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My Holiday Dining Dilemma

Erin Foster is the Disney Food for Families columnist and a behind-the-scenes guru here at Disney Food Blog! Check out more of her posts here.

I’ve had the good fortune to spend several major holidays at Walt Disney World with my family. Last week, as I made reservations to spend the winter holidays at the parks again this year, I was reminded of a situation we encountered on Thanksgiving Day 2008.

My three pre-teen daughters, my husband Jeff, and I are dining at the California Grill. They’ve got a special menu of turkey and all the trimmings, hubby and I ordered a nice bottle of wine, and we’ve timed it so that Wishes is starting just as we’re ready for dessert. It’s pretty much a perfect celebratory situation.

California Grill is a perfect holiday destination

We’re enjoying each other’s company and the dining room is filled with other families as pleased as we are. A few tables away from us, is a woman dining alone, seated by the window overlooking the Magic Kingdom. She’s well-dressed, maybe late-30s or early 40s. She’s not reading a book or playing iPhone Scrabble (like I often do when I’m eating alone at a table service restaurant). She’s simply eating her turkey at a moderate pace, enjoying the view of the castle, and chatting pleasantly with the waiter when he comes to refill her water or offer more bread.

On absolutely any other day, I wouldn’t have given this woman a second thought. I’ve been that woman myself many times. I frequently travel to Walt Disney World on my own and often enjoy the peace of a solo meal at a fine restaurant.

The Sunset at California Grill is a great backdrop for a solo dining experience

If I had seen her a few days earlier, I would have assumed she was a business woman at a convention, or a food blogger, or just someone who likes to travel alone. Again, all perfectly normal situations. If I had seen her a few days earlier, I would have given her mental props for having the self-confidence to experience the best of Walt Disney World rather than hide in her room after her convention watching Stacey’s Top Seven while gorging on giant gummy bears.

But this was Thanksgiving, in my mind one of the most family-oriented holidays. And because it was Thanksgiving, and everyone else in the restaurant was in a family-sized group, I found this woman dining alone to be poignant and sad. I mentioned this to my husband and came up with the idea to invite her to dine with us.

The Castle at Holiday Time -- a fun view!

Almost as soon as I said the words, I began to second-guess my instinct. Jeff and I proceeded to talk circles around the topic for the next 20 minutes of our meal. Some of our discussion points included:

  • Why the heck would this perfectly normal-looking woman want to eat with some family she doesn’t even know?
  • What prejudices are we revealing about ourselves when we assume that dining alone on a holiday means you’re lonely or sad?
  • What possible harm could come of simply asking her to join us? The worst that could happen is that she says, “no.”
  • No, the worst that could happen is that she starts to feel awkward or self-conscious because she thinks nut-jobs like us have been watching her.
  • Would a woman dining alone in a nice restaurant on Thanksgiving be any less sad-seeming if the nice restaurant were somewhere other than Walt Disney World?
  • If we asked the woman to join us, would we be teaching our daughters to be caring and kind. Or is the child-factor a big negative because who the heck knows what sort of embarrassing questions they might ask the woman.
  • Maybe she’s not even from the USA. Maybe she didn’t know it was Thanksgiving and just happened to book her meal at the California Grill unaware of the holiday.
  • Well, she’s eating turkey and speaking to the waiter in perfectly good English, doesn’t that imply she’s American?
  • Maybe she’s Canadian. Isn’t their Thanksgiving different?
  • We should ask her to join us, it’s the right thing to do.
  • We should leave her alone and let her enjoy her peaceful evening.
  • Eating alone on a family holiday is depressing.
  • She doesn’t look depressed. Maybe she’s thrilled to be rid of some no-good cheating ex-husband who never let her go to Disney World and this a is triumph that she’s savoring.

Um, did I mention that we were talking in circles?

Eventually it got too late in the meal and she had moved onto dessert. We never did end up asking her to join us. But obviously I’m still so conflicted about our non-decision that I continue to think about it more than four years later.

So I’m putting it out there to you wise folks. Would you have asked the Thanksgiving solo-diner to join your family? Help me think it through in the comments below.

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52 Comments

  1. jim says:

    Your only question on if to invite her or not was her, not you…. Here is what you should have done.

    First, asked the server about her. They work on tips and will do or tell you almost anything so they can get a better tip. If your server wasn’t serving her, they would have gone and asked the server that was and relayed the information. Trust me, someone that out of place, the servers we all probably already talking about her anyway. Especially dining alone at a DISNEY at place like the California grill where the servers are more friendly and strike up personal conversation, and there mission statement is to make a magical experience. The servers were probably trying to even make her feel like she was their family and make a magical disney experience for her. They knew her details for certain….

    Regardless of the information from your server though, you could have stuck up a conversation by asking what she ordered, if she liked it, and that you were thinking about ordering it… You can find out volumes of information by a single answer simply from her accent and her willingness of conversation or lack there of. If there was willing conversation, ask about her accent, food, where she is from, then about where you are from, who you are with, etc… You could have easily found out why she was there alone and made your determination to ask her to join you from there.

  2. ellie says:

    Ha- I clicked through to read the comments because I am dying to know what others would have done. I would have had the exact same “back and forth” debate going on about what to do- I think I would have spent so long carefully constructing an invitation that would not offend, that i would have missed the opportunity then been mad at myself for overthinking when I assume many would have just not given it much thought….glad I am not alone in the non-decision, at least ;)

  3. Matt says:

    I figure there’s no harm in asking. If need be, you could have added, “My husband and I would REALLY like another adult at the table to balance out all the talk about One Direction (or whatever pre-teen girls talk about nowadays).” That way, it would seem as if you are asking HER for a favor.

  4. Michelle says:

    Erin – I generally am that solo diner so I’m going to give my thoughts from that perspective. Regardless of the situation that created my solo dining experience, I would have welcomed your invitation. I may have thanked you and declined, but such a thoughtful gesture should always be considered. You made me laugh with your “what-ifs.” Whether I joined you or not, your thoughtfulness would have made a lasting impression, and I would likely have insisted on paying for another bottle of wine and dessert. m.

  5. Kara B says:

    My friend had a similar situation at Disneyland, and it really turned out to be a great experience for both her own family and the solo guest when she asked him to join them.

  6. Jeff says:

    You did the right thing by not asking.
    I’m sure she was perfectly happy eating by herself.

  7. Sue says:

    On the suggestion from my friend Kara, I am sharing this story. While my daughter and I were at Disney World about six years ago, we found ourselves looking for a place to stand while eating our lunch. The park was crowded from corner to corner, and we decided eating lunch could not be any more so. As we held our food making eye contact with people – hoping someone would make room for us and no one did – I finally asked a lone man if we could join him. I admit, it was awkward but we were tired of holding our food. As we visited with this man, he began to share some connection he has with Disney World. Honestly, I found myself lost in his conversation at times, and I never fully understood his connection. But as we ate, listened, and tried to converse, we were able to to finish our lunch. As we said our “thank yous” and began to leave, he invited us to follow him as he used his “pass” to ride all the rides. Not fully understanding what he meant by “pass,” we at first said “no thank you.” He quickly showed us his card, again said his name, and offered us entrance to all rides via the back entrance. Feeling a bit reluctant, we agreed. The rest of the day was magic for us. We rode all rides we wanted without waiting for any of them. We just walked in the back door, “the man” showed his pass, and we immediately were on the ride. The workers seemed to know this man (or his pass), so my daughter and I felt safe. For that day, we truly experienced the Magic Kingdom! We had a blast effortlessly moving from ride to ride – yet feeling bad for all those standing in line as we usually do. So, the moral of this story is that you never know who you might be meeting – someone in need, someone thankful, someone kind, or someone who might just share a magic pass.

  8. Only because it was a holiday, I would have had the waiter offer her a drink with our compliments, well wishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. That would have opened up a line of communication. She could have then walked over to thank you, and you could have possibly gotten a better feeling for whether or not to invite her to join you. She might have said something like, “Well, that was so nice of you, since I’m here all alone, with no family or friends, desperate and depressed!” Okay, or maybe she would have just given you a better impression one way or another. She might have just stayed put and toasted you at her table – but I think opening with a drink it a good approach.

  9. Michelle says:

    I would like to offer a slightly different view…you say that the situation would not have likely been anything that you would have addressed if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was (American) Thanksgiving and such a family-orientated holiday. It could very well be that the person was not American, and as a result, didn’t really feel as though they were missing out on anything. We are Canadians living in the U.S. and as such, we choose to celebrate our Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. It is not uncommon for my husband to offer to travel for business during American Thanksgiving in place of others, as it isn’t really a holiday for him/us. The same may be true for the person that you saw and they may have just been going about their day, giving little consideration to the “Thanksgiving” aspect of it.

    That being said, I wouldn’t worry too much about not having invited her to join you…especially if she seemed perfectly content to go about her meal on her own.

  10. Anne Bacon says:

    Tough one! First let me say that it says A LOT about your generous heart that you even noticed and cared about a stranger. I am sure my DH and I would have had the same circular discussion. I love the idea of buying a drink or dessert for the diner.
    Anne

  11. Jill says:

    As a frequent solo traveler I would echo what Jim suggested of starting a conversation instead of just an invitation. I’ve had this happen on trips before and met some wonderful people without the awkward “oh they think I’m pathetic because I’m eating alone” vibe. I shared a wonderful meal and bottle of wine with a couple in Florence and a delightful pair of sisters in the Cinque Terre. No matter what, I think an invitation would be lovely.

  12. Michelle says:

    Oops! I forgot to add that as far as eating turkey…if I was at the California Grill for American Thanksgiving and saw that they were offering a special Thanksgiving menu, you can bet that I would have been all over that, regardless of whether or not I was celebrating an official holiday!

  13. Scott says:

    I do not know if you should have asked her or not. I guess stick with your initial instinct and if it was to ask her then you should have done it.

    That said, this the most hilarious thing I have read on the Disney Food Blog, which I am sure was not your intent.

    Keep up the great work.

  14. Mike B says:

    It’s about taking a risk … with pre-teens, it may have been awkward.

    During a trip with the family, I ended up breaking away and eating at the Rose and Crown for lunch by myself. I too noticed another gent (wearing a Chelsea jersey whereas I am a Liverpool fan) and decided to risk it and asked if he wanted to join me. We had a pleasant lunch, talking football and about life.

    Sometimes, you want to eat alone after a long day while on the road. Other times, you just eat in. And sometimes, you luck out, you find a place and strike up a conversation with someone for an hour over a beverage and food, and simply enjoy the human interaction.

    You will always 2nd guess yourself … but in reality, what have you got to lose? Maybe, just maybe, you will find yourself making that human connection … and maybe, just maybe, that will be all it will take to make the world that much nicer for you and the other guest.

    My reco for everyone? Carpe Diem to make a difference – take a risk to make a difference – you just never know what you’ll learn and when it will be repaid in kind.

    Happy Holidays!

  15. Erin says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions folks. This happened a while ago, and as you can tell, I still think about the incident frequently. She was a few tables away from us, so it would have been somewhat awkward to just walk up and talk with her, but I like the idea to ask the waiter what’s up or to send over a drink. I appreciate you all sharing your thoughts with me.

  16. Great post; I too, would have over thought it, but came to the same conclusion. What-ifs should never weigh on your mind – if I was eating alone, I might feel kind of annoyed, really, if people invited me over. Just my .02 though! <3

  17. Cayce Hotard says:

    A few years back, my husband and I were in Epcot and had dinner reservations at Les Chefs De France. I had a little too much to drink throughout the day and decided to skip dinner and head back to the resort, insisting that he stay and enjoy his dinner.
    If someone would have seen him eating alone and invited him to join them, they would have enjoyed lots of funny stories about why he was eating alone.
    Just some ‘food for thought’ for if it should ever happen again. :)

  18. Roxanne Braun-White says:

    Ask away, she will say “no thank you” if she is not interested…but you made the gesture. and would have felt good for caring and it would not have still bothered you all these years later.

  19. cheryl hopkins says:

    Last year at Disney, we were in line with a women by herself. We offer to have her join us in our evening. We have met up several times and have a great friendship now.

  20. Karen says:

    Hi travel to Disney several times a year and then reserve at least one trip annually where I go alone. I have done Christmas, New Years Eve, Thanksgiving and a few other major holidays both with family (and/or friends) and alone. I value my alone time, but I value it because it gives me a chance to open myself up to interactions with anyone and everyone. Although this woman was not necessarily looking for someone to “adopt her”, I doubt that she would be offended if you were thoughtful enough to ask her. I liked the idea of asking the server, it takes the awkwardness out of the situation, and if she really wanted to be alone she could thank you and say no without any embarrassment on anyone’s part. Or, you could always send her an appetizer, drink or dessert with your compliments. Then you could start a conversation as a result of that gesture.

  21. Pam says:

    As a single woman who always travels alone to Disney it’s a nice thought. It’s a hard situation to find a one size fits all answer. Every person would be different. I’ve carried on conversations with people seated at tables around me (one advantage to Disney sometimes cramming tables in so close). I wouldn’t feel comfortable joining a strange family AT their table. And it might make me feel weird to continue sitting there alone. Your thoughts are motivated by a kind heart but unless you know a bit about the person they might be offended or make them uncomfortable. I’m used to traveling solo & am comfortable with my own company. Someone who is dining solo may be doing it for the first time & feel conspicuous & uncomfortable (used to feel that years ago) to have someone ask them to join them could make them feel like an oddball & they might never dine alone in a fancy restaurant again. Or they might be grateful. And I know on some of the boards women have discussed how to handle dining alone. So it is a sensitive issue.

  22. Sara S says:

    I loved reading everyone’s comments. I have always struggled with seeing people eating alone, probably because I don’t relish eating alone myself. Whenever we see someone eating alone, especially elderly people, it upsets me and I ask my husband if we should invite them to our table. He just laughs and says they probably aren’t lonely, they probably just ditched their wife/husband to have some peace and quiet! I think offering to buy a drink is a great idea, then it puts the ball in their court and they at least know that others are thinking of them.

  23. Penni Devlin says:

    I would have done the same thing..questioned and questioned, but would probably have asked. We were there last week for Christmas (as I type, I am eating some Disney chocolate) we met the nicest couple just standing in line an struck up a friendship. So it can’t hurt to ask.

  24. Anne Campbell says:

    Before my first solo trip to WDW, I posted my itinerary on an online forum. A guy I didn’t know from Adam sent me email, saying that he and his wife had a reservation at the California Grill just a few minutes after mine, and he asked me to join them for a drink before dinner. I did so, and we all ended up spending the whole meal together. It’s now almost 15 years later, and we’re still good friends. We’re planning to meet up this February in the Magic Kingdom. :)

  25. Becky says:

    I would have first asked the server about her and then found a way to strike up a conversation. Once the line of communication is open I would have asked her. I am 52 and my children are grown, flown the coop, and have families of their own. The last few years they have not had the money to go to WDW and I can not afford to pay for their growing families. I have not visited WDW in 3 going on 4 yrs now for fear of going alone. If I ever get up the nerve to visit alone it would be nice to make new friends to share my love of Disney with while there.

  26. Elisabeth says:

    We invited people, slightly different circumstances… we, about 40 0f us, were doing an annual pub crawl through Downtown Disney and California Adventure. On the back deck at Napa Rose we shattered the peace of poor woman trying to enjoy a quiet dessert and a glass of wine as we spread ourselves out in a circle around her and the fire pit. We included her in a round of guessing questions, shared some food and when we bolted she had exchanged phone numbers with a few members of our group and joined us later to enjoy the rest of the pub crawl with us. At Hearthstone, several of us plopped down next to a couple, when we realized we had invaded their space, we engaged them in conversation and asked all sorts of questions. He was a retired professional and they were celebrating a birthday. Bought them another round of champagne and all of us gathered and sang an incredibly off-tune and inebriated Happy Birthday. They made plans to join us when we do the next pub crawl. It can be fun to include someone new!

  27. Mara says:

    She seemed happy, no harm done by not asking her. As a single woman in her late thirties, I would have found it awkward to have been asked by a family to join them. But I would find it less so at Disney World. What this is really about is your perception that someone alone could not be as happy as someone with family. Which may be true for you, but not necessarily for someone else.

  28. Marmorgan says:

    Would you have evaluated the situation any differently if the lone diner had been a man instead of a woman?

    The only reason I’m asking is that while I often find myself chatting away with strangers when I’m traveling alone (and not just to Disney parks), some men I’ve talked to say that doesn’t often happen to them when they’re traveling alone. And I’m not particularly outgoing.

    It’s hard to know how a solo diner is feeling about the experience. Sometimes I have to eat out alone; sometimes I *get* to eat out alone. But even if I’m thoroughly enjoying my meal on my own, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take someone up on an offer to join their table. That they would extend the invitation in the first place is a good sign.

    I think inviting a solo diner over is a fine idea as long as you’re prepared to take no for an answer gracefully.

  29. Adrienne says:

    I’ve been alone for many years and am perfectly capable of creating my own fun – “magic” at WDW or wherever else I travel. ALONE IS NOT LONELY. I usually enjoy my wine with a “side” of people watching..and being grateful that I don’t have to try to make smalltalk, or pretend I like kids, after being surrounded by them in all stages of emotions ALL DAY at the parks. Two comments: mind your own business, and how would you feel if I grabbed my plate and interfered with YOUR holiday meal?

  30. Jay Ater says:

    I am a Disney lover but also a lover of Jesus and my pastor shared this awesome link with an article called HARD WIRED for Giving. For those of us that love science you will love this story. I also am a thinker and always believe there is a reason for everything. Has to be right? I really feel this is STILL in your mind and heart because you are basically born this way. We ALL are. The key is do we act on this or not? Doesn’t really matter and you really shouldn’t beat yourself to death over it all. You did FEEL that you should but then you CHOSE not to. Not a sin, not something you did wrong or right just simply the choice you made on that day. I am only 31 but man has giving changed. I’ve had homeless people throw food at me because they want CASH only and I’ve also been cussed out. To help me with my need to give I now donate to churches, salvation army, and other causes who are professional at giving. We are all hard wired to give like this article says below but times have changed and you don’t wanna end up with a law suit or ruining, hurting someone’s feelings. Imagine living with a different story then the one you shared above. I suggest to clear your mind of all this, go donate to a cause give your money, your time, your words of Disney wisdom to someone or something. You bless so many with this blog its a daily routine of mine to read it and I am thankful for it. I wish I could become a blogger of Disney because I love it soo much too. I wanna share, because I love it. You also wanted to share that happy day with her, that lady touched you. Who knows your family may have touched her just by being happy and together. I’m a Disney watcher and love to see families talk, laugh, and have fun at the parks. Brings tears to my eyes and makes me wanna go hug them all. Other times I see fights and families yelling at tired kids, You know how much this trip cost?! That also brings tears to my eyes but I don’t judge… we’ve all been there. Start 2014 out right and let this moment go. Remember it as a happy day not a what if day. What ifs will bring you down. Remember, no one can drive a car forward while looking in the rear view mirror.

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324009304579041231971683854

  31. Julia says:

    I would have asked her anyway. The worst is she says no.

  32. Bel says:

    I do think that it is sweet that you thought of the woman.

    Having said that, as a single woman (in her 30s) who likes to travel alone I must admit the only time I feel uncomfortable about it is when someone points it out. I know people mean well, but you never quite know what is going on in someones head or why they are alone.

    I was dining for the very first time at Cinderella’s castle (and loving it). Everyone had been great about it, until a well meaning character came up to the table and made a deal out of me being alone in a way that I took wrong (It was Aurora asking if “Prince Charming had stood me up”). From that point I felt very uncomfortable for the rest of the meal. She didn’t mean anything by it, but it hit a nerve for me.

    There are many nice ways to reach out to people by themselves though – I was very grateful to a family at the table next to me who came over and offered their photography services if there was anyone I wanted a pic with at a character meal. Little things like that mean a lot more to me.

  33. Amy says:

    What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing this story, it was a great read.

    The comments have certainly covered already every single combination of ask-don’t ask. I have two thoughts to add:

    I am sure I would have done exactly what you did – notice, consider asking her, debate it, feel awkward, think about it too long, and ultimately not ask.

    Most importantly, though, this is what came to my mind first and foremost as I read this:

    NO REGRETS. There are so many situations in life like this, where what to do is not black or white. And therefore, there can be no right or wrong answer. We can never know if she would have been grateful or offended, so the best course of action is to decide that your decision (or lack of action) was best and not second guess that. It’s a great story, but know that your decision was ultimately the right one, and have no regrets!

    Happy New Year to all.

  34. Kathy says:

    I would have pondered it as you did, although I probably wouldn’t have come up with as many creative “what ifs”, and then regretted that I didn’t invite her.

  35. Eliz Van says:

    My husband’s sister (from northern Minnesota, we’re from Ohio) always let the waiter know that anyone dining alone could come and join our group. Not very often did people take her up on it, but when they did it was a delightful experience. More people should do it. What’s the harm in inviting? Person could say ‘no thank you’ but if they want to, they can enjoy the experience too. If you never ask then it will never happen. Now that I’m by myself I don’t often go out by myself to a restaurant but I think I would take a group up on their invitation if someone stepped out.

  36. Oliver says:

    Secretly pay for her meal. It will fulfill your need to do something nice, without complications. Though you can not be her family, you can show her someone cares, which is essentially the feeling we get from family. (Which is what you really wanted to give her, right?)

  37. Dan says:

    My wife and I are Disney Fanatics. Together is always the best… but even alone we have a great time.

    There have been times and holidays where one of us had to work while the other was off and we have actually said to each other, “Well if we can’t be together at least you can be in Disney for the holiday and I will be there as soon as I can.”… usually arriving the next day. This could very well be the case here. Heck! That very well could have been my wife!

    And knowing my wife if you had asked her to join you she would have loved it!

    All my best!

  38. Kay says:

    I would like to think I would have gone to the woman and asked her if she would like to join our family for the meal. If she was happy being alone-fine. At least I would know I had made an attempt. My Business partner go to conventions and we have frequently asked a lone eater at the hotel at breakfast etc. to join us. Especially if we recognize that they are someone we have seen at the convention. I have never had them refuse. It’s a great way to meet new people! I do like Matt’s idea of using the excuse of needing another adult-that makes it seem less like you are just sorry for them. Thanks- Kay

  39. Holly G says:

    I would’ve invited her- I always chat with strangers while at Disney!

  40. Tmarie says:

    I would have gone and asked her to join our family. It is just myself and two daughters. It is in my nature to do so without second thought. I’ve done it on more occasions than I can count and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I see so many different thoughts on this and for everyone it is different. You can not condem them for their thoughts. However I have only one comment.
    To Adrienne who said Two comments: mind your own business, and how would you feel if I grabbed my plate and interfered with YOUR holiday meal? No one once said they would ever grab your plate and interfere with your meal only offer a hand of compassion. Which is one part of being in WDW in my not so humble opinion.
    So there you have my thoughts. Next time just go and ask no matter if it’s a Holiday or not the worst someone will say is no. The best is you will impact someones life like you could NEVER imagine.

  41. Lori says:

    As a single woman pushing 40, I think it was a nice thought but not asking was the right thing to do. I don’t mind being alone unless other people start freaking out about it, asking me why I’m alone, offering to buy me things that I’m perfectly capable of buying for myself, and/or even asking me to join them (total strangers) because they feel sorry for me for no reason. If the woman seemed sad, looking forlornly out the window with tears in her eyes, then by all means ask if she’s alright and if she’d like to share the holiday with you. That would be very kind. But if she seemed fine and perfectly happy on her own, it’s more considerate to leave her be.

    I find the suggestions to blithely gossip about this woman with the server (multiple servers if necessary) inappropriate and offensive. She was a woman dining alone, not a criminal. Single women dining alone are not public property that everybody else has a right or obligation to gossip about, point at, and/or take care of. We are mature, competent women who only ask for privacy and respect. For a lot of us, others making a fuss about us being alone is the only bad part of being alone.

  42. Pam says:

    Lori
    Well said. Our society is so programmed to think if you’re not a couple or a family you’re odd. It’s hard enough dealing with this regularly. While a nice thought if someone approached me & I said no (which I most definitely would) then I’d feel very uncomfortable & get the heck out of there as quickly as possible therefore ruining my dining experience. It would make me feel very conspicuous now because others who may not have thought of me being there solo now are thinking about it. While I enjoy dining out with family & friends I really enjoy dining alone too. I don’t have to make conversation, or listen to someone else. I can really savor my food. It’s all about me! While traveling to Disney many many many times over a lot of years I’ve met quite a,few people while waiting in line or sitting on a bench. I have dined with them but we struck up an acquaintance so we weren’t total strangers. And some of those have turned into friendships & others have gone the way of the Palm pilot. So while you may think you’re doing something nice also consider how you might embarrass that person dining solo. There is no one correct answer. I’d rather someone not invite that person than possibly ruin that person’s meal.

  43. Dan says:

    I agree with what others are saying… Sometimes being solo at Disney is great! See what you want, ride what you want, eat what you want and When you want. Our family calls it a “Selfish Day”. I took one for myself this year, mid September, just before the Food and Wine Fest kicked off. Low crowds… Went to EPCOT for rope drop, dashed over to Soarin’, got a Fast Pass that would be good in about an hour. Got in the 15 minute standby line. Rode it, come out and had a nice, relaxed, “solo” breakfast in the land, Then rode Soarin’ again with my “now good” Fast Pass. Hopped the Monorail over to MK, got a Dole Whip… again solo… and continued in that fashion for the rest of the day.
    The point being… I was alone… but still happy. And if some had asked me to join them…. at least on that day… I would have said with a smile “Thank you, but No… I’m having a selfish day!”

  44. Mary says:

    I have no trouble whatsoever traveling or eating alone (51 yrs old, married). I frequently hear from friends etc. that they would NEVER do that. They would do room service or a to go order and eat by themselves in their room. I love the idea of using the waiter as a go between. I would have asked if she wanted to join for dessert (not the burden of the whole meal).

    Once, maybe 20 years ago on a work trip, a group asked me to join them when I was dining solo. I declined, stating quite truthfully that I was a little under the weather and I wasn’t up for company and just needed the break to regroup but I certainly appreciated their invitation.

  45. Chris James (UK) says:

    This sounds like the sort of thing I’d do – have all the very best intentions of doing something thoughtful, debating the best way to approach it without offending, miss the opportunity and regret it ever since.

    We don’t have thanksgiving here. But we do have Christmas obviously. I’m not a particularly Christmas loving person and neither is my partner, both opting to work Christmas Day, often for a colleague who is raising a child alone or someone who particularly needs to be with their family. But if I was in a restaurant alone on Christmas Day (and have been) I would be absolutely touched that somebody would invite me to join their family on a family-oriented day. Even if I didn’t want to join them, I would be touched and probably never forget it.

    Maybe I have a romanticised view of your situation that day at California Grill. I don’t know. But I think the sentiment was lovely, the way you debated it was lovely, and I don’t see how anyone could be offended by an offer like that. Don’t ever regret that you didn’t ask her. Because if you are ever in that situation again, no doubt you will.

  46. Andrea91 says:

    I likely would have asked after talking to the waiter as I just enjoy meeting new people and worst than can happen is they say no. (Well, mostly but I address that below) I am very comfortable eating and adventuring on my own or with my wife and had I been eating alone I would have enjoyed the offer whether I had agreed to join or not. The only comment on here that really made me go “Whoa, settle down there!” was by Adrienne who wrote:

    “Two comments: mind your own business, and how would you feel if I grabbed my plate and interfered with YOUR holiday meal?”

    The thought process of the article writer showed that she simply cared about another human being’s feelings. She was hoping to bring some joy into a stranger’s life but didn’t end up asking because she was worried about offending the lady. Such a blunt and aggressive reaction makes me hope I never accidentally speak with you on a trip to WDW as I would not wish to ruin your day by simply being friendly.

  47. pam says:

    Andrea91 & others:
    Yes it was a nice thought. And you think there’s no harm done asking. But you can very easily embarrass the person dining solo.
    Some people are fine having strangers invite them to dine with them, others would be made extremely uncomfortable dealing with the aftermath. I’m very comfortable dining on my own having done it for more years than I’d care to admit. If someone asked me to join them, especially in a high end restaurant, I’d be totally embarrassed. Others dining around me would hear (no matter how discreetly you approach) & I would leave immediately because I would no longer feel comfortable. So unless you can really read the situation & person I think you’re better off leaving them in peace to enjoy their meal.

  48. mary says:

    I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses, so I don’t celebrate the holidays. I do love a turkey meal though. This could have been me in a different situation lol. Sometimes we forget that people practice various traditions or ways of celebrating although American. Perhaps you could have sent her a coffee , and then explained to her that you just wanted to share your happiness. Maybe you would have learned something about her that would have given you solace. I hope this helps:)

  49. catherine says:

    Saying you want to share YOUR happiness is the wrong thing to say. It gives the impression that you think she couldn’t possibly have a happy life if she is dining alone in a restaurant on Thanksgiving without a family like you have. Maybe you think that to be the case, but everyone is different.

  50. V No Privacy says:

    For the people who say they would have joined the family if asked, I’m wondering if you think it would be awkward to divvy up the bill when it came. It’s never TOTALLY equal when splitting the bill because you’re factoring tip, taxes usually involve coin change that no one carries, etc. Plus, with strangers you never know what they prefer in dealing with these matters.

    I am a frequent solo traveler and diner and I would enjoy eating with someone else but I’d be too stressed about how the bill would be split when the time came.

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