Not an Extrovert? Here’s How to Eat Out

Pick a chip, dip, bite, write, and repeat

“Are you mad?” Much to my confusion, someone would occasionally ask me that question out of the blue. Apparently my face looks unhappy and my attention elsewhere. And though I was not unhappy when asked, I was probably preoccupied. Always somewhere else.

Are you an introvert?

thinking alone

I’m an introvert. Like many others of my ilk, I tend to dwell in my head. Introverts are introspective, creative types, not necessarily anxious or angry or even shy. In fact, some are pretty outspoken–when you can catch them out of their caves.

Introversion is merely about how you get your batteries recharged and where you direct your gaze. Introverts need that alone time to energize while extroverts need people. Excess stimulus wears away at introverts while extroverts gather it all up. They prefer reading to parties.

According to Meyer-Briggs, introverts typically treasure alone time, not only to refuel but to avoid judgment and confrontation, both of which make introverts uncomfortable. But it’s not merely shyness or avoidance behavior that keeps the introvert home or in dark corners of cafes. It’s oftentimes the preference to be alone.

And after reading Stuart Vyse’s article, An Introvert’s Guide to Eating and Drinking Out in the Observer on how to be alone in public, I know we introverts are not alone.

Introverts like to get out too. That’s why, like Vyse, I often bring a mini iPad, a crossword puzzle or book to bars, coffee shops or restaurants when I want to get out of “the cave,” my home office. In that way, I can absorb the human vibrations around me while escaping the tedium of polite smiles and small talk that comes with stranger interaction.

If so, what and where do you eat?

So what does an introvert diet look like? Well, nothing out of the ordinary. Introverts come in all shapes and habits.

Except you’re never going to get the share plates meant for two offered in some eating establishments. And you’re probably not going to opt for the all you can eat buffet where you make return trips endlessly to the salad bar. The eating trough is often too close quarters with people you’re forced to make eye contact with. You risk being considered angry, or worse yet, rude.

But you might enjoy these:

Happy hour

happy hour

Though happy hour might sound crowded–and often it is–you can come to a pub, stool-side, armed with a book or writing/typing materials that signal too-busy-to-socialize.

So you not only get peace but the typical single-serving portions that happy hours offer so inexpensively. For instance, you can go to your local Mexican restaurant and get a taco and basket of chips with salsa that you can leisurely munch–undisturbed.

Pick a chip, dip, bite, write, and repeat. With a beer to nurse, you can buy extra time at the bar–and happy hour beer on tap is usually pretty cheap too!

Coffee shopsIntrovert at coffee shop

Other favorite breakfasts through lunchtime spots are coffee shops. Not just Starbucks or other chains like it. Those tend to fill up quickly with college students working on group projects, which is distracting unless you bring headphones or earbuds to plug into your favorite classical (or other work/pleasure enhancing) station.

Many local, family-run single coffee shops are more roomy and hospitable. And if they sell a serviceable brew or espresso with a large selection on the menu, then you have a place to read or work all day.

My two favorite local mom-and-pop cafes serve strong Vietnamese iced coffee and fresh baked cookies as well as sandwiches, salads, and soups. That way, I can justify the length of my stay, stretching it out with coffee, then a sandwich, then a cookie–to extend my squatter’s rights.

It’s important to choose a place that has individual tables or tables for two, preferably towards a back corner. Coffee shops commonly home the loners.

Restaurants

The right ones can be great places to be alone in public. If it’s a table-turning upscale restaurant, you really don’t want to tie up space. And you’re bound to be more conspicuous, garnering more attention by wait staff and onlookers pitying you.

But some restaurants–the smaller big-chain stores with ample tables and floor space–are inviting to lone diner-lingerers. Usually, they do a brisk to-go as well as dine-in business and their tables don’t have table cloths or nice silverware they have to pay off with high turnover.

Even fast food places (before school lets out) are good places to sit in a booth or back table for a while, to enjoy a hamburger and pick at fries while reading.

Cooking at home

Now that’s an introvert’s favorite. Not the cooking part so much as the eating at home. That’s because you can eat anything–without the stares.

You can grab a cheese and watercress sandwich from the kitchen and go back into your room or study, gobbling over your keys without reproach. And you can find kitchen munchies that are built-in excuses for work or study breaks to grab a chip or rice cake with peanut butter. You can also stare into the open fridge to hunt for leftovers–perfect procrastination.

But cooking is also great for a creative outlet that suits the intuitive, creative type. It’s both a team and solo activity. So even if you’re cooking with someone, you focus on your specific task, say chopping onions, keeping your attention only collaterally on conversation and avoiding direct eye contact.

It’s pleasant and non-exhausting. And it’s excellent for keeping small, intimate parties at home, so you don’t have to look for a non-trafficky place to stand or sit at those big parties.

Eat what you will

Now, introversion comes in varying degrees. Some introverts are extremely sensitive to stimulation, so much so that they suffer insomnia. They’re unable to turn it all off after particularly hectic people and places days.

For those more susceptible to sleep disruption, most experts agree to ease up on sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. And instead balance fats, carbohydrates and take supplements high in vitamin E, omega-3s, and vitamin D.

It’s not so much what you eat as where and how if you’re an introvert. Eat what moves you–and don’t let anyone judge you for it.

Pamela Gerber

Pamela Gerber is a freelance writer, editor, poet, college English Instructor, blogger, and yogini living, breathing and dancing in sunny Southern California. Her work appears in various online sites and printed anthologies.

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