The First Mission

27 Oct


Full disclosure: The International Woman of Mystery has failed at her first mission.

It seemed simple enough: My first night on the town. Alone.

Determined that I would not let my being single become an exercise in wallowing, I set a rather ambitious goal for myself: I would dine alone. In public. On a busy Saturday night.

After all, an International Woman of Mystery needs no one. I am an island. I buy my own drinks and now my own dinner. A woman of the world holds no shame in being sans date. Even when we are all told we’re supposed to care so much about romance (or the lack thereof.) I decided I would transcend this nonsense. It seemed the perfect mission. I was a woman with a plan. I would be brave. I would hold my head high. The International Woman of Mystery as her own date.

And yet, despite my bravery, despite however premeditated it was, it proved more difficult than I anticipated.

Here is what really happened: I took one step inside the restaurant. Glimpsed the sea of swooning twosomes. Realized the atmosphere seemed entirely rigged with emotional landmines. And I bailed. Turned right back around and left. Ignored the ensuing phone calls from the restaurant as they attempted to contact me and threatened to give away my reservation to one of those oh-so-happy couples.

There also may or may not have been a debriefing session immediately after, involving a bottle of wine and store-bought cheesecake.Okay. So maybe the mission was a bit advanced. I decided to take a step back. Brush myself off and try again.

So here I am. Mission: International Woman of Mystery Dines Alone. Take two. It’s a Monday night. A few days removed from the weekend hoopla. I am undeterred this time. It’s really quite simple in practice. People dine solo all the time, don’t they? But not me. Save for the errant bagel at Panera by myself. I’ve never had the moxie to just sit at a table for one in a nice restaurant and just eat a meal without a date or a companion. That changes now.

I enter the restaurant. No reservation this time. I’ve chose an upscale sushi bar and grille. I’ve donned one of my best black dresses, lipstick and heels for the occasion. I approach the hostess, my heart racing a little. Soto voce, I say, “May I have a table for one?” I can’t help but feel a bit self-conscious. What does she think? Is she laughing at me or just experiencing deep pity for this lonely girl? All dressed up and no date. But to my surprise she doesn’t seem to be thinking anything.

“Right this way” she says. I relax a little.

Maybe it’s the outfit. She thinks I’m important. It occurs to me: I am important. I am Jenny G., International Woman of Mystery. I stand a bit taller in my heels as we make our way to an oversized booth.

“How’s this?” She asks. The booth is posh but also huge. It could easily seat a table of eight. I fight the urge to ask for something smaller. Maybe in a dark corner by the kitchen.

Instead I say, “It’s perfect.”

Alone in the solitude of my giant booth, I take a moment to drink in my surroundings.

Without another person to attend to, my senses are heightened. I notice the ambiance is more pronounced. The smells. The music. The cacophony of other people’s conversations. Perfect for surveillance, or maybe just getting the full sensory experience as if I were at a quaint bistro on the Seine. It takes a while for my server to appear. I suddenly feel guilty for taking up an entire booth to myself. What if she’s waiting for the rest of my party to arrive? Or worse – what if she thinks someone stood me up?

I push the thoughts from my mind and instead begin concocting my cover story in case she asks. Maybe I’m a business traveler only passing through. Perhaps I’m a food critic doing an expose on their Unagi spread. I’m actually enjoying writing my own story when my waitress comes rushing over. She apologizes profusely. Explains that she’s covering two sections tonight and can she get me anything to drink? I order a Pellegrino. I’ve made two rules for myself on this mission. No hiding behind my cell phone and no drinking to attain false courage. I have to do this all the way. I am a woman of the world now. I may as well live in it.

A few more minutes pass. I study the menu. It occurs to me that I can order anything I want. No feeling guilty about the price of the meal or whether or not it’s going to give me bad breath. I don’t even feel pressured to get something healthy. Maybe this mystery woman gig isn’t so bad. I order some sashimi and within minutes it’s in front of me.

And now I sit some more. At first I rather like being alone with my thoughts. Really tasting every morsel of the meal. But after a bit, it gets boring. I amuse myself by eavesdropping.

A couple at a nearby table is having a heated argument. I find myself awkwardly averting my eyes while also feeling suddenly grateful to be single. Who needs that bullshit when a girl can just sit in silence and enjoy a lovely meal?

The meal feels like it lasts three hours but when I cave and check my phone, it’s only been 40 minutes. Suddenly quite comfortable in my surroundings, I contemplate dessert but it turns out I’m stuffed. I wait a few more moments for the waitress to bring my check and clear my dishes. Twirl the stem of my water glass and exhale with satisfaction.

At last the check arrives. I leave a generous tip and sign the bill simply: Jenny G.

Make my exit proudly.

Mission complete.

Jenny G.


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