While the part of culinary exploration that I love more than anything is seeing how food brings people together, this whole social eating thing sometimes backfires. As a whole, I’m a social person. But in my dresser drawer of strange quirks and diagnoses is the fact that I struggle with social anxiety on a constant basis. Those two don’t really mesh well. Sometimes I get through very public situations by having a task; photographing an event, for example. The moment I don’t know what to say in a conversation, I simply blurt out, “I’ve got to go take more pictures,” and leave. (I used this trick during homecoming dances in high school, as well, to get out of dancing with my dates.)
Most times, though, I soldier through and wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, replaying every conversation I had the previous evening in my head, ridiculing myself for how dumb I sounded at the time. Counseling sessions and close friends have taught me that I need to start being nice to myself. That, and this: people aren’t thinking about me nearly as often as I think they are. Nonetheless, these pre-dawn panics are difficult to stop, and leave me exhausted in every way.
All of this is a very long (and too personal?) way to say this: last night, I needed some me time. No happy hours, no chit chat, just me and the English language (one of my favorite ways to fight anxiety is to write). The problem with being alone is that I’m tempted to get fast food or skip dinner altogether. It’s such a hassle to cook for myself. I decided to change things up a little bit and do something I’d never done before (out of a fear of wasted fuel): grill for just me. Though I considered seeing if the neighbors just wanted to throw a few other things on the grill, I resisted the urge. My Wednesday time wasn’t about me and them. It was about going solo.
Grilling alone may not have the same societal value as dining in a group, but it does have its bonuses. First, there are always plenty of leftovers for future lunches. (If I remember to bring them to work.)
Also, I can eat the garlic bread with reckless abandon. No awkward dance to see who eats the last piece. (Though let it be known: no matter how many people are at the table, on the deck or hanging around the counter; if there’s garlic bread there, I’m always going to eat at least two—or three—pieces.)
And finally, when I grill for myself, I don’t have to worry if I overcook my tuna or undercook my veggies. The only person who can judge me is myself, and I do plenty of that all the time anyway.