Monday, September 16, 2013

Can't Eat Alone in Spain

One unusual fact about me: I can eat alone in a restaurant. I've done it, and I usually like it. Except here in Spain.

On my first trip here, in 2005, I was alone and had no problem eating alone in Madrid and Seville. Granted, I had a few tricks up my sleeve, one of which was finding restaurants that were not super-crowded. I didn't always end up eating the best food, but at least I felt comfortable. It's easy to eat alone in the big cities.

Fast-forward to 2013 in Úbeda, a small town where everyone notices everything. Especially an Asian. Especially an Asian female that eats alone. I have gotten to know a few locals, but I'm not the type that needs to cling to someone everytime I feel lonely.

Today being Sunday, and having neglected to buy groceries the day before, everything was closed. Bars were open, so I decided to go out for dinner. I searched for a restaurant where I would be comfortable eating alone: a place not too crowded, or that had other singles. Or a place that was not too dead, because I didn't want to be in the spotlight for eating alone.

I ended up walking for an hour, starving. Every restaurant had people eating with others. I could not find a single restaurant where someone was eating alone. As I kept walking, a strange feeling of loneliness mixed with wanting to hide grew inside me. In a moment of desperation I tried to go to Mas y Mas to buy groceries, so I could scuttle back to my apartment and cook, but it was closed.

I finally found a place where I could sit inside and not be too much of a center of attention. It had no atmosphere, and terrible lighting, but luckily a futbol game was on and I could concentrate on that.

In Canada, I was lucky that I could hide amongst a huge population filled with Asians and other single eaters. Here, I feel like there's a magnifying glass on me. In the culture of Spain, where singularity seems to be a foreign concept, I am going to have to adapt. 

I am so buying groceries tomorrow.

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