Saturday, October 08, 2005

My One Step Program To Personal Recovery

Just me, myself, and the food.

Oh please don't let there be a parking space, oh please don't let there be a parking space, oh please...

Aww shit, there's a parking space. Right out front.

I never, ever am able to find a parking space on Little Tokyo's 1st Street. I always have to park on Temple or 2nd or some side street and walk over to wherever it is that I'm going. But not today. Today, there was a parking space right in front of
Daikokuya. It was a sure sign that the time had come to face my fear of dining alone.

All morning I'd been playing mind games with myself--should I, shouldn't I, should I, shouldn't I--but the fact was that I was STARVING after a morning of running errands, and more importantly, I'd been meaning to do this for awhile now. When I was getting ready to leave the house today, I knew there was a possibility of this happening since my better half had already made his own plans; I also knew that it's be pointless and a waste of time to run home just to eat. So with this in mind, I grabbed a magazine from the rack and stuffed it in my purse "just in case." I told myself as I was driving towards Little Tokyo that if there was no parking, then forget it. If there was parking, then I had to do it. Well, you know how that turned out.

Yes, you can say it. I've got issues. Like major issues. And I've thought long and hard about why I have such a fear of eating alone. It's not that I'm afraid of being alone. Hell, I do stuff on my own all the time. I've gone to Knott's Berry Farm alone and went on the rides by myself before (story for another day) ; I've even gone to a concert at the Greek alone. So why the thing with the eating? To me, and this is only to me 'cause I'm that delusional, the act of eating by yourself, especially if you're a woman, kind of makes you look alone. Like here I am, no friends, and I'm so sad that I have to stuff my face, and that's how I'm gonna get fat, and then I really won't have any friends. And that's a really fucked up way of thinking: How could I be that self-centered of a person to think that all eyes are on me? I think I may have hung around with too many mean, shallow people in my lifetime who would actually think about saying something as evil as, "Look at her. She's eating alone. She must have no friends."

I discussed this with a friend once, who asked me, "So like, if you go to the mall and you get hungry, then what the hell do you do???" "Oh, that's easy," I answered, proceeding to tell him that I'll either buy a pretzel and eat it as I walk around, or go buy a nutrition bar from the health food store that'll tie me over until I get home. So many times I've been out running errands, get hungry, and have to stop and pick up something to go that's easy enough to eat in a parked car, motor running with the A/C on. I gross out with most fast foods, so my "car foods" of choice are kim bap from the Korean grocery store, a bento box from Mitsuwa market (chopsticks included!), or of course, In N'Out Burger.

So today was the big day.

Apprehensively, I opened the door to Daikokuya which I had chosen for my first solo flight, one, because they have a counter, and two, because I had a real hankering for tonkotsu ramen! A bubbly waitress greeted me immediately and asked how many. "One, " I said in a low tone, holding up one finger. To my surprise, she directed me towards a booth, probably since it was still early and they could afford to have me sit there instead of at the counter, and as I walked past some of the other booths, I noticed that there were a couple of other solo diners. Cool! I thought, I'm in the company of others in the same solitary boat! She started to set my menus up on the side of the booth that faced the front of the restaurant, but I thought that might be a little too conspicuous for my first time, so as soon as she was done arranging, I quickly moved the stuff and plopped myself down on the side of the booth that faced the back. Sorry, I know it's a day for not messing around anymore, but shoot, a girl's gotta be comfortable too.

Armed with the lastest issue of
Kiplingers, I sat and waited for my ramen, flipping through various articles on how to retire rich, and what the hottest new funds are. I came across this headline that I interpretted as a message:

See? With the parking space and all, I think this really was meant to be.

After a few short minutes, my ramen arrived. It was hot and steamy, dense and full of delicious pork flavor, perfect for calming my nerves which I now realized had...gone away!!! I couldn't believe how easy this was, and how silly I had been all these years for being so afraid. The only crappy thing that happened, though, was that I had taken a sip of the hot tonkotsu broth a little too early and without blowing on it to cool it down, and scalded my tongue, making a dorky face and spitting some of the hot broth back into the bowl, and when I looked up, I noticed the waitress had seen me. I think she quickly looked away because she knew I was embarrased. But you know what? It's OK!

I've come to realize why people don't mind this eating solo thing. There was, in fact, a nice thing about the solitude I had experienced. I liked that it was one on one--just me and the food--no conversations and such to get in the way of flavors and textures. It was an intensified sensory experience, and there's something to be said about that. I don't know if I can do a sit down dinner alone just yet, but we'll see. I'm taking this slow.

I was so happy with myself and the whole experience that I left my server a 25% tip. I got in the car and called Isaac right away, "Honey, you'll never believe what I just did..."


e d b m said...

That ramen looks really good. It looks similar to this place that opened up in Rosemead called Shin Sen Gumi. They also have a location in Fountain Valley.

Anyway, I've been eating too much of the shoyu/shio broth ramen off Sawtelle. And when i tried this cloudy, miso/pork-flavored broth... it was a nice break from the norm. i'll definitely have to try this place. i think i saw it when i was in J-town this afternoon.

As for eating alone, it's not that bad. I can devour my food at my own pace, which is damn fast. I make people look like Brontosaurus's feeding off a tree. I've also gone alone to the Troubadour for a show. That was actually fun too. As with the pace thing, I got to drink as fast as I wanted to haha.

BoLA said...

Just do it. I love it. I've dined out by myself on occasion. Especially when I lived out in the Midwest. Went to eat alone, went to the movies alone, went home alone. LOL! Seriously though, it's not all that bad. If I do dine solo, I usually am lost in thought, am caught people watching, reading a book, or writing. :)

Anonymous said...

Eating alone can be somewhat relaxing. I'm glad you got over your inital trepidation, and it's nice that you got a booth.

elmomonster said...

What a lovely essay that was. Couldn't have said it better.

I've dined alone a few times and you are quite right about it heightening our senses. My attention is focused on the food, and only the food.

On the days that I dine alone, I bring my camera...easier to take pictures when you don't have to explain it or ask for permission.

If in O.C. and you see a guy during lunch eating by himself and taking pictures of the food? That's probably me.

Daily Gluttony said...


Yes, Daikokuya is really good, you should go. And if you see some Asian chick eating by herself and taking pictures, make sure to say hi! LOL! Hey also, I'm glad I'm not the only one to have gone to a gig by myself!


It totally wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. You're right about the "being lost in thought" part--nice way to sit and think about stuff.


I'm glad I got a booth too, come to think of it. More space to be comfy, more space to bury my face in the magazine in case I got nervous...J/K!


I'll be sure to introduce myself if I'm ever in the OC and see a guy eating solo taking pics of his food. Though it could be Mealcentric or Prof. Salt, too! LOL!

Anonymous said...

i travel a lot for work, so dining alone has become second nature, but i empathize with you. sometimes when i find myself in some outback in omaha or some place, i will just sit back and think about all the good food i will be returning to in LA (dining alone or not).

on a side note, snagging that elusive parking spot in front of daikokyua is one of those rare occurrences that really bring out the dance of joy (from that show perfect strangers) in me. one time i swear i got the space and i let everyone in daikokuya know.

Anonymous said...

"So why the thing with the eating? To me, and this is only to me 'cause I'm that delusional,"

If your delusional that would explain why half of New Zealanders have a mental illness (lol) (caused by social awkwardness, or social dyslexia as i call it). I wouldn't be to worried about it. I find the quote "do what ever you feel like and it will work out for the best" to be the best advice i ever received. eg, if your hungry and feel like eating, thats that best option for you. I find (for myself at least) the best option is to say "hi" like a 'body noise' rather than a syllable; and somehow this has meaning to people I see, like those other alone people you saw in the booths, as the best option. It solves their pain and your pain if you can dine together if only on a superficial level.