Dining Alone

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I wonder when did I start to think that dining should be a private thing.

I usually avoid the topic of food. Partly because I am not a culinary person. I barely know how to use a stove without setting the kitchen on fire, let alone make fancy dishes. Partly because I was not paying much attention to my diet. I just pick whatever is available that's not bitter or bland. But the most important factor, to my belief, is that I believe that food, or the action of consuming food, should be private. As if there is a stigma about eating food.

I don't have a concrete answer about why I think that having a meal should be a strictly personal endeavour. But it made me curious -- not to myself, but to others -- why do others believe that having lunch together is normal or, sometimes, crucial?

I think it started when I found that I hated the chewing sound. Especially that sound of someone smacking their lips while chewing. It really sets me off. But then I reflected that maybe I am also a loud eater. To minimize my disturbance to others (and vice versa), I might well just eat alone.

The more I eat alone, or at least without a company, the more I find that being alone actually has a lot of benefits. For starters, there is a lot less stress for me to actually enjoy my food. Dining with others usually means a lot of socializing. Talking business over a dining table is, surprisingly, a common practice. It seems that being well-fed soothes the mood and makes the gears turn more smoothly. However, as you might have seen in one of those memes, I get clumsy when someone is watching me eating. Now I have more social obligations to apologize for my clumsiness, in addition to doing the job! Dining alone trims off this fat.

What's more, dining alone alleviates the burden of being judged for dieting choices. Yeah, I do fancy a triple-cheese burger with extra barbecue sauce, large fries, and a large soda. I do fancy a box full of chicken wings and drumsticks combo meals. I do fancy a strawberry cake slice dressed with frosting with a large peach milkshake with extra cream. I am fully aware that none of these things is good to put in my mouth. But after a dire day of work, why do I have to stand the pressure of having a hard-boiled green with no condiment that tastes like biting off the bark? It's a cruelty that industrialized farm-fed rabbits wouldn't endure!

It is actually hard to remain composed while eating. You can try recording yourself eating. If you are not the one from an upper-class family that has an actual upbringing, chances are you would look absolutely atrocious the moment you bite off a mouthful of food. The chewing would twist your face into a quite unfriendly shape. In cooking shows, the hosts will only take a small sample as a gesture, or sometimes just not touch the dish at all, purely because of this. It is also one of the major challenges of making actually appetising muckbangs. The ones that just gobble down a tonne of food always make me nauseate.

I am, although shaming, an obese guy. I find that the bigger your bones are, the worse it looks when you eat. Although no one will say as such (unless they are that unempathetic), they would feel as such. Obesity is a problem, and having problems is having stigmas. I guess it's the very reason for me to hide while eating now. "Fat swine digging through the garbage pile" is a so uncouth yet accurate description that, for some reason, imprinted in my mind, even though I have never said so to anyone.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just a freak, an outcast that has already forgotten what was like to be in a society.


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