When Eating Alone is Lonely

Cooking for One

Sometimes cooking and eating alone is just fine, and sometimes it's not. Meals are a shared experience in most cultures, so it is a classic time for loneliness to come up if you find yourself alone at meal times. Do you eat alone often? How do you deal with the times when a single place setting at the table feels lonely?

Of course for some, occasionally eating alone is a relief, especially if you have a busy work and family life. But if you eat alone a fair amount, its possible that once and a while you wish you had some companionship with your meal. In my opinion, eating alone isn't inherently a lonely experience and I very much enjoy my single meals when they happen. But I also think it is quite normal to feel a twinge (or even a flood) of loneliness at a solo meal and rather than make it a problem, it's helpful to just work with it a little.

There are many ways to do this. You can read a book, or listen to the radio, or watch TV for company. I personally don't think its a problem to distract yourself in these instances, although modern pop psychology might disagree. Books are excellent companions and there are have been many meals in my life that were enhanced by their company.

If weather permits, you can pack up your meal and head to a park or a beach and dine 'alone with others.' On a similar note, you can decide to go out to eat and take advantage of the communal tables and bar seating that many restaurants have these days. Or even occupy a small table if that's available. You can also just accept the fact that for tonight at least you're dining alone, but then make a few dinner dates for the week ahead. Or you can spontaneously ask a neighbor or colleague over for dinner.

How do you work with those times when eating alone feels lonely?

Related: Cooking for One: Eating Alone

(Image: Dana Velden)