Go To A Cafe
Picking the right place is key. Never sit down somewhere where you'll feel out of place and uncomfortable. If you're like me, you'll feel more at ease in a smaller place. Anywhere trendy, hard to get into, or overly noisy is a no-go. French bistros are usually warm and inviting, and so is any place decorated with sofas.
Choose A Weekday (But NOT A Friday)
On a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, you're likely to see more solo diners around. Safety in numbers, right? The rest of the week will guarantee loud, celebratory groups of friends, and couples. And, for a first-timer, this can be distracting, annoying, or make you feel especially conspicuous. (Of course, no one's judging your lack of dining company as harshly as you are.)
Sit Near The Window
Bistros with outdoor seating are ideal — they have views to let your eyes roam while your thoughts wander. If it's inside-only, go for a window seat so you can enjoy the scenery and your own company. Staring at another table, especially when it's seated with a couple on a date, can be distracting...and awkward.
Truly Treat Yourself
Go for the steak, the truffle fries, and the cheese-stuffed peppers — indulge. No need to be shy, you're romancing yourself, after all. Approaching the experience as a meditative activity to spend time with yourself is key to making it enjoyable. If you're really enjoying yourself, you'll stop worrying about being awkward.
Bring A Book
A really good one. One that'll make you laugh out loud (anything by Wodehouse should do the trick). If you feel weird or even guilty about being alone, consider this a time to really dive into that read you've been dying to crack open. Feeling productive should nip that in the bud. Journaling is another fantastic use of that alone time you never seem to have enough of.
Make A Mental Thought List
On my third excursion — the one without technology or reading material — I felt completely exposed. My hands awkwardly moved from wine glass to water tumbler to my neck. How ridiculous. Did I really feel so self-conscious? It occurred to me that this was almost meditating. I was alone with nothing before me but a glass of Pino & Toi, and my thoughts. What was distressing me of late? What did I have to be grateful for? Who should I be loving more? What were some goals I had for the next month? I went through a kind of mental accounting that was not my typical daydreaming. It challenged me to get my priorities straight. And, by the end, I swear I was breathing easier.