Saturday 21 June 2008

Singledom 2

You may well have been asking yourselves where I have been for the last week. Well, I have had visitors and I have'nt yet mastered the art of doing all the work that requires and keeping up with the blog, too. I have been speaking sternly to myself and I promise better time management in the future.
During my time slaving over a hot stove, I saw a newspaper article about life as a single woman,( actually, I may have told you that, already) one of my areas of expertise, as you may have noticed. The writer said quite a bit about how men behaved, the upshot of which seemed to be that the entire undertaking, dating, dining, whatever, was geared to bed. Now, having exchanged my eyelashes for a walking stick as a tool to achieve what I want, bed, in the sense of sexual activity has become something of a desert, a desert, with no sign at all of any charted oasis. Which is not to say there is no experience of the mirage effect, neither.You will remember from your geography lessons being taught how people, dying of thirst, lost in the desert, IMAGINE they have seen an oasis, just over there in the distance, always just over there, in the distance. Well, mirages of oases in the desert of the 'physical life', (she said, coyly), there are in plenty; it's the reality that's just as the geography books warned you. By and large, however, there are advantages to being a demand-free zone in that respect: it is possible, now, at my age - external age, that is - actually to have friendships with men, and to take liberties that would have been unthinkable earlier, of which more another time.
That is not where I experience the problem of being a single woman or out with another woman. This area of passionate interest is in the way restaurants treat women on their own. There is a whole book in that, never mind a single blog entry, but I will do my best. Think near the kitchen, think near the lavatory, think invisible, think can't get a table in the first place and you are beginning to get the picture. Now, in fairness, I have to say that there may be something in the presumption that a woman on her own is not likely to eat as much as a man and, in my case, may drink less and, Heaven forfend, even tip less, (tip less: moi? I don't think so), but that must not serve as a reason not to give her the benefit of the doubt before you have even found a table for her or even decided not to. Having been told there was no room at a local inn one Saturday evening when I rang, I prevailed upon my male companion to have a go, himself. "Ah yes, Mr B. Would you like a table upstairs or down?" I wish, fervently, that were a unique example.
You may have gathered I live in London. I went in to a renowned fish restaurant at twelve noon recently, not one where I was known. Fully booked. I could see the reservations book with several bookings for 1.45 and 2pm. It was not beyond the bounds of possibilty that I, starting just after noon, could have been out by then. Adamant, still no room at that inn neither. The manager, maybe sensing a potential 'issue', hove as I was putting that option to the brick-wall young woman keeper-of-the-portcullis. "I'm writing an article on how restaurants treat women on their own", I said, to him. "Of course, Madam. Come through. Here's my card, ask for me any time you want a table and remember to ask for table 40: it's the best, by the window." At a much humbler level, I wanted a quick lunch at a French bistro look-alike. Hidden behind a pillar I had to get up THREE times in search of service and, finally, for the bill.
"I'm writing an article etc etc" You know what? The bill was cancelled. But it's hard work and I deplore the effort and rarely enjoy the hard-won occasion. I have been known to use the name of He-to-Whom-I am Married when booking. That works to procure a table, but changes nothing when you turn up without the Mr. bit. Think kitchen, think lavatory,etc. See above.
A handful of restaurants where I have been going for many years does treat me beautifully, and I am very grateful to them. (The gratitude, in itself, is highly politically incorrect , I know). I have no idea how they treat other women on their own.
Incidentally, I have it on the best authority that children are even more despised than women on their own. They drink no alcohol, not much is ordered for them to eat and most of what is ordered ends up on the floor, along with the sticky contents of their glasses. A waiter's nightmare of time-consuming, no- profit clearing up after them. Goodness me, I am talking myself in to the privileged position of being a woman alone in a restaurant.


Anonymous said...

I read about a restaurant reviewer (I think she lived in Zimbabwe at the time) who rated restaurants based on the quality of their Loos. It seems that even fancy establishments had pretty disgusting toilets!

Well, apparently the restaurants did not want to get named and shamed by this determined lady, who was garnering quite a bit of publicity, so they began to clean up their act.

It seems to me that you might have hit upon a way to improve service for those that the restaurant sees as less desirable. Name 'em & shame 'em! You might just find that there are lots of singles out there who would rally round and spread your list - viral marketing at it's best!

Great blog! Great spirit! Great energy! Are you sure you're not on something??!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more - super blog, always hits the nail right on the head (I guess it's called insight - where does she get it from?), amusing and beautifully written.

Please keep blogging - you have fans!