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Single life has many advantages. No problems with toilet seats up or down. No one to say you didn’t need yet another pair of killer heels. No one to steal the covers on a cold night. No one to complain if you would rather Zumba at supper time instead of cook. And you can’t fight with yourself over who takes out the trash. (Well, you can, just to stay in practice, I guess.)

But despite these advantages, I recently overheard a fellow single complaining about her single life. She had visited her neighborhood restaurant for the first time alone, and the hospitality was not the same as when she’d come paired. She’d decided to take herself out solo on a busy weekend night; and instead of being given the table she’d requested, she’d been asked to sit at the bar. Insulted, she left, vowing never to return. And cursing singledom.

Many years ago, I had exactly the same experience in a small neighborhood restaurant in Richmond Virginia’s Fan District. On a Friday night, having just come back from a business trip to Washington, D.C, and still in regulation lawyer gear, I encountered the same choice: the bar or the door. I chose the door. But since then, I have discovered that was the wrong choice.

Here’s the thing. The joy of going out alone is the opportunity to observe the world on your own. Sometimes you meet new people; sometimes you don’t. But the information you gather while out alone is entertaining and enriching.

The bar is not a bad place to eat when you are alone. Why? Watch people eating at the bar sometime. They chat and interact with each other. If you are there with your friends, you enjoy the evening; but you don’t hear a new story from a new potential friend or silently watch a drama played out between strangers while being happy you aren’t on that stage. When you’re out in pairs or groups, it’s same old, same old.

Last weekend, for example, I headed up to Los Angeles to hear jazz at Vitello’s on Friday night. Alone. Now, downstairs at Vitello’s is strictly a restaurant. But the room upstairs, quaintly named “Upstairs at Vitello’s,” is a jazz and supper club. Those of us with tickets for the show were waiting downstairs while the band finished its sound check. An elderly couple were waiting with the rest of us to go upstairs. The man had a bandage over one eye. The woman used a cane. Suddenly a small woman, around my age, got up from one of the chairs along the wall and offered them her seat. Impressed with her good manners, I complimented her. She laughed and said with twinkling eyes, “It’s karma. I hope someone will give me a seat when I’m their age.” Petite, with short dark hair and laughing brown eyes, she looked like an elf that had just materialized from another, more magical world.

Soon we learned we were expat daughters of the South. She was originally from Richmond, Virginia, but had traveled widely since then. We compared notes on adapting to life in SoCal and why we finally came to love it here. But the most touching part of her story was her description of her marriage. “I’m a widow,” she said but with a smile. “My husband died seven years ago. He was the only man for me. My soulmate. It was wonderful, and I could never replace him. I’m happy on my own. I miss him, but I’m so very grateful for those years we had.” Not a trace of bitterness in her voice. Just joy and exuberance and gratitude. She was obviously a very happy person. Happy in her life right at that moment. And her happiness was contagious.

I wanted to sit with her, but Vitello’s had other plans. So I went on to hear other stories that night from the people around me as I listened to the music. None were as interesting as hers, but I had a fabulous time solo, entertained by not only the music, but by the people who had come to hear it.

So single life is quite fabulous when you stop telling yourself you have to be validated by the presence of someone else. You are wonderful company for yourself. And perfect just the way you are. Love yourself right where you are, and the world will love you, too. That’s what I learned from my elf friend that night.


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