Why go through the experience of an awkward first date, worrying about whether or not your suitor might be a serial killer when you can date yourself? Who says you can’t have a romantic meal all alone?
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and whether we like it or not, the weeks leading up to it are filled with constant reminders that it’s near. Regardless of what a sham we all know it is, that doesn’t stop the jewelry commercials, the billboards for flower bouquets, or the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate from suddenly appearing. Try and ignore Valentine’s Day all you want, but it’s not ignoring you.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m getting older, and it’s starting to get embarrassing how much more I know about the McDonald’s secret menu than I do about French cuisine. When people ask me about my favorite places to eat in Los Angeles, I’d like to list at least three places that aren’t one of the food trucks next to some bar I drink at. It’s time to take matters into my own hands and force myself to grow as a literal consumer. No more meeting Tinder matches at dive bars. From now on, I need to go on real, adult dates. Dinner dates at places with waiters who have to wear ties as part of their uniform. Even the women.
Although with this, I encounter another problem: I don’t have any dates lined up. My romantic life is currently going through a very dry spell. The last guy I hooked up with has moved to Thailand. So now what? Refrain from having a romantic, adult dinner just because I have no one to be romantic with? Screw that. Why the hell do I feel the need for some man to sweep me off my feet when I can just do it myself? I don’t need another person to wine and dine me. I can wine and dine myself and make it just as romantic, if not more so.
The first step was finding the right place to do this. I needed a romantic dinner spot that was nice, but not so nice that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent after eating there. I texted my most well-adjusted friends about their favorite Los Angeles dinner date restaurants. One friend suggested Little Dom’s in Los Feliz. Not only is it cozy and romantic, but more than one person has told me that they’ve seen Ryan Gosling eat there. Sold.
So I arrived at Little Dom’s on a Saturday night wearing a black dress I purchased years ago to wear to a friend’s wedding. My hair was not only brushed, but freshly washed, too. I even put makeup on and some perfume. It was around 7 PM and the place was starting to fill up. Most of the patrons were in groups of two, clearly on the traditional form of a date. The hostess asked me if I wanted to sit at the bar, but I shocked her by requesting my own table and was seated on their outside patio. Perhaps the sight of me dining alone would have bummed out too many of the lovers inside, but I didn’t mind because it was warm outside and the evening sky made for an even more amorous setting. My table had two lit candles in the center. A waiter quickly came by to offer some freshly baked bread and a glass of water, and to take away the second pair of utensils resting on the other side of me.
As I perused the menu, I decided to go ahead and get the thing on it that was least the familiar to me. I ended up ordering their celeriac agnolotti, having absolutely no idea what it was. Reading through the description, “with smoked mushroom sugo and fiore sardo,” simply left me more confused. Instead of whipping my phone out to Google it, I decided give myself a thrill and stay completely unaware. In case the agnolotti was a failure, I ordered grilled artichokes as an appetizer. Normally, I refrain from ordering appetizers, but this was a special night. Why not splurge a little? I deserve it. Keeping with this line of thinking, I also went ahead and ordered a Moscow Mule served in one of those classic copper mugs.
As I waited for my food, I came upon the realization that the best thing about being on a date with myself is simply not having to go through the awkward first date talk. Unlike most encounters, I don’t need to constantly be worried about whether or not I’m having a good time. I don’t have to secretly wonder if I might be a serial killer. I already know my stance on abortion and gay marriage.
I approve of all of my favorite movies and music, and I don’t have to go through the fear that I might list Sublime as one of my favorite bands. I feel comfortable around myself, like I could tell myself anything without the trepidation of being judged. I’m funny and outgoing when I need to be, but also perfectly fine with not being the center of attention. Normally, I get uncomfortable when a date is too quiet, but with me, that quiet feels OK. Frankly, I’m the best date I’ve ever had. Not only that, but my cleavage was looking damn good.
When my agnolotti arrived, I was relieved to find that it was a mushroom-y, cheesy, rolled pasta. It was delicious; as was my lemon-soaked artichoke. While eating, I’ll admit that I started to feel the self-consciousness of dining alone come out. The people sitting near me were engaged in conversation, which I began to assume was about me. “Can you believe she’s eating here alone? On a Saturday night? What’s wrong with her? Do you think she is too emotionally closed off to let others in? That must be it.
She’s probably incredibly lonely, and I bet you she hasn’t cleaned her bathtub in months.” Rather than let this paranoia get to me, I shook it off and reminded myself that no one at this restaurant gives a crap about little old me. In fact, as I was eavesdropping on one conversation, all I heard was a discussion about a pet dog who not only has a therapist, but said therapist has deemed the dog “severely depressed.” There is no way I am worse than these people. The rest of my meal was smooth sailing as I was enjoying both the ambiance and my lack of company.
As I gulped down the last few sips of my vodka drink, I waited for the check and reflected on what a special night I just had with me. I was proud of myself for having done this. I realized that I didn’t fear being alone as much as I feared what others would think of me if they saw me alone. We single folk tend to panic over the social stigma associated with being unattached, but that fear prevents us from doing things that’ll ultimately make us feel happier and more OK with our singledom.
Telling ourselves that we need to wait for a romantic partner in order to do certain activities—even the simple ones like dining at a nice restaurant—only makes being single harder. That’s the lesson I’m taking away from this date night, and you know what? There’ll be more date nights like this to come, whether someone else can join me or not.
Written by: Alison Stevenson