Monday, March 13, 2006


The Age of Dissonance?

Did anyone else read "The Rudeness of Strangers" in the Sunday Times?

On a recent holiday I was dining with my partner, Ira, at a romantic restaurant on the rugged east coast of Barbados. At one table, a stunning older woman — tan and with fine blond hair catching the Atlantic breeze — was eating alone. Was she an actress? An aristocrat? Lonely? In the name of international cordiality, I wanted to relieve her of her solitude and invite her to our table to share the evening. But how to do it?

Ira, who is socially adept, walked over to ask if she'd join us for dessert.

"Try the apple pie," she said, slowly, twice and in a Scandinavian accent. "It is better than the coconut." Befuddled, he retreated.

Clearly her English wasn't good. But as we sat, flummoxed, I wondered if we'd broken protocol. Had I been presumptuous thinking she'd appreciate our invitation?

Yes, presumptuous is indeed what you had been, Mr. Morris. Actually, while we're being presumptuous, why don't I just call you Bob, Bob?

Why is it that I've often seen men eat alone, peacefully, without bother, but we have to devote so much time and discussion to the woman who eats alone? The whole of this essay is: I spy a woman eating alone in a restaurant: what should I do? How about NOTHING?

These are my favorite parts of that story:

"If you don't want extra attention from the staff or to be courted by a stranger, she advises that you tell your server. If you are open to joining others let that be known too. You hope nobody will send over a drink, a gesture that might seem gallant but has too many connotations and can make a woman feel that she owes you something."

When a person is dining alone, you should always assume that they made a choice to do so. Assume they have friends and loved ones that they didn't invite to eat with them, or on vacation with them, and that you're not someone they want to become a friend or loved one. A server should assume that. All other customers should assume that. No one should ever have to make a declaration about their wishes to be left alone upon entering a restaurant!

And what woman feels like she owes a man something if they offer her a drink? Certainly not any young women- many of my friends sit around and plot how they're going to get free drinks when they go out with absolutely no intention of ever giving anything in return, not even conversation.

And I love the end, where the writer assesses the woman's worth by saying "She was no Garbo."
this is an amazing blog. i just wanted to thank you for writing it.
Hey Erin,
Thank you for writing this blog; like most women, I've had (and have) similar experiences. I wanted to share my blog with you as well, particularly a post called "Let me call you Sugar Butt." It's something that happened to me recently at work, that I handled with as much humor as I could muster. Keep writing!
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