Reservations for One

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Solo traveler from: www.hopscotchtheglobe.com

I wrote this article about five years ago after taking myself to the Dominican Republic for a quick getaway. Enjoy!

I love Trader Joe’s. Sure, it doesn’t offer the same variety as Fairway or Whole Foods and it certainly isn’t as convenient as Fresh Direct, but I love it anyway. When I walk into that store I feel as though my single lifestyle is being honored for the first time. It’s an unusual feeling.

Why do I love this store so much, you ask? Let me start my acknowledging that my single status hasn’t motivated me to improve my skills in the kitchen. In fact, I’m so used to eating takeout and frozen meals that I recently discovered I had forgotten how to eat a grapefruit. When one was offered to me I tried peeling it like an orange and biting into it. I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until hours later than a light bulb went off in my head and I remembered the proper way to eat the thing. By then, it was way too late. The grapefruit was deceased. I murdered it. So you can imagine my excitement when I walked into Trader Joe’s and found neatly packaged and affordable meals for one, bags of sliced apples and small portions of other appetizing entrees. The place even has ready to-eat, peeled, hard-boiled eggs! Just the other day I was thinking it would be great if a store offered such an item and voila — there it was. The clever people at Trader Joe’s know how to make me happy. (Too bad some of the men in my life didn’t share that insight).

I don’t feel this celebrated in other aspects of my life. For instance, when I go on vacation I spend a significant amount of my time explaining to strangers why I’m alone or fighting off slimy men who think I might be desperate to change that status. Recently I went on a vacation to a resort in Punta Cana. My troubles began the moment I entered the baggage claim area on the other side. Two American women noticed me anxiously waiting next to the conveyer belt for my items to arrive and after subjecting me to a series of questions, they decided to have a debate in my presence about whether or not they found it impressive that I was traveling alone. (Needless to say, I agreed with the woman that thought it was cool). Another single lady overheard this conversation and immediately thrust herself upon us. She apparently had not traveled alone before and was having a full-blown panic attack. I helped her find transportation to her hotel but was then delayed to catch my own bus. When I finally got onboard the bus driver and passengers all had choice words for me. I tried to explain what happened but sadly, my gringa knowledge of Spanish wasn’t sufficient.

When I checked into my hotel I was given a certificate for a free dinner and massage for two. This ended up working out in my favor since the lovely women in the spa offered to arrange two complimentary massages – just for me! I gave up the dinner for two but did not dine alone. While strolling the beach I met two single, European men who had stopped in the resort on their way to visit a friend in Columbia. (Unlike Americans, the guys had six weeks to spend canvassing the globe and could take a break in between their party destinations). I dined with my new friends and broke even more rules on campus. Solo travel may be uncommon but threesomes are unheard of! The men shared my confusion over the resort’s tendency to cater only to couples. They told me that when they checked into their room they found champagne and a box of chocolates on their pillow and then had trouble explaining that they needed another bed. The staff assumed they were on a romantic excursion like everyone else in the resort. Of course, this was partially due to the fact that one of the men was named, Andreas, clearly a feminine name outside of Western Europe. I found this so hysterical that for the rest of our time together I referred to one of the men in my group as, “La Senora.” And although I did not get champagne or chocolates in my room I got to sample theirs.

Holidays can be more exclusive than vacations. I still don’t fully understand the trend of sending Christmas cards with a family photo displayed prominently on the front. That makes sense when the card is going to close family or friends, but it strikes me as odd when I receive such a card from people I don’t really know. Kids are adorable but I don’t know why on earth would I want to spend my holiday season looking at pictures of kids I’ve never met? Since when did it become an acceptable tradition to annually advertise one’s children? Baby photos are absolutely adorable but so are snowmen and penguins. Of course, this trend is not nearly as bad as the annual family newsletter. I think that if I need to learn about someone’s life in a newsletter, we’re probably not that close and there’s really no need to send anything at all.

These holiday practices are mimicked in our political system. Somehow our government policies champion the idea that singles who are not spending money on children ought to have extra for Uncle Sam. Think about it. It has become so popular for politicians to speak of their dedication to “working families” that we now have a political party by that name listed on the ballot. I don’t understand this. Are working singles not also productive members of society? Don’t we help contribute to the economy? I mean, who do you think pays for the facials, pedicures and the series of purchases involved in the ongoing quest for a perfect pair of jeans?? It’s a real shame because if I got marital tax credits I might actually have been able to afford those sexy jeans – not that I would have needed them. I’d be fat by now from all of those home-cooked meals.

But at least, I have Trader Joe’s. And I’d like to believe that’s just the beginning. Maybe the trend will catch on. Maybe someday soon there will be vacation packages for singles, the snowman will return as our beloved holiday mascot and maybe, just maybe, “working people” will become the new political catch phrase.

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