It is uncommon to find a woman dining alone in our city. The esteemed writer Jessica Zafra has written -and shared in her lectures at the Ayala Museum- about her experiences when enjoying a meal by her lonesome. She gets judgemental stares, condescending questions from dining staff, and odd commentary from other diners who think that their whispers are beyond her hearing. I have observed the same whenever I would venture into a restaurant without a companion. You see, I am an only child, and whether I am in a relationship or not, dining alone is definitely part of my routine. Both of my parents have their own lives and I prefer to eat healthful meals. Whenever I have the time to savor a leisurely lunch, I prefer to go to Maginhawa Street, where there are various indie restaurants to inspire my inner foodie. And yes, I never saw the stigma attached with women eating out without a companion until I have been doing so regularly.
What I cannot accept are the questions from everyone. The staff usually asks me before, during, and after my meal whether I am still waiting for someone. I do hear comments from other people in the restaurants I have eaten in that I must be lonely, poor, or worse, left alone by a date. There was even a time when I was still single and someone from another table asked me if I am too single. I ignored the question, because why should I even bother, right? But as I was happily single then, I realized that women without companions in Manila are seen as a threat by some. It only stems from our patriarchal society, and by the collective perception by women in our society that it is “sad” to eat out alone.
I have observed in my previous workplaces that eating alone even in the pantry is seen as “sad” or even “wrong”. I have turned down invites to join others for lunch when a book awaited my eager eyes. I have also spent many a lunch break with friends so I am not exactly a loner. However, I am also comfortable to eat alone. It is more than okay for me. It is also liberating, because I have already learned to be oblivious to the stares, the comments, the questions from seemingly Type A diners, and the condescending remarks from people who should not even bother.
There are more important matters to discuss rather than a woman dining alone in Manila. It is already 2017. I think Manila should leave the solo lady diner alone.
I can finish the rice bowl I order in restaurants whenever I eat out alone, thank you very much. The latte I enjoy with my novel is best shared with the protagonist on the pages I read. My best ideas haunt me while working out, but I learn to love myself more whenever I dine alone. In the cruel and unforgiving world of Manila to women who are comfortable being out alone, I have learned to appreciate my guts and forgive myself. I have learned to delight in my own company. And yes, I have learned to find my voice for this blog, during the endless cups of coffee I would sip while planning my next solo food trip.
Whether you are in a relationship or not, make sure to eat out by yourself. I guarantee you that it will make you stronger, empowered, and dare I say happier. Just ask the next solo female diner you see in the corner. Or better yet, don’t. She’s probably too engrossed in her own company to even care.
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