I think I make great company. This could be why I enjoy doing things by myself. Shopping, if you want an example. I don’t spend over twenty minutes choosing clothes, thirty if I must absolutely try something on. Going with someone else just doesn’t allow me to operate at that speed. Libraries, bookstores, museums, if you want more examples. I take too much time, reading synopses, memorizing information inscribed on gleaming copper plates (haven’t yet understood the purpose of this activity). Or reading in pretentious coffee shops which smell of stale air and fried potato.
Of late, I’ve started frequenting a Hotel that serves the most excellent tea. Not a restaurant where one thoughtfully looks through the menu, not a hotel that one checks into for three days and two nights; but a Hotel where the evening’s menu is written in chalk on a board, where service is functional and quick, where you don’t usually find women sitting by themselves. “Oru masala tea – sooda*,” I said to the man waiting on my table. He doesn’t need to write down what anybody orders, and if you ask him what’s available, he may rattle off names at the speed of light. And while I sat there waiting for my tea to arrive, I thought to myself, “I feel like a man.”
I find this interesting. I haven’t felt this peculiar emotion previously. Was it the absence of women diners? Sure, there were women, in the company of other women or men. But not one woman by herself. I used to think women didn’t like doing things alone. I tend to imagine my mother asking me, “Ennadi idhu, aambala madhiri thaniya poren-ngra?”** I found out later some men didn’t like it either. A thirty five year old man said to me once, he’d rather starve than go to a restaurant alone. Maybe I don’t need to make this about gender (conclusion pending).
And then one day, I noticed an old woman, sitting by herself, ordering a plate of sambar-vadai. I nodded at her, in what I hoped was an imperceptible manner. I see you, and I raise my glass of masala tea to you.
*One masala tea, HOT
**Why do you want to go by yourself, like a man?