The Allure Of Having Dinner With A Cardboard Man

BoingBoing's Lisa Katayama writes of a woman in San Francisco who walked into a restaurant, requested a table for two, and unfolded a three-foot cardboard cutout of a man, with whom she had dinner. Art project? Maybe. Or: Loneliness.

Katayama heard about the woman in question from a man who was her waiter that night:

The woman called her companion Peter or Stan. She ordered an appetizer for herself and a halibut dish for Peter/Stan. She was probably a tourist; she wanted to take pictures with Peter/Stan as the sun was setting, and while she was waiting for her food, she asked Joel if he could recommend any memorabilia from the gift shop so she could buy him a little something. When Joel was away, he could see her at her table talking to Peter/Stan as if he was a real person. Once or twice, she reached over to adjust him in his seat, or maybe to hold his hand. "When I walked up to the table, I felt like I was interrupting a date," Joel tells me. After about 45 minutes, the woman got up, walked to the kitchen, and told Joel that she would have to take her and Peter/Stan's dinners to go - they had a trolley car ride to catch, and she didn't want to be late.

We have so many "virtual" conversations — Facebook updates, Twitter accounts, texts and IMs. But does that mean fewer face-to-face encounters? I lived alone for about ten years — no roommates, no pets, no plants. I had friends, of course, with whom I'd make plans… But obviously a lot of my time was spent alone, especially once I started working from home. Time would pass without seeing or speaking to anyone, and it felt lonely. It took a long time to get comfortable with the idea of sitting in a restaurant alone. Sometimes I would bring a book, or a magazine, but I never considered a cardboard cutout. But would it be so bad? Kids often have imaginary friends. Are adults meant to do without? (Katayama points out that in September, NBC Miami reported on a woman who carries around a cardboard cutout of her soldier boyfriend. Does that seem less weird?) When I'm home alone, I sometimes talk back to the TV; about five months ago, Scientific American had an article about how TV can ease loneliness: "In the same way that a snack can satiate hunger in lieu of a meal, it seems that watching favorite TV shows can provide the experience of belonging without a true interpersonal interaction." But you can't take your TV out to dinner with you. (Yet.)

Men who marry video game characters, or who love their Real Dolls, get mocked. But what about the woman having dinner with a cardboard cutout? Do you have sympathy and understanding for her? Would it make a difference if the cutout depicted a soldier in Iraq? Or what if he were a character from New Moon? I guess what I'm saying is: I've been lonely. So I can't judge.

Woman Dines With Cardboard Cutout Man In San Francisco [BoingBoing]
Related: Imaginary Friends [Scientific American]

[Danboard image via HobbySearch]