Cheu Noodle Bar is like Tokyo in that it doesn’t give you a rest. While you dine here, you are engaged in constant sensory overload. String lights hang above you, music, laughter and called orders fill the space, the different smells of different things cooking keep you wide awake, the colors on the walls and the furniture are conflicting with your outfit and your neighbor’s outfit and the waiter’s outfit, and just like in a big city, it is easy to feel alone here. It is easy to look to your left and right and see groups of five and six laughing over drinks and start to feel…isolated.
However, I braved the storm.
I set out into Philadelphia to prove something to myself as a college student, as a 21 year old and as a woman. To answer the question: Is dining out alone as a woman REALLY that bad and REALLY that embarrassing and REALLY an indication to everyone around me that I’m a lonely spinster?
It seems that the only thing women don’t agree with Beyonce on is the joy of being with “me, myself and I.” Women generally don’t like to go places by themselves, and women in my generation are perhaps even more dependent on each other. In my last three years as a college student, I have rarely went to the bathroom alone at an event, I have skipped out on plays, restaurant openings and free tickets because a girlfriend didn’t want to go or canceled last minute, I have even heard things like this from my friends:
“But, I couldn’t go by myself. I would look like such a loser.”
“Thanks a lot! Now that you can’t go, I can’t go!”
And, most often:
“I just don’t feel comfortable going places by myself. Everyone will look at me.”
When I got to Cheu Noodle Bar, I walked in and didn’t know what to say. Should I be formal? “Table for one, please madame.” Should I lie? “My friend just canceled on me like five minutes ago. Oh well, looks like I might as well eat here.” Should I run before anyone declares me lonely?
The waitress asked: “Is it just you?”
“Yep, just me.”
I was seated at the bar “like all the lonely people” I thought. I got a drink, ordered my food and once the waitress left I started to panic, until I realized something that genuinely changed my life (or at least my meal).
No one cared.
A man read in the corner while slurping his noodles, a group of five sat together stealing wings off of each other’s plates, taking sips from each other’s drinks, two girls sat together and talked quietly at the far end of the bar…and five minutes later, another girl sat beside me, 100 percent solo. I wanted to shake her hand, to tell her this was my first time eating out, that we were in this together. She put her head phones in, ordered a drink and some food, nodded her head to the music while she ate and looked completely comfortable.
Even she didn’t care.
I understand, ladies. I understand that women are pressured to be dependent. We are the “communal” creatures, we are the sex that enjoys sleepovers and parties instead of seeing a movie by ourselves. I do agree that we also have more to worry about safety wise than men do. However, as I learned, there is nothing wrong with deciding to go out alone to try something new or to spend some time with yourself.
Since then, I have gone to two restaurants by myself. I still prefer going out with a good friend and having a great conversation over dumplings, but I will no longer accept missing out on things because I am too nervous of what people think. In the end, I enjoyed myself. And now I suggest that you do, too.