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In college, I took Emily Dickinson to bars. I had a Dickinson seminar to prepare for, and I thought we both needed to get out. I would find a back booth with just enough light to read, order a beer, and open my copy of the Final Harvest collection.
Soon I was lost in the corridors of her peculiar imagination while the noisy crowd around me practiced their ancient rituals of courtship and combat. The others had come for pizza, pitchers, and communion with friends, but ED and I had come for a more intimate kind of fellowship.
Many introverts love to cook, but no one wants to cook everyday. Same for doing dishes. Once in a while, it’s nice to have somebody else do these things for you, and as a result, a drink or a meal out can be a special pleasure.
But dinner comes at both a social and economic cost. Despite the many delights restaurants and bars have to offer, they also represent a hostile environment for the introvert.
The goal of the outing is quite simple. An introvert out on the town would like to eat or drink quietly with as little interaction with staff and fellow patrons as possible. Ideally it would be nice to linger for a while without being interrupted.
Unfortunately bars and restaurants are some of the least likely places to carry this off easily. Despite the many new ways of finding and meeting people, bars and restaurants are still considered fertile ground for prowling singles in search of mates or mopey loners in need of a sympathetic ear. These people are the enemy. They are precisely the kind of obstacles the introvert hopes to avoid.
Sadly, according to some cultural standard that introverts never agreed to, a person sitting alone is considered fair game. You are assumed to be alone out of necessity rather than choice, and as a result, many extroverts operate under the misguided assumption they are doing you a favor by striking up a conversation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As always, introverts hope to cultivate the impression that they are polite and harmless but prefer to be left alone. Here are a few tips gleaned from a lifetime of introverted eating and drinking out. (Post continues after gallery.)
Choosing a Place
It is a good idea to avoid fine dining. At a busy upscale restaurant, the staff will be overly attentive and may subtly pressure you to give up your table too quickly. Instead of a relaxing sojourn, you are likely to come away feeling well-fed but pestered. So save the upscale places for a social outing with friends. Instead, try a weeknight visit to a moderately popular mid- or low-priced venue.
Bars are a mixed bag. On the positive side, you can stay as long as you like. Drinking is assumed to be a longterm proposition, so you will almost never be hurried along. In addition, depending upon the place, you can often get a decent meal.
But bars are also ground zero for the traditional pickup scene, and many of your watering hole neighbors will be looking for companionship. It will be important to make it clear that you are not there for the Cheers experience. Introverts prefer a place where nobody knows your name.