It’s a Tuesday night — my night off from having my kids — and I have nothing on my agenda. My work is done for the day.
The house is clean(ish) and there’s no one to cook dinner for. Since I work from home, I’ve been inside pretty much all day, minus taking a half an hour walk. So, I find myself with the familiar feeling of itching to get out of the house for a few hours. But there’s a problem — I don’t have anyone to go out with.
I’ve texted a few friends who are all partnered up. They are with their husbands or boyfriends, or they are home tending to their own kids. Since I’m not exactly seriously dating anyone, I don’t have a guaranteed date when I’m alone for the night.
This used to really bother me. I’d hop on Bumble or Tinder or Hinge. I’d harass my friends to meet up with me, “Just for one drink!” But lately, I’ve started taking a new approach. When I don’t have anyone to go out with, I get dressed anyway and take myself out. Truthfully, it feels like the best kind of self-care in the world.
It might not seem like that strange of a thing to do, but it definitely takes some getting used to. As a woman who was married for eight years and, before that, mostly went out with friends or on dates, the times I’ve taken myself out to dinner alone were pretty few as of just a couple of months ago.
But I started thinking, it’s not that strange to see a man dining alone. Men hunch over bars and take themselves to dinner on the regular. I knew plenty of men who did it, and they never felt trapped in their homes just because they didn’t have a date. The truth is, I was jealous of that kind of liberation.
The first few times I took myself out to dinner, I felt a bit uneasy. I wondered if people felt sorry for me for dining alone. Or worse, if they thought I was waiting for someone who wasn’t showing up. Different scenarios ran through my head, as I wondered what others were thinking.
But I found that the more I took myself out on what I started calling my “me dates,” the more comfortable it became. I started to have some local spots that I’d frequent. Often, I’d chat with bartenders, play on my phone, people-watch, and enjoy a good meal with some wine.
It started to become more fun and comfortable to go out alone. But most importantly, I loved the independence of it. I didn’t have to rely on anyone else in order to have an enjoyable night.
Not having to worry about whether I had a date or had plans with friends was truly liberating. Honestly, most of the time, I’d rather have someone to go out with. But dining alone is a different kind of enjoyment, and it’s still fun.
Going on “me dates” is something I do most weeks now. Sometimes I’ll have a drink and then head to a movie. Other times, I’ll just sit and have wine and an appetizer. Most of the time, I’m not worried if anyone feels sorry for me anymore or wonders why I’m alone. I know exactly why I’m out alone — because I’m choosing to get out of my house and not relying on anyone else in order to do it.
The truth is, people don’t really feel bad for you if you’re a woman eating alone. In fact, I’ve had plenty of people tell me, “I wish I could do that.” I always answer back, “You can!” Yes, it takes going outside of your comfort zone. Yes, it takes getting used to. But if men can do it, why can’t we?
It’s nearly 2020. I feel like it’s high time to be secure enough in myself to dine alone. I wish all women would try it and realize how great it can be. You deserve to put on a nice outfit and get out of the house. You deserve to eat a good meal and have a few drinks. You deserve to not need anyone.
None of that means that it’s not OK to want a partner to go out with or to prefer going out with friends over going out alone. But the simple fact that I know I have the option of doing whatever I want, whenever I want, and not needing anyone in order to do it, is incredibly freeing. I’m so glad I learned to take myself to dinner this year.
Here’s to a lot more “me dates” in 2020.