I could feel the flush creeping up my neck. I knew what was coming next.
“So who are you having dinner with?” my coworker J asked.
It was my birthday, and a Tuesday. My plan was to check out the S.F. restaurant flour+water after work; I’d never been there before and heard the waits were legendary. But I figured if I waltzed in there solo, early on a weekday, I’d stand a better chance of enjoying a quiet, fabulous dinner.
Midweek birthdays always feel a little awkward, and this year I didn’t want to make a big deal out it. On flanking weekends I was getting together with family and friends to celebrate anyway—but I didn’t want to go home the night of and treat it like any other day.
At the same time, I hesitated to tell anyone else what my plans were. I actually like to go out by myself (to nice restaurants, the symphony, museums, whatever) and do just exactly what I want to do, having these little adventures. I’ve never wanted to miss out on something just because I didn’t have a companion immediately available to join me in it. Still, even though I know I shouldn’t care, there was the nagging fear of being judged a loser, a poor soul who couldn’t find anybody to have dinner with on her birthday.
Why should I be ashamed of wanting to treat myself well to a nice meal, though? So I decided to out with it, despite the hot flush in my cheeks. “Oh, I’m just gonna have dinner by myself,” I replied (hopefully nonchalantly and chin up).
To my surprise, J was matter-of-fact cool about it. Although she and her husband liked to have dinner parties and socialize with other couples, she said, her husband liked to have dinner on his own every now and then too, just to be on his own for a bit. Then another coworker, L, chimed in. “Recently I took a motorcycle trip by myself up the coast and had a great time,” she said. “I could just do my own thing and stop wherever I wanted and not have to worry about anyone else.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I guess I just worry too much about what other people will think.”
“They’ll probably look at you with envy and wish they were brave enough to do the same thing,” she replied.
I liked that way of looking at it. :)
Anyway, I did end up snagging a seat at flour+water (after barely five minutes) and decided to go all in on the pasta tasting menu with a glass of wine. Just sat at the bar and people-watched and lingered over my food, every bite of which I savored. Among the dishes:
Campanelle with pork belly, leeks, squash & their blossoms
Salumi fattisu with pickled mustard seeds & fennel (my fave)
Cacao tajarin with brown butter braised giblets, eggplant & nettles (so rich)
After being seated, I couldn’t resist the urge to check my iPhone from time to time, but otherwise I pretty much just perched on my barstool, sipped my wine, and watched the action swirl around me.