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It's A World of Laughter A World of Tears

Online Service Helps Rescue Women From Ridiculous Insecurity, Finds Dining Companions


Hey, this exists! Invite For a Bite, a new online service that seeks to pair women who are insecure about going out to a restaurant and eating by themselves with equally insecure dinner dates. As much fun as a conversation between two people like this might be, why in the world should anyone — man or woman — feel insecure about eating alone? I do this all the time! Am I weird? Am I an alien? Am I magic? What is so different about me that other women apparently fake cell phone calls to make it look like someone loves them? And why is this site only for women? Because I can tell you from firsthand experience that there are tons of insecure dudes out there who probably feel the same way about eating alone. Everyone, let’s have a heart to heart about this, and allow me to explain the perks of dining solo. Besides getting to eat the food on which you are spending your cash money without any comments from the peanut gallery.

Every time I tried to access the Invite For a Bite site to write this post, the site was not working. Maybe because they are the subject of some minor internet mockery, like here and here. But before dispensing with some of my own mockery, let’s find out more about why something like this would exist and confirm the fears of women with irrational fears.

Designed for otherwise successful women on the go, Invite For a Bite was created for women — yes, only women — who hate, and I mean hate, eating in restaurants by themselves. While some women may cite personal safety following a traumatic event as the reason for not wanting to go out alone in a strange place (something entirely understandable), this is not how IFAB is selling itself. Instead, it’s pushing the idea that dining along makes a woman appear lonely, weird, or perhaps unloved in public. As if there was something wrong with walking into a place that serves food by oneself. Apparently, there is a lady quota, and every lady must be accompanied by at least one additional lady or gentleman. Otherwise, she looks like she must be one of those pathetic women whose only companion is covered in fur and fits in one’s lap or appears only on television. Really. From CNN:

Rochelle Peachey, the founder of the dating site I Love Your Accent, is sitting alone in a restaurant, gabbing away on her cellphone, when a few minutes into the conversation, the phone she’s talking into starts to ring. Busted!

Such is the length Peachey once went to in order to battle the embarrassment and awkwardness she — and so many female business travelers like her — feels when dining alone.

“I detest walking into a restaurant to request the dreaded table for one,” says Peachey, who typically makes three or four business trips a month. “When I walk into a restaurant or bar alone, I feel others see me as either a woman out to pick up men or a sad, lonely spinster.”

Well, if we started to count all the problems with that sentence, we’d be here all night. So, on with the mockery! Because in addition to faking cell phone conversations with invisible friends (because that’s definitely less weird than eating alone), here are the lengths to which IFAB wants you to know that women have gone avoid being seen eating alone: eating at off-times when there are no crowds of peers (just the elderly seeking out the early-bird specials and the blind drunks going for the salty latey-bird specials, I guess), finding tables in the back of the restaurant, ordering (probably cold) room service (yay, saddest tuna sandwich ever!), or skipping meals altogether. Well, at least you’ll lose all that weight that’s making you look like such a sad, ugly crone! (THAT WAS SARCASM, EVERYONE.)

The creator of the site, Cressida Howard, also explains why this site is for women only:

“As soon as you introduce the idea of men and women meeting for meals, it becomes almost impossible to distinguish it from a dating site. No matter how many times you explained that it wasn’t, common sense dictates that it would be treated as such by some people.”

Because men and women can’t be platonic friends! Humans are totally unable to control their sexybits! Men also don’t want to hear about your feelings, because they are men, and they are allergic to conversations. (THIS IS ALSO SARCASM.) Besides, in Cressida Howard’s world, only women have this adorable quirk, or else she’d be doing this for guys, too.

But seriously, girls, let’s talk about this. Why don’t you want to dine alone when it can be so much more enjoyable, even meditative, than trying to shoehorn a conversation in between bites? (That might give you gas, anyway!) The only person looking at a solo female diner and judging them IS AN ASSHOLE. And you should not be concerned with assholes. I’m telling you, my little dandelions — dining alone is wonderful. You should do it more often, even if you are a social butterfly with many loved ones with whom you love to spend time. The more time you spend alone, thinking your own thoughts (maybe getting them out on paper, or typing them up, or sketching, etc.) the more complete you become. (This hippie moment has been brought to you by hot yoga.) Sure, dinner with friends is fun. Of course it is! They are your friends! But if no one is available and you want to let someone else serve you a fancy dinner, you should be going for that. Here are a list of great reasons to dine solo:

1. If your phone does ring, for real, you will not have to politely excuse yourself from a conversation in order to take the call. You can take that call, and just use your “quiet restaurant voice.” Or turn the phone to silent (or off, if you’re feeling crazy) and keep it off the table.

2. You can eat your amazing meal, uninterrupted. And it can have onions, garlic, or any other potent ingredient that would normally make you self-conscious about your breath or get stuck in your teeth. You can also order whatever you want without having to share. Go ahead! Be selfish! Imagine you are a queen, with the waiters as your trusty royal servers. Everyone else in this restaurant is a co-dependent loser eating a salad — you can demolish that steak and then order dessert. No one is going to judge you, you will be a hero. To yourself.

3. No arguing over the check. No math during dinner. You get the check, and you know exactly who is paying for it: you. The Queen will take the check. The Queen has rewarded herself with a hearty meal, and now she will pay and express her gratitude. Because you can also leave a nice tip for the person who took care of you that evening, knowing that you were a delight and you did not have a rude companion to complain about anything and ruin the night, and then flake on the bill. Or a cheapskate who doesn’t believe in tips. (Unless you are a cheapskate who doesn’t believe in tips, in which case no one will be there to call you on it! This works for everyone.)

4. No. Waiting. No waiting for anyone to show up, no waiting for anyone to order, no waiting for anyone to finish. Aside from the reservation, you come and go as you damn well please.

Listen to Aunt Jamie, who is not a bitter old spinster, but a content and young spinster — you are a lovely little snowflake who deserves You Time. No one worth your time cares if you eat alone, and for all you know, they might be jealous of your freedom. My only advised restriction is to not get drunk at your solo dinner, unless you take public transportation home. But try it — take yourself out to dinner. And revel in focusing on yourself for once.

(via Jezebel, Gawker)

TAGS:


  • Frodo Baggins

    I thought it was for women who are insecure about being so tiny they have trouble using the tableware.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1208921 Nikki Lincoln

    5. You can read at the table. I kind of really love eating during meals but rarely do at home (damn TV) and obviously can’t if with company. 

  • Anonymous

    I almost just spit out my coffee.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1232957605 Leah Nardo

    I am honestly confused by this.  I get so much good reading done when I dine out, and I can really enjoy the food when I don’t have to entertain someone else with conversation.  That doesn’t make me a lonely spinster.  That makes me someone comfortable in my own company.

  • http://twitter.com/phuul Michael Krzyzek

    6. You don’t have to negotiate a place to eat. “No I had Fusion Taco Fritter Emporium yesterday. What about Mediterranean Stuffed Eel Roll Palace?”

  • http://twitter.com/phuul Michael Krzyzek

    You can read with company it just has to be the right company. My wife and I read in restaurants all the time. In the case of this service, yeah probably not the best thing to do.

  • Anonymous

    6. You can hit on the cute waiter/tress.
    I don’t say that because I serenade the waiter at the vietnamese restaurant with “give me pho, give me fire, give me what I desire”. 
    But seriously. What possess her to decide this? I’d rather eat alone than with a total stranger who find me on internet! Hello, creepy?

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a Bernard™ Company.

    http://www.viruscomix.com/page549.html

  • Jamie Myers

    and I thought I was the only one who adored eating out alone! The service! the food you don’t have to clean up! the lack of judgement! Thank you, Jamie, for an excellent article!

  • Katie Marinelli

    There’s only one type of restaurant that I don’t like going to are the expensive types. I think its more of a ‘why should I shell out all this money for just me’ rather than a ‘oh god I’m alone’. I used to feel like that, then again I have social anxiety so company didn’t always help either, but after a few times you realize the peace is sometimes nice.

  • http://twitter.com/TechnoMistress Lisa Lacey Liscoumb

     Leah, you said what I was thinking perfectly! 

  • http://twitter.com/nazaniel_ Nazaniel

    I don’t like eating alone because I feel guilty for taking up a table when I’m only ordering one meal, so I eat as quickly as I can and then leave.  I figure that the restaurant would rather earn 2x the cash for the table and the server would rather have 2x the tips, so I have always felt uncomfortable, like I didn’t deserve the space.  Maybe I’m weird.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katharine.tapley Katharine Ellis Tapley

    I have NEVER understood people who have a problem going to restaurants alone. I absolutely love it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711423351 Sarah Wolcott

     Expensive ones are the best for eating all alone!  You don’t have to pay for someone else’s expensive meal, or try to watch what you’re getting because someone is paying for you.  Plus the service is almost always fantastic!

    “why should I shell out all this money for just me” Because you’re awesome!  Why should you shell out all that money for someone else?

  • http://twitter.com/IbsenIbsen Serenity Ibsen

    Whoa! I love eating alone. Although, the idea of a dinner date roulette is intriguing; it’s like an awkward experiment.

  • Sharmie Taffe-Fletcher

    i hate eating alone in restaurants. it causes a lot of anxiety. if i eat out alone, i get food to go. this site may be a little silly, but i don’t think it’s as ridiculous as everyone is making it sound. i can’t handle going to the movies alone either, and the first time i went to a concert alone is in the top five most terrifying days of my life.

    i’m just pointing out that normal levels of social anxiety mean that some people would benefit from eating with someone else, even someone they didn’t know well, so they feel less awkward.

  • Anonymous

    There was an episode of Laverne and Shirley that dealt with this - Laverned was said to have “Monophobia”, and was terrified of going out alone.  She goes to a chinese restaurant and generally chagrins her way through the meal, especially after Shirley comes by and tells everyone in the restaurant about Laverne’s malady, and ask that they support her in this moment of stress.

  • Maria Murriel

    I will only say this: My boyfriend always eats all the cheese fries when we go to Outback (where he works). Beside the fact that I probably shouldn’t eat too many cheese fries, I consider eating them alone a win. Because I get to have as many as I want without feeling like I have to rush or his vaccuum-face will suck them all up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cherie.braun Cherie Nordstrom Braun

    I love eating alone.  No one to raise their eyebrows if I order the expensive glass of wine, if I ask for my salad *after* the entree, no having to share my salad or dessert.  I don’t read, I look around and I savor every mouthful.  And chat with the waiter or bartender (sometimes I eat at the bar when I’m alone, so I don’t have that guilt about taking up a 2-top.  But if they don’t have a bar, then it’s up to them to deny me a table.  No one ever has!)

  • Victoria Eden

    I would face waaaay more anxiety meeting some random person for dinner than eating alone. I’m down with eating by myself.

    I have a friend who says she always feels so bad for people eating alone in restaurants that she wants to go up and ask them if they want to eat with her. She doesn’t understand that some people choose that.

  • Laura Hardin Marshall

    That’s exactly what I was thinking! How is eating a meal by yourself (preferably with a book, in my experience) any weirder or more uncomfortable than subjecting yourself to a total stranger’s company? If it comes down to *my* comfort and the perceptions of those around me, I’ll be selfish all day long.

  • blissfulslavery

    I agree so much. I’m actually really offended that TMS is being so judgmental about people who have this social anxiety. And I’m pretty positive that others making their anxiety into something that’s OMG SO RIDICULOUS WHY DO THESE PEOPLE EXIST? is not going to make them feel better.

  • Jamie Jeans

    Uh… yeah, this is really bad, mainly on account of how it shoehorns women into very rigid gener roles of sad and pathetic and spinsters on account of their being single. It’s also not to say that there aren’t women who are self-conscious about going out alone; that’s something that affects both men and women from time to time, I imagine.

    This site just seems like one more site designed to pray on those people who have genuine insecurities while making sure that said insecurities apply to as many people as possible in order to turn a buck.

    Besides, I enjoy dining by myself. It gives me a chance to think or even to just sit back and soak in the ambience of a busy restaurant with all the sounds of people talking or the TV with the news on or just reading. I love reading my favourite ebooks on my iPod while waiting for and eating my meal.

  • Francesca M

    Seriously I just don’t care, when I was younger this might have appealed to me but now its like.. take out my kindle. Eat. Read. And this way I get to go and geek out at the restaurants, and I don’t have to give a damn about what I’m eating. Garlic. Bring it! Anchovies on my small pizza. YES.

  • Francesca M

    You can always sit at the bar in that situation. That way you aren’t taking up a table. Bartenders make for fun servers often.

  • http://twitter.com/diefrankenmaus Kate

    I agree. Frankly, I find it pretty offensive that an author on this site would belittle people who feel this way. You wouldn’t tell someone with depression that they were ridiculous for feeling sad for no reason, so why is it OK to tell someone who is uncomfortable eating out alone that they’re being silly/oppressed/a dupe of the patriarchal society?  Why be so negative about this website? Why not just view it as an opportunity to make new friends and new connections? 

    I have no problem eating alone (or not enough of a problem to keep me from doing it), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who do. Just different preferences and comfort levels. 

  • http://twitter.com/hitchopottimus Joshua Hitch

    I’m with you.  It’s not about the money for me, though.  It’s about the reservation.  It’s one thing to walk into a restauant alone.  I do that all the time.  It’s another to reserve a table for one.  I don’t know why I feel that way, I just do.  So, if it’s a place where I’d need a reservation, I’m not going alone.

  • Anonymous

    I dislike eating alone, for the most part, but for me I at least know
    that it’s a holdover from middle school and high school where I was very
    shy and unpopular. My few friends rarely ended up on the same lunch
    rotation (which was arranged by alphabetical order), so I often had to
    sit alone at a cafeteria table and I HATED it. I remember that for a
    semester in middle school I would hurriedly scarf down my lunch, and
    then go chat with a favorite teacher who was monitoring the lunchroom to
    avoid sitting at that empty table for the whole period. This went on
    for weeks until one day she pulled me aside and asked if me if I would
    like her to try to get me moved to another lunch period where I had a
    few friends, which made me burst into grateful tears. In high school I
    used to eat my lunch in the art room to avoid eating alone in a crowded
    room. So yeah, the eating alone anxiety comes from feeling like the person who had zero friends and had to eat all alone at a big empty table in the middle of a crowded cafeteria.
    Anyway, some of that still holds over into adulthood. For the
    most part, I’m now content to eat alone in peace as long as I have a
    book or something to keep me occupied as I eat. The only time I feel
    unease is when I have to go to a training or something where attendees
    eat in a cafeteria…I can’t help but feel the old anxiety well up in
    when as I stand for a minute in the doorway with my lunch, and all I see
    are strangers….thankfully, now I’m confident enough to just walk up
    to a table and ask if they mind if I eat with them. So yeah, I
    understand the desire to not want to eat alone, even if I’ve found a way
    to cope.

    I do agree that it’s awfully belittling of TMS for making fun of women (or others) who have this anxiety. Social phobias/anxieties are the most common (and often debilitating) phobias, so why shame someone who has an issue. Guess what! I also have a wicked hard time peeing in public bathrooms when other people are in there! It’s a pretty frustrating condition (known as bashful bladder, pee shy, or (technically) paruresis) that can cause a lot of problems for people who suffer from it the worst…..so, let’s make fun of people who are pee shy! Silly people, who cares of people can hear your pee? You must be some kind of faux feminist if you cannot give a good tinkle with other people around!
    *sigh*

  • Anonymous

     Agree, it’s always SO fun to make fun of people with social anxieties.

  • Anonymous

    I’m uncomfortable about going to restaurants alone because it does seem weird to me.  For the time between entering and ordering, and ordering and eating, you’re just sitting there alone looking dumb.  I go out for dinner once in a while, but not much, and when I travel I tend towards fast food.

    But I’d still prefer it to having an online site match me up with a total stranger at random.

    EDIT: I see from the comments that some people read while waiting. That makes sense, but I always though it would make me look really antisocial to go to a restaurant and read a book. It’s comforting to know that some other people do it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/andreakhost Andrea Höst

    Agreed.

    I like eating alone because then I can read.  What I don’t like is people making fun of other people’s social anxieties just because it’s not a social anxiety they happen to have.

  • Elisa Redmond

    I travelled around the States last year for 3 months by myself.  If I hadn’t eaten alone in restaurants I would’ve starved.  I thought it was great, I sat up at the bar and talked to the staff  other customers who were also solo.

  • Anonymous

    As a fat girl, eating alone somehow becomes a spectator sport for the ignorant with me as the main attraction.  Yes, I like my food, but there is nothing more anxiety producing than having complete strangers stare at you as you eat.   Especially if you take a book to ignore them but they have to vocalise their distaste that I, someone that doesn’t conform to the rigid media ideal of skinny, would want to eat.  There are many reasons people don’t want to eat alone and some of those reasons are other people.  At least with friends, I am less likely to become a target for other people’s prejudices and much less likely to notice them. 

  • Rachel Jacobson

     You have stated all my thoughts on the matter! Very occasionally I go out to a restaurant on my own, and I’ve unfortunately found that during the two downtime periods you’ve mentioned I’ve wound up trying to look politely happy so that people don’t think I’m lonely and miserable! A rather tiring, uncomfortable facade. Reading during the pauses sounds like a MUCH better use of my time.

    Also. Maybe I am imagining things but sometimes when I go into a nice restaurant and ask for a table of one I feel this moment of awkwardness from the host. Is it all in my head? Has this happened to anyone else?

  • Rachel Jacobson

     You have stated all my thoughts on the matter! Very occasionally I go out to a restaurant on my own, and I’ve unfortunately found that during the two downtime periods you’ve mentioned I’ve wound up trying to look politely happy so that people don’t think I’m lonely and miserable! A rather tiring, uncomfortable facade. Reading during the pauses sounds like a MUCH better use of my time.

    Also. Maybe I am imagining things but sometimes when I go into a nice restaurant and ask for a table of one I feel this moment of awkwardness from the host. Is it all in my head? Has this happened to anyone else?

  • http://profiles.google.com/iandavidosmond Ian Osmond

    I can see reasons for this, but not the reasons they’re talking about.

    I mean, I find eating in groups to be a lovely social thing to do, and I can see restricting it to women-only to reduce the “this is a date” vibe.  Although, first, men and women can be platonic friends, and second, women and women can be very NON-platonic friends, in this culture, restricting a space to women-only is one of the most effective ways to actually get people to believe the “socializing only” thing.

    And eating with people can turn strangers into friends, so that’s a plus.

    But as an “insecurity” thing?  Weird.

    Most people I know need to either be socializing or reading while having a meal, and, like most of y’all, I think reading is a perfectly good thing to do.  But I also like socializing, and, if I didn’t have anyone to socialize with at a particular time, I could see this as a potentially useful service.

    Certainly, I’d not judge anyone who chose to use this service (nor do I imagine that any of y’all are doing so).  I can see why it can be perceived as weird, but I can also see why it would be a good thing.

  • http://profiles.google.com/iandavidosmond Ian Osmond

    Speaking as a bartender: personally, I’m quite happy to earn tips on serving food as well as on serving drinks.  We bartenders DO make an effort to learn the menu as well as the waitstaff does; our job includes serving food, we get paid to do so, and most of us rather enjoy it.  Not least because of the “more money when you serve food, too” thing.

    Speaking as a restaurant patron, if I’m eating alone, and in a vaguely social mood, I like sitting at the bar, and I’ve been known to strike up conversations with other patrons, if they’re also feeling chatty.  Also, my wife and I have often found it possible to get two seats at the bar immediately, even when there’s a half-hour wait for a table.  Not always, of course, but often enough to make it worth trying.

  • http://twitter.com/Sarah_Nicolas Sarah Nicolas

    So many women are afraid of being alone for a minute! I had one friend who hated her boyfriend, but wouldn’t break up with him til she had someone else lined up because she was so afraid of being single.

    I saw this poem performance by Tanya Davis a few years ago and have used it ever since to show other women how being “alone” isn’t a tragedy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs

  • Anonymous

    This is so ridiculous!

  • Anonymous

    This was me for a really long time. I want to say I got over it, and I did (for the most part), but it was entirely with the help of a completely different culture (THE SCOTS! And possibly the Irish, and English – I can’t discount them, they may have been in the restaurants I visited every weekend not judging me as well) who don’t look down on people who eat alone. Especially when reading a book. In our culture, a person is ostracized for eating in a restaurant by themselves, even if that same person could eat by themselves in Central Park, or at a fast food joint with no one caring a single bit. And while I would love to be a person who doesn’t care what other people think, if you’ve ever been bullied for how you look (or if you have social anxiety, which I’m convinced was the product of the former for me) that’s actually really difficult to come to terms with, no matter how much it’s reinforced that we’re awesome, it’s a hard hole to dig yourself out of considering people were helping you to dig it for at least a decade before anyone started to help filling it in. Thank you Scotland, but not everyone can have that sort of positive experience.

    That said, this site still makes me boggle because if you have social anxiety or any such thing, the idea of going to a site and finding a stranger to eat with is equally, if not more terrifying than eating by yourself. Or maybe that’s just me.

  • http://twitter.com/10000_buckets Ten Thousand Buckets

     I’d feel silly going to a concert, or club, or bar by myself, but going to movies by myself is my number one pleasure. My friends whisper constantly during movies. I’m ok with that if we’re the only ones in the theatre (it’s happened a couple times!) and the movie is silly, but otherwise? I love to sit through the credits, and they always get up right away.

    Weekday matinees all by myself are the best thing ever.

  • http://twitter.com/Riviare Kimberly

    I like eating alone, too. I get to order whatever the heck I want without anyone saying, “Ewwww, why are you ordering thaaaaat?”

    I also get to eat at whatever place I want. If I feel like chinese that day, I will have chinese!

    And yes, you get order massive amounts of stuff with no judgey looks, or even do childish stuff like play with the kids toys they leave at the tables! :D

    I always make it a point to scribble on those wax paper tablecloths some places have.

  • Jen H

    Spent twenty-five years dining alone, I’m not interesting in continuing that trend thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1232957605 Leah Nardo

    I am fairly fat, being 6’0″ and about 210 lbs, but I am either shockingly unobservant of others when I eat, or people are more polite on the west coast.  I’m inclined to believe the former.  I wish I could catch someone doing this to me.  I would razz the shit out them for being complete judgemental asses in public.  If I ever catch people doing it to someone else, I will do the same in your honor.  Viva la calling out weasels on their douchebaggery. 

  • Anonymous

     I’m in north-east England in a small town so it does happen in the UK too :o)  I don’t live in a city though (where I’ve never had problems eating alone but it’s still anxiety causing because of past problems) and this area is pretty run down (high levels of unemployment, etc) so maybe it’s part of the ‘chav’-culture of this area?  I don’t know.  I’m glad the Scots helped you though!

  • Anonymous

     I think part of the shock is that I don’t actually identify with being fat (though I am, but it’s not a huge part of my identity) that to hear it from other people, especially when I would never dream of doing that myself, is jarring.  Plus, unlike some other Brits, I seem to have been born with the Hugh-Grant-must-apologise-for-everything-regardless-of-whos-fault-it-is gene…  :o)

  • Anonymous

    It’s a good point. I think the article was meant as a backlash against the cultural perception that a lot of media pushes that eating alone is some sort of horror known only to sad pathetic women…but yeah, in pushing back against that, it also pushes back against people who have completely valid reasons for not being comfortable with going out alone.

  • Carmen Sandiego

     Just tip well!  No reason to feel bad about taking up a table.  

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Exactly.  Dinner alone?  No social interaction except briefly with the server.  Dinner with others?  Social interaction, negotiating how to split the food (or not to share it at all), conversation, et cetera.  I got off work today knowing I’d have to meet my boyfriend’s parents at a restaurant while we waited for him to get off work.  I spent two days stressed about it even though they are amazing people!  So much more anxiety-inducing to eat with others!

  • Carmen Sandiego

    “The only person looking at a solo female diner and judging them IS AN ASSHOLE.”

    So say we all.