My lovely traveling partner for this year's conference, Megan, was, very unfortunately, too sick to go. This is really much more unfortunate for her, having to deal with a long-lasting and hard-hitting cold/sinus infection, than it was for me, though having her there would have been wonderful.
My first night there, I checked into my hotel, got settled into "my pod," and checked out the little French restaurant/wine bar next door. I dined alone -- a glass of wine, some tomatoes and basil on French bread, and a salad. I was the only person in the crowded (people were waiting for tables) place who was alone. Next to me was a group of four women. They were having a great time, their volume rising with each glass of wine. They clapped and cheered loudly for themselves when at one point they decided to order yet another bottle. Toward the end of my meal, a couple of them leaned over to me and said, "We are *so* impressed with you." I wasn't sure what they meant exactly, but they explained to me that only one of the group of four ever had the "guts" to dine alone, and she had been encouraging the other women to try it. I mentioned that my traveling partner had gotten sick, and we struck up conversation. They inquired into the reasons for my NYC trip, and I tried to explain the conference. "Is that like writing?" they inquired. Somehow we got on the topic of the Food Network, a shared TV addiction. Eventually the conversation returned to dining alone. I mentioned reading many articles about the possibilities involved in dining (and doing other public ventures) alone, as people are more likely to approach you, etc. They agreed, and said, "Yeah, like we approached you." Then they made some sort of joke about a lot of good that does you...unless you're a lesbian, and they broke into hysterical laughter. For any reader who doesn't already know, I am indeed, a lesbian. But, did I have the courage to speak up and say something? Did I respond with, "actually, I am a lesbian." No. Did I mention, that it has never really been a dream of mine to be approached by four straight women in a pretentious little French wine bar in NYC? No. Did I happen to express to them that most lesbians would be a bit unfazed by four straight women? That in fact, what I noticed most were the few topics of conversation we could share -- TV, food, work, etc.--not the fact that they were women and I am a lesbian. No. No, instead I laughed lightly and shifted the conversation. And went back to my "pod" and slept on the fact that while I had the "guts" to dine alone, I didn't have the courage to speak up for myself.