There was a time in my life I wouldn’t be caught dead dining alone in a restaurant. In fact, I didn’t like doing anything alone. I enjoyed the company of other people and would often call a girlfriend just to make a quick trip to Target.
I was adventurous, carefree, and loved meeting new people. Then something happened — I became a mom, and that once-adventurous extrovert became a more-reserved introvert. Now I prefer a quiet cup of coffee over a wild night out. If it can be avoided, I really don’t like to leave my house. I’m not a recluse or a shut-in, but I like it here, in my comfy clothes, where I can roam braless without being arrested.
There are people out in the world, doing people-y things, and I’m just not into that anymore. I don’t hate people — I’ve just become selective about whom I spend my time with and for how long. Just like Pretty Woman, “I say who, I say when, I say how much.” But with social outings, not prostitution. Maybe that’s not the greatest analogy, but that leads me to another point: I’m awkward.
Putting me in a social situation only amplifies my awkwardness. Even before kids and my newfound introversion, I had to work to hide my awkwardness. At times, I was successful. Other times, I made things super-weird with very little effort. I don’t have to worry about that at home. My family knows I’m a total weirdo, and they’re fine with it.
Maybe my introversion is just a symptom of extreme exhaustion. I love my kids, but OMG they are exhausting. So when I actually get a minute to breathe, I prefer do it alone.
The other day I found myself with a few unexpected hours of alone time — a mother’s dream. Typically, I would run full-speed to Target, but this particular day, I really wanted tacos. Not just tacos, though. I wanted a margarita, a basket of chips, and a giant bowl of salsa to go with them. So I drove to my favorite restaurant and did something crazy. I asked for a table for one.
The host looked at me with confusion, then sadness, pausing briefly before ushering me to my table. At first, I felt the need to explain my solo status, but then I thought, Meh, I don’t have to explain myself. I’m a grown lady who wants some tacos.
Once I was seated, I scrolled Facebook and caught up on some reading while I grazed on chips and salsa. The few times I made eye contact with fellow diners, it was obvious they thought something was wrong. One gave me a sad head-tilt of sympathy, a deep sigh following. Another middle-aged woman patted the seat next to her, offering a spot at her family’s table, which I politely declined. While I was touched by her kind gesture, I was more than happy right where I was.
Not only did I get an entire basket of chips to myself, I didn’t have to take anyone to the restroom when my food arrived. I ate my food while it was hot, and I didn’t have to drag a tiny, pissed-off body out from under the table midway through my meal. I savored every bite, not worrying about the emotional instability of a 3-year-old whose quesadilla was too quesadilla-y.
I enjoy date nights with my spouse, but it was wonderful to just let my mind wander without trying to keep up with a conversation. I was free to just sit quietly without interruption.
Just as I was finishing my meal, the waiter asked if I needed anything else. As it turns out, that particular restaurant does not offer pedicures, so I concluded tacos for one, and headed back home. It was a refreshing experience that I recommend every mother try immediately.
Next time you have a small break, do yourself a favor: Drive to your favorite restaurant, get a table, and let someone wait on you for a change. Bring your favorite book, your phone, hell, just people-watch if you want, but take the time for yourself, I promise you won’t regret it.
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