A friend of mine who lives in Japan posted an article on her blog about how Japanese society is warped because they have issues like these: Terrified of being seen alone, students eat in toilets
In case you don’t have time to read the entire article (though I recommend that you do since it’s pretty interesting), here’s the short version: Apparently, signs have been put up in some university restrooms that “Eating is prohibited” inside the restroom, because they found out that a number of Japanese students, rather than being seen alone in the cafeteria and therefore perceived to be friendless, prefer eating in the toilets.
Of course it’s gross. I can’t even stand to bring any food item inside a restroom (a problem I normally encounter when going to the restroom in the movie house), let alone actually eat in there. But I have heard this being done before, and not just from that article, mind you. But from stories of friends who knows somebody who knows somebody who does this, and for the same reason — because he/she doesn’t want people to know that he/she doesn’t have friends to eat with. Anyway, maybe not all the rumors that I’ve heard are true (some of them actually involve celebrities, when they were still students, hehe), but I figure that there should be some truth to this kind of behavior. Especially because, and here’s what I really know to be true: There are a lot of people who don’t like eating alone.
I think I even had a friend who posted in her Friendster profile (Oo, uso pa ‘yung Friendster nung nabasa ko ‘to) that one of her greatest fears is to eat alone in a restaurant or a fast food place, or anywhere, except maybe at home in front of the TV.
I can understand why some people don’t like it. Because as we all may have probably already observed, eating isn’t just something that we do because we have to. It’s a social event. That’s why we all gain holiday weight (and for those of you who don’t, shame on you! You’re supposed to enjoy yourselves during the holidays!), because during Christmas time (or whatever season you celebrate in December), people tend to have reunions with friends and family. And what’s a reunion, or any social event, for that matter, without food, right? Also, eating together has also been known to start friendships or strengthen ones that already exist. What’s that sign in some restaurant? Share a seat, win a friend.
So yeah, I can really understand why some people wouldn’t want to eat alone. And maybe not just because if they eat alone, people will think that they don’t have any friends, but because they, personally, don’t enjoy eating, without having someone to talk to, or enjoy the food with. However, strangely enough, eating alone, is actually something I like to do. Sometimes, I even prefer it to having people to eat with.
I told you I was anti-social. But think about it, there are some advantages to eating by yourself, at least for me.
- Nobody mocks your food. – I’m very picky about food (Example: I don’t eat vegetables. I can eat them on rare occasions, but I really prefer not eating them), so I’m kind of sensitive about this. I absolutely hate it when other people tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat. I mean sure, some of them think that they’re just “looking out” for me, but really, I already eat properly when I’m at home (because I eat the same things my parents eat and they like healthy food, sort of ), so I really don’t need anyone telling me about how I shouldn’t separate the peas from the carrots and just eat the carrots, or someone forcing me to use soy sauce or ketchup because my food will “taste better”. I know what ketchup tastes like, and I don’t like it. I don’t care if french fries don’t seem complete without it to you, but I like my fries real salty, thank you.
- You don’t have to sit through boring small talk and pretend you’re enjoying the conversation. – (Haha, parang may pinanggagalingan ba? :P) But I think that maybe this is really just applicable to me, because I hate small talk. Okay, I’m not saying that I get bored with everyone. A lot of times, people do have interesting things to say, and I’m glad to be included in their conversations. But there are also a lot of times, that I just couldn’t care less about what they’re saying! And it absolutely sucks that I have to sit there and listen to them discuss a topic that I don’t like. Like that show Pinoy Big Brother for example. Sorry to the fans of the show, but I really don’t like it! I can’t stand people talking about how this contestant is so poor and so he deserves to win, and how this other contestant is so bitchy and they can’t believe that people vote for her. But when it’s Pinoy Big Brother season, it seems to be the ONLY thing that the people around me talk about! So yeah, rather than sit there, keeping quiet (because of course, I have nothing to contribute to their conversation because I don’t watch the show and will only watch it if maybe somebody paid me to do so), and without a choice but to listen to everyone’s opinion about which housemate should win the prize, I really would just rather eat alone, in silence. (One time, it actually got me in such a bad mood, that I excused myself, stood up, and left the pantry before anyone could say another word. And I wasn’t even finished eating.)
- You can take as long as you want. – Provided that I’m not eating during my lunch break in the middle of the work day (because of course, that has a time limit), I really like taking my time to savor my food. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m eating with a group, and everyone is already finished with their food, and I’m not, I really feel pressured to eat faster. As a result, I end up not enjoying my food at all. There has also been a number of times that people have stood up and left the table while I’m still eating. And sometimes, in some restaurants, the waiters clear my place, before I finish. I guess they figure that if everyone’s finished, then I should be, too. Even when there’s clearly, still food on my plate.
- People don’t bother you very much or give you dirty looks. – Again, maybe this has more to do with my anti-socialness and paranoia, but whenever I’m in a restaurant with a big group, a lot of times, I feel sort of guilty. Because a big group is usually noisy, and take up so much space, such that the other customers have to wait longer to get a table, and is a hassle to the kitchen, because they have to get big orders right, and well… I know business is business and that maybe restaurants do earn more when big groups eat, as opposed to individuals or pairs. But… I do hate it when the waiters rush you so they can get the table and give it to somebody else, or when other customers give you dirty looks because you’re taking up so much space or your group is noisy enough to make the entire restaurant chaotic.
- You can daydream. – Sure, you can daydream anywhere. But I think I come up with really nice daydreams when I’m sitting at a cafe, eating cake, drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate, looking out at the people outside, trying to figure out where they’re going or what they’re talking about with their friends… And I don’t have to worry about what to say, or if I’m offending the person I’m with for keeping quiet and just looking at the mountain ranges (because you know, I’m in a ski lodge in Japan, looking at the mountains hehe), even though I’m with another person.
And I guess there are other reasons, but those are the only ones I can think of now, and I think I’ve also made my point. There are also some advantages to eating alone (or being alone in general haha, do I sound bitter? ;)). I’m not saying I always prefer eating alone rather than with friends. I love my friends, and I love eating with them and trying out new restaurants with them and gushing over delicious ice cream and cakes with them… But I really don’t think that if you eat alone, it’s because you don’t have friends. I mean, surely, people know that there are times when you just want things to be peaceful and relaxing and without the hassles of, social interactions (Haha! How anti-social am I?). Besides, odds are, the people who see you, won’t even notice and think about how you’re socially awkward. I doubt anyone really cares much about what’s happening beyond their own lives anyway. (Okay, that was a bit pessimistic, but you know what I mean, right?)
Or maybe this whole entry is just me trying to justify to myself that there’s nothing wrong with me even if I’m a loner. Or maybe, it’s this:
I shared some candies with a friend once and told her that thing that you hear from teachers or aunts, “Food tastes better when shared.”
She took a piece of candy, put it in her mouth, and then told me, “Really? It tastes the same to me.”
I guess if you don’t view eating exclusively as a social event, then as long as the food you’re eating is good, you really have nothing to worry about. 🙂