Coming from an Italian family, eating is the center of all conversations. I am always sitting, talking, and eating with friends and family members. That’s how the world works. The first date is dinner; on your birthday you go to a restaurant. The only time I ever ate alone was at one in the morning watching Netflix in bed.
Now, starting my freshman year of college at Rider University and living on campus, most of the time I eat in the dining hall. It is only three weeks into the first semester, so I don’t have very many friends. Yet. Sure, I know some people in my classes, but we don’t hangout or talk much outside of the classroom. So who do I eat with?
I dine solo. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner I have eaten alone for the past three weeks. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t eat alone. Go eat with friends if they’re available, or don’t. I’m saying there isn’t anything wrong with you for eating in the dining hall by yourself. Nobody is looking at you like you are a freak; nobody thinks you don’t have friends - even if you don’t yet. The only person judging you for eating alone is yourself.
I was eating peanut butter from the jar for two days because I didn’t want to be “that person” eating by herself. When I got so sick of peanut butter that it was vital for me to eat something else, I ventured to the dining hall alone for the first time. I felt like everyone was staring at me, but I was too afraid to lift up my head. I got my pizza and sat in the far corner of the hall. I ate too fast, got the hiccups, and thought I was going to throw up.
I was texting my sister at the time about how my stomach felt like I was going down the highest drop on a roller-coaster. She reminded me that nobody was looking at me, except me. Truth is nobody cares. There are more people eating alone than with others from what I’ve seen while eating pizza unaccompanied.
You do have to be careful, though. Recently I was invited to get dinner with some friends from my dance history class, but I turned them down. I actually became so accustomed to eating alone I was afraid to eat with others. Your personality can quickly change from outgoing and bubbly to antisocial and anxious. I realized my stupid mistake and made plans the next day with some of the girls. I was nervous, but conversation picked up fast and it was fun.
Most of the time I still eat alone but, I am completely comfortable with it now. I enjoy texting my sister or playing Words with Friends with my mom. Reading, doing homework, listening to music or texting are all ways to make you feel less awkward. Or, you can just eat your meal, which is why dining halls exist. I am a person, and I eat. If I want to eat dinner at 6:30 p.m. and I don’t know anyone else who does, I’m still going to have dinner at 6:30 p.m.
Don’t worry about what others are thinking; you might even inspire someone else dining solo too.