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In Defense of the Table for One
[ Issue 133 Page 10 ] Wednesday, June 03, 2015, 18:38:10 So Jung Kim Staff Reporter kimmy14@kaist.ac.kr

Few things are played down or misjudged as much as the act of eating alone. The notion that the act is a sign of reservation is worth questioning. Should there not be a reason that so many associate the following phrases or word - a lonely prospect, coping mechanism, humiliation – with this topic? The association is both understandable and logical. Since the dawn of time, people and civilizations have established meal times as a ritual of shared sentiments and socializing. However, the culture of judging solo eaters, of wallowing oneself in self-pity at the prospect of having to eat along, must change for good. Not only is it not problematic, it is also highly encouraged to those who wish to experience a different kind of chemistry at the dinner table.

Slightly over a quarter of the Korean population (25.9%) comprise the one-person household category, but eating alone is still not an accpeted social phenomenon. The consensus is that eating alone inadvertently communicates a streak of social awkwardness in a person. This is definitely a misjudgment. The presupposition often stems from those who wonder whether “[There is] Anything More Pathetic than a Table for One” (2012 Forbes Article). Keeping in mind that evolutionarily humans may not be inclined to eat, we are often more troubled by how we are perceived by others than the actual anticipation of eating solo. Why should one care for how others think of one’s eating alone? Too many people in society today are reluctant to do things out of their conviction (if it is not the most mainstream thing to do) due to the unfit judgment of others. So long as an individual savors the “table for one” occasionally whilst maintaining a healthy social life, his or her reputation will stay put.

Unfortunately, solo diners are forever in search of the so-called “coping mechanisms” to handle the discomfort that comes from going against the status quo and to give as less of an impression that they are ‘anti-social’. Popular ways to evade the eyes of fellow group-level diners and to convey a non-existent sense of business include playing on smartphones or reading a magazine. Eating alone is an activity that replenishes the inner self to such an extent that renders itself unnecessary. Just as we find working out, getting coffee, or shopping alone natural and shameless, so should be the case with eating. What all of these activities have in common is that people do them in their own time at their earliest convenience. Hence, it is simply more practical eating solo rather than going through the hassle of finding someone just to share the meal with.

In addition to practical benefits, eating alone also entails satisfaction on many levels. First of all, there is no pressure to keep a conversation flowing. One is free to roam around in one’s own ruminations. And, as much as people have the time to spend on one’s own, they are bombarded with people at other times. Eating alone can give one the necessary time to clear his or her mind and reset the overload on the neural circuit resulting from countless meetings and business appointments. Next, one can eat whatever they want, wherever they want, and at their own pace. This freedom is something many must surrender when eating with others. Menu selection can take up to twenty minutes and can include heated debates, and even upon completion, diners consistently look up to check how much food is left on each other’s plate so that they can finish their meals at approximately the same time and remove any possibility of that awkward silence people are all too familiar with.

Our society should shamelessly defend the table for one, especially because there is no legitimate reason against it other than unjust presuppositions fabricated by the influence of mob psychology and because it enriches our understanding of the self. The question asked should no longer be “What is so wrong with eating alone?” but rather “What is wrong with the people who can’t eat alone?”

So Jung Kim Staff Reporter Archives  
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