So this week I set out to conquer another stupid fear, eating alone in public. Actually, I think this fear is made up of many fears…a fear of looking stupid, a fear of being judged, a fear of trying something different…
It’s not the “being alone” part that bothers me. I love being alone. It’s the being alone while people are watching. I have this delusional issue where I think everybody is always watching me, waiting for me to screw up and look dumb. It’s like paranoia meets narcissism. In reality, nobody really even knows I exist…I’m pretty much invisible, easily forgettable and…blendy. If that’s not a word, it should be.
Anyway, I decided to eat at Panera Bread, a soup shop in town. I pulled into the parking lot and all sorts of thoughts raced through my mind. Like, “What am I supposed to look at since nobody’s sitting across from me?” and “Who’s going to tell me if I have a huge crumb on my face?” and “Would it be inappropriate to yell at someone else’s kids, since mine weren’t around?” It’s a real crisis, you guys.
I walked in going for “mysterious” and “confident” which probably would’ve worked better if I hadn’t been staring at the ground all shifty-eyed. I’m pretty sure I looked like a hand-shy dog that just peed in the corner. It wasn’t too crowded, but my heart was palpitating as I approached the counter to order my food.
There were too many choices and I didn’t want to hold up the line so I blurted out the first thing my eyes landed on.
“Broccoli Cheese soup, please…the smallest size you have.” I didn’t want broccoli cheese soup.
“Will you be eating here or is this carry out?” She asked.
“Eating here. Alone. But I have…like…three friends, just so you know.” I don’t think she cared.
She gave me a tea cup and a vibrator, (not the good kind) and told me to find a seat and the food would arrive shortly. I took the cup and couldn’t find the hot tea. See, this is what happens when I don’t have someone telling me where to go and how to get there. I should NEVER be unsupervised. I spend five minutes looking for the ever elusive hot tea, which turned out to be on the other side of the soft drink counter. It was a stupid place for hot tea, but whatever.
I found a seat in a small two-person booth and settled in. My blood pressure immediately lowered, my heart rate slowed to normal and my breathing resumed its normal pattern.
I looked up and all eyes were on me. Okay, it was just one small child looking at me, but she was judging, I could tell.
A nice kid brought me the food I ordered and politely asked if there was anything else he could bring me.
“Oh,” I thought, “because I’m eating alone you think I need something? That I’m somehow lacking something?”
He stood there in awkward silence.
“Or maybe he’s just doing his job.”
“No, I’m good, thanks.” I finally answered.
He pretty much ran from my table, I’m thinking he sensed the crazy.
Anyway, I pulled out a brand new novel and ate in peace, enjoying the quiet space I had to just relax for a minute. And by “minute” I mean hour and a half.
Nobody looked at me, judged me, or gave the slightest crap what I was doing. In fact, it wasn’t scary at all. I have no idea why I didn’t try this sooner, all these years I’ve been missing out.
I’m calling this irrational fear officially “conquered” and moving it into the “possible addiction” category.
On to the next fear…