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A few years ago, BBC Radio asked its listeners a simple question: "Do you enjoy dining out alone?"

Turns out they don't. In fact, the "No" responses had it, by an overwhelming 71 to 29 percent majority.

"Thankfully I have never had to do this," answered one respondent. "I have seen others, though, and my heart goes out to them."

All of which seems a bit strange, really. After all, on the scale of reasons for our hearts to go out to someone, eating alone isn't exactly up there with having nothing to eat. It's not even as bad as having to eat with someone awful.

Dr. Lillian Glass, a self-help author who frequently pops up on cable TV — as well as in our story, starting here; says the fear of eating alone in public is widespread but not at all grounded in reality. In truth, she tells me, no one is looking at you.

"And if they are looking at you," adds Glass, "it's because, 'Oh, isn't that a nice outfit,' or "I like your haircut.'"

Given how many local restaurants are actually worth visiting (many of them are listed in the Bites publication inserted into this week's issue), Glass' theory is very reassuring.

Even if it doesn't explain the pointing and laughing.

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