On my way home after my Zumba class I sometimes stop off for lunch at a local café. I tend to get in before the ‘dinner rush’ and manage to find a table to myself. I order Earl Grey tea and whatever I fancy eating that day. It then fills up with groups of women and couples who are also ordering lunch or simply stopping off for a coffee and a chat. I don’t mind that I am on my own – I sit proud and look around me. I also check-out Facebook, the news and my emails. But once my food arrives and I put my phone down I begin to think about what is going through the minds of the other diners, especially the ones that glance over.
I have friends who tell me that they always feel sorry for people who are on their own. At the restaurant, in the pub, at the cinema. Anywhere really. I tell them that they should not feel any pity . Not because I am a heartless bitch but because I am often that lone diner, the one at the cinema on my own, walking along the promenade in solitude. And I don’t want pity, I don’t want concern and I certainly don’t want befriending. I am on my own. That doesn’t mean I am friendless or without love.
It seems that I’ve read a lot of articles recently about levels of loneliness in society. Only today I read in the Guardian of a woman who despite having family and being a volunteer felt deep loneliness. I am not denying that this stranger is unhappy. Loneliness can be very real and it can be depressing and it can be experienced by people with lots of friends and loving family. So it would seem that being alone and loneliness are not that closely related and that loneliness is not always an outcome of being alone.
There are those among us who enjoy going solo. Me, for example.
When I go to the cinema alone I feel no pressure that I am making someone sit through 2 hours of boredom, I know that I don’t have to think up clever things to say about the film I’ve just seen. I don’t have to battle for arm-rest space. Dining alone means that I enjoy the food without worrying about making conversation, getting bits between my teeth or dribbling things down my blouse. I can eat as quickly or as slowly as I like and don’t have to worry about keeping pace with company. Walking alone can be meditation. Why would I spoil that?
So as I sip my Earl Grey I hope that no-one in the cafe is feeling sorry for me, worrying that I don’t get enough social interaction and thinking about how awful my life must be.