Friday, May 6, 2011

Yes, "Just" One

At the beginning of our "separation," Ex and I shared a home but still divided custody. This meant that on my days with the kids he'd go to his girlfriend's house. On his days with the kids I'd be at a friend's house, hiding in my office/bedroom.... or taking myself out to dinner - just to get out of the house until after bedtime.

I've always loved dining. Not eating, dining. To me that means a cocktail at the bar (martini-me!) with some house-cured olives, roasted almonds or some other finger food; salad and a main course; appropriate wine; dessert and double capp with a shot of amaretto.

Disclaimer: When I worked in a restaurant, during graduate school - first as a hostess and then a bartender - the meal described above was how every manager hoped a table would order for maximum money per cover. Servers pushed it for tips. I enjoy being on the other side of this rule.

Usually a meal like this is shared with a companion (date, friend, love....) but - I quickly discovered - can be equally enjoyable alone.

I choose nice restaurants close to home, tell the host I'd like to sit at the bar, make myself comfortable and order my martini with a menu... While I sip I'll survey the scene, both at the bar and in the "house" (again, harking back to my restaurant days, I feel a kinship with the staff and enjoy the subtle language between them). The bartender sets me up with a place-setting, some bread and I order my meal and request wine recommendations. By the time dessert rolls around I've become friendly enough with the people sitting next to me and the bartender that I could hardly call myself "alone" anymore.

To be clear, these aren't single-bar types of places. I often befriend couples sitting near me - sharing menu recommendations or experiences at other area restaurants (once, two men sitting next to me spent a lovely half hour sharing their wedding album with me.) Bartenders - male and female - are particularly accommodating when you take their wine or food recommendations. In general, I find, if I am friendly and enjoying myself the people around me are more open to an inclusive relationship.

At the end of my meal I leave alone. But never lonely.