, 2010


Huh, Andrew Sullivan just linked to this thread. I actually hadn't seen the thread, but I did see the link when Sullivan linked it. It pissed me off.
Wow. To me, a lot of these comments seem unnecessarily uptight. I find this collection of photos rather touching, not mean-spirited or exploitative. Maybe because I like to take photos myself and I'm very comfortable with the idea of photographing strangers in public places, with or without consent. I haven't photographed strangers in a while, because I wouldn't be able to say anything meaningful, but I think this tumblr is really well conceived.
Did you see the girl trying to hide her face? Fuck this guy.
I took this photo at the Boston Museum of Fine Art(s?). He was by himself, and he would take his camera, place it on a tripod, stand in front of the camera, and photograph himself in front of various paintings. All with that stoic expression.

Am I a jerk for taking his photo? I didn't ask him for permission. Since I didn't explicitly state my position on lone museum-goers, should you assume that the subtext of this photo is "haha look at this loser by himself in an art museum?"
The guy was posing for a picture. People would prefer not to be photographed while eating, and then have their pictures posted on a blog that implicitly makes fun of them for doing so.
posted by delmoi at 4:50 PM on September 21, 2010


« Older What Not to Wear in the Lineup   |   Massive La. Fishkill Prompts Oil Spill Questions Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post