“in order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.”*

this post was written on sunday night, september 21. it’s now monday, september 22, and i’m sitting in a coffee shop across the street from chicago’s union station.

cloud gate, aka "the bean," chicago

cloud gate, aka “the bean,” in millennium park, chicago

tonight i walked the few blocks from the hotel i’m staying in with my boyfriend to a diner in a section of chicago called south loop. i’d assumed it’s called by this name because there’s a light rail sort of contraption that hugs the area, but upon doing the wikipedia thing, i found out that the origin of south loop is unknown. but, when i hear the name, i think of a neatly tied ribbon, which is downright pleasant, and it actually is pretty nice, complete with a trader joe’s and elevator-building apartments. it’s also not nearly as filled with homeless people as the other sections of the city we’ve been roaming for the past four days. chicago has so far made new york look, in comparison, positively free of the mentally ill and drug-addicted folks society has abandoned to the streets. ’merica.

at least, on this chicago trip, no one tried to choke me on the street outside of a bar. i don’t remember what i’d said to that girl to piss her off, but, boy, was she mad!

so i rolled up to the diner solo, as my boyfriend was at the time in a large hotel conference room showing and analyzing footage of his interactions with girls as a learning tool for other guys. at this point, i’ve eaten alone so many times, it never strikes me as strange, but when i stood at the please-wait-to-be-seated sign (fuck you, hyphens. why can’t i use small caps in wordpress?), the host (because he was a dude and not a hostess, though host makes it sound as if i were about to attend dinner theater) peeked around me. considering i’m not even 5’2”, the options for who might be hiding behind me were few.

“just you?” is what he said, to which i answered a neutral, unmodulated “yup.”

and then he puckered his lips and crinkled his brows in thought, nodded, grabbed one menu, and led me to a counter seat so my ass wouldn’t take up too much real estate in a booth or at a table. he wasn’t so much judgmental as observant, and i wasn’t offended—only surprised, i suppose.

it seems as if all i hear or read about anymore, especially when it comes to being a woman, is independence. having our own careers, traveling alone, raising a child alone, starting our own businesses from scratch, etc., etc. but every time i look at facebook (which, i’m happy to admit, has been pretty infrequent nowadays), someone has posted yet another fucking article or top five list on how to be happy, and there’s always something on there about being comfortable alone, learning to be alone, spending time by yourself. i wholly give my credence to these prescriptions and similar, but independence seems to be en vogue, something people say more than they practice.

i feel the same way about glorifying the benefits of kale. kale is great for you. kale is delicious, whether sautéed, in a salad, in chip or smoothie form—however you want. eat it with your bare hands out of the bag like i do.

amtrak train (nyc > chi)

this is the snapchat photo i sent to my friend in nj while i was working on the lake shore limited amtrak train to chicago.

i actually whipped out a ziplock of it on the train to chicago and ate it like popcorn (yes, everyone, i took a train not a plane to chicago, so please ask me again why i would do this and tell me why it sounds crazy), and the guy next to me gave me the same look as the host’s in the chicago diner. i guess maybe he’s more sophisticated and makes his pesto with kale (which is a thing i didn’t know you could do until i googled it a minute ago), so i understand his reservations about my low-class kale eating.

but everyone needs just to eat kale if they want to and shut the fuck up about it.

 

the eleven city diner, south loop, chicago

the diner in south loop

anyway, it’s still odd for a woman—maybe anyone, to be honest—to have a meal alone. you can grocery shop alone. you can mail letters and go to bookstores alone. you can pick up dry cleaning and get your nails done and hair cut and buy wine and go running, but eating a meal in a restaurant alone is another matter, especially if there doesn’t seem to be any tangible reason for doing so. i didn’t walk into the diner with a huge backpack to show that i was just passing through. i wasn’t wearing sunglasses indoors, earbuds jammed in my head to show i was either having an emotional breakdown and didn’t want to be seen crying but felt the need to have dinner in public, or i was massively hung over and looked like a hollowed-out avocado. i wasn’t carrying a laptop nor did i have a bluetooth in my ear to indicate that i had important business to attend to on a sunday night.

which i totally did. i had to talk to my friend in california on gchat and eat a huge omelet with spinach.

(they didn’t have any kale.)

almost two years ago to the day, i’d been sitting in a dusk-lit square in madrid, staring at a spanish menu and trying to figure out which item(s) could easily be made vegetarian, when i glanced over and saw a women eating alone. she had a book, a meal, and a glass of red wine, and she looked to be in her late forties or early fifties. madrid was the seventh, and last, country of my trip across europe, so by that point, i’d had at least one breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, coffee, dessert, elevensies, second breakfast, and alcohol session by myself, and the first time i’d consumed something alone—when i’d self-consciously sat in a café in rome and had espresso—seemed to have occurred eons, not weeks, ago.

madrid, spain

the restaurant in madrid where i ate my first madrid meal. the woman on the right may or may not have been the poor lady i was hard-core judging.

still, i found myself wondering about the woman, and why she was dining by herself. did she need to get away from her man/woman, did she even have a significant other, was she divorced or widowed, was she a spinster with one hundred gatos, did she have no friends . . .

i guess i could have hypothesized that she was eating alone because her pickup artist boyfriend was teaching the intricacies of game and dating, but the idea didn’t cross my mind for some reason.

then i thought, really? you’re eating alone and you can only wish you had one hundred cats!

in all seriousness, the thing is, that lady looked content. eighty-six that. more than content, actually: happy! happy in the i couldn’t give a fuck way, which, to me, is the height of happiness. i realized my curiosity was laden with judgment, and i thought instead about other things, like ordering patatas bravas and queso fresco and a tortilla española (no wonder i gained five pounds in europe), and what i would do for the last two days of my trip. i was getting closer to independence in that madrid tapas bar than i’d ever been before, and i see it now as the preparation i needed to do what i do now, which is to freelance alone and eat alone and not speak to another soul for sometimes an entire working day. today i’m closer still—though not close enough to ignore when a diner host “observes” my solo status—but i’m nearer to happy, for certain.

someday, may the supermarket shelves be bountiful with kale, stocked end-to-end with kale chips and kale pestos and kale salsas and kale cheerios, and i can gchat and eat omelets and take an hour to drink one cup of coffee sans spinster hypotheses and en paz.

 

*albert camus

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well, i don’t know if it is / i don’t know if it should be / i dont know if i could be satisfied that way / today is not the day you will hear me say that is what i want*

one of my single friends hasn’t quite decided to make her match.com profile visible, so this past thursday night, during the monsoon that attacked the new york metropolitan area, we had a good time perusing the various bachelors available within thirty miles of her zip code. i don’t know if it was the weird weather/freakish lightning or if the sushi we ate had been infused with nitrous oxide, but we were in hysterics over some of the profiles we stumbled upon. here was one gentleman’s idea of a perfect date, verbatim:

gun range. arabica. dinner. whiskey. movie. cuddle time. (not necessarily in that order, but that’s an amazing lineup!) 😀

personally, i think the order should be: arabica + whiskey. gun range. cuddle time. eighty-six the dinner and the movie. who needs food and cinematic entertainment when you have firearms and spooning?

sometimes you have those weekends that, when attempting to recap, you don’t even know where to start. this past weekend’s adventures have left me wondering how i possibly did everything i did in forty-eight-hours. so much happened that i even forgot that my friends and i listened to—i use that verb loosely, because, in fact, we could hear him from my friend’s dwelling in ocean grove as we were getting ready to go out for the night—kirk cameron give a talk about marriage and god and whatnot (oh, and sing the growing pains theme song a few times) while in the background gay rights activists protested his appearance. (if it sounds like i made this up, please, by all means, read this article.) i’m not going to comment at length on this, but all i will say is that anyone who knows me knows that i’m a). an agnostic, near-atheist, b). a gay rights supporter (HRC gets $15 of my hard-earned money every month), and c). indifferent about who wants to get married to whom.

moving on . . . as daniel tosh would probably say in this situation, here’s this weekend’s breakdown.

a combination of: celebrating the engagement of your oldest friend with your second-oldest friend and being named co-maids of honor while eating dinner and drinking wine at langosta lounge in asbury park; severe lack of sleep; going to bed in your contact lenses two nights in a row; wiping out during a two-mile fun run for charity and letting an attractive (yet married) officer bandage you up while you and your friends recite quotes from super troopers; taking part in an hour of free miller lites at 11 a.m.; getting low; having a dance party in the rain; watching ryan lochte win a gold medal; engaging in no fewer than five USA! USA! chants; sweating with five of your closest friends and countless acquaintances, frenemies, and strangers in the parker house, a once-victorian-beach-house-turned-bar-and-restaurant in manasquan; watching a severe thunderstorm pass while you eat lunch on the porch of said place; fighting with your two oldest friends like you’re still in high school; buying gauze and surgical tape in rite aid and taking pictures next to walkers, canes, and depends because you think you’re funny; getting and (failing) to give piggyback rides; going to the turning point, a quaint family breakfast spot, wearing matching parker house run shirts and looking hungover; eating beach pizza at three a.m.; taking three-hour naps in an ocean grove tent; having photo shoots at the bar; climbing over locked gates and potentially plunging into deal lake; taking a photo with albie and chris manzo’s roommate from the real housewives of new jersey; wearing sunglasses indoors; learning a great new pickup line involving a parrot (if you want to know, ask); and, of course, getting a lesson in life and love from the one and only kirk cameron.

i wonder if anyone would take me up on it if i were to describe the above as my idea of a perfect date. i don’t think it’s too much to ask. i hate to be a product of my generation, but, as a wise canadian rapper once said, YOLO.

*from “that is what i want” by michael zapruder