I do quite a lot of stuff on my own.
I travel sometimes for work, so have stayed in lots of hotels on my own, been on trains and planes on my own, and frequented plenty of cafes alone too. I guess the nature of being self-employed equips you for it well, but I like doing social things on my own too, like going to the cinema in the middle of the day with snacks from Marks and Spencer.
In fact, I was really shocked when I went for dinner with a group of about eight friends recently, all in their forties, to discover that half of them had never done any of these things. One woman in fact had never even been in a cafe for a coffee on her own.
What I’m not so good at doing is proper sit down meals in restaurants.
This morning I had a meeting in London with a potential new client. It went well, and after I finished, at about midday, I was hungry and excited. I had that lovely feeling you get sometimes when you come out of a meeting and things have just clicked – you like the people, you like the project, and you know that you’ve managed to sound vaguely like you know what you’re talking about. What I needed next was what any successful lady about town needs – lunch.
Walking the streets around Covent Garden, I could have had my pick of literally dozens and dozens of lunch options. Normally at lunch time I go as casual as possible – I think I’m slightly afraid of looking out of place or of not feeling good enough for somewhere, so I’ll often end up getting takeaway or eating in a fairly dull chain cafe, just because there I know what’s expected of me, and don’t feel so self-conscious.
Today though, my choice of lunch venue suddenly felt very important. I felt almost like my very sense of self worth depended on the choice I made – if I ended up with a Big Mac, it would prove that I wasn’t really grown up enough to be in London going to work meetings on my own. I may have been wearing dungarees and a backpack, carried sensibly on two shoulders, but I needed a waiter. And cutlery. And napkins that I didn’t have to get myself from a ketchup stained condiment island.
I ended up in Pizza Express.
Okay, so it might not be the height of sophistication – it’s about as safely middle-class as you can get – but it’s a step up from a disappointing panini in Costa, and I did have to say ‘table for one please’, which definitely means it counts.
I even had a glass of wine, even though it was only 12.48pm.
It felt ace. (That may have been the wine.)
I felt like a grown up. I took my time over my food, I relaxed, I played with my phone a bit, I looked around at other people and tried to guess which of them were sleeping with each other – it was a lot of fun. Plus, eating in Pizza Express alone is a lot cheaper than eating there with two children.
That bit was particularly satisfying.
Do you like eating alone? What’s your favourite thing to do alone?