Saving Women from the Shame of Solo Dining

Women can't seem to go one day without some form of media reminding us of what a drag it is to be saddled with a double-X chromosome. The latest PSA comes from CNN, which yesterday recounted the launch of a new website geared towards women travelers who dread the withering societal judgment they endure while crying alone into their salads.

Called Invite for a Bite, it's the creation of Cressida Howard, a British woman who was inspired to take to the Internet after hearing a radio program about female business travelers who hated eating alone. On the site, which is for women only (otherwise, Howard says, it would be just another dating site), users create free profiles that allow them to post invitations to dine with fellow females anywhere in the world.

Though there are plenty of women who will appreciate the concept of the site and use its services, those quoted in the CNN story shed more light on the real issue looming over Invite for a Bite, which is the question of why women feel so insecure and self-conscious about dining alone. One told CNN of the time she faked a cellphone conversation in a restaurant, only to be busted when the phone rang. "When I walk into a restaurant or bar alone," she said, "I feel others see me as either a woman out to pick up men or a sad, lonely spinster."

This indicates that what female diners really need is a site designed to help them avoid eating in the vicinity of the horribly rude and clearly insane, or better yet the simple wherewithal to tell the busybodies of the world to mind their own damn business. It also illustrates that shopworn double standards don't get left at the coat check: Men, apparently, aren't in need of a site like Invite for a Bite. "My husband happily walks into any place in any city for a drink or some food," said the same woman who got caught fake talking into her cellphone.

Maybe what's saddest about Invite for a Bite is that it reduces the restaurants of the world to your worst high-school cafeteria flashback, where nobody had anything better to do than sit in judgment of who ate where, and with whom.

One woman told CNN that if she doesn't have any colleagues or business partners around, she just doesn't eat, which suggests that solo dining is the least of her problems. And one hospitality company executive recounted the experience of overhearing customers at a neighboring table remark on how sad it was she was eating on her own: "They even went so far as to comment that I was single, because I had no ring on and I was obviously trying to stay in shape by eating a salad so that I could attract a man."

Image source: Flickr member wintersoul1 under Creative Commons

Rebecca Flint Marx eats and writes in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.