Perhaps the most depressing situation in your first few years out of college is the terrifying realization that on a given day, you will be eating lunch by yourself. There really isn’t any way to avoid it. It is a law as constant as gravity. You have no family to go home to, or you do but they’re at either at work or school, or your coworkers go to lunch everyday and you just simply cannot afford to eat out that often, because it wears on your wallet and midsection. It’s the same kind of terror you experienced as a kid when you would come upon your regular lunch table in the cafeteria, only to find that every seat was already taken. You’re an adult now and can handle adversity much more gracefully, but the pain is still very real. The threat of Glansberg’ing is ever present in postgrad life and it is something that will wear at your psyche every time the clock strikes noon.
A fully charged phone and maybe a Skype date with a friend. The miracle of technology should be able to soften the blow of eating lunch alone. A fully stocked Twitter and Facebook feed should keep you looking busy through your lunch hour. Looking intently at your phone makes you look like you’re a person of importance. But you know what makes you look like a boss? A goddamn newspaper. You may not be able to afford a $7.50 lunch at Subway, but you can sure as hell afford your local morning paper. It doesn’t even have to be a newspaper from this week. No one bothers anyone reading a newspaper. No one will ask questions.
Eyes down, good posture, use utensils. If you find your eyes beginning to wander, get them right back down. Hopefully you followed my first piece of advice above and have prepared yourself for battle with your fear of isolation. Eating by yourself is pathetic enough as it is, so the last thing you need to be doing is looking around, as if yearning for interaction with the other humans. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. You are a warrior. These people don’t have to feel sorry for you.
Avoid cheeseburgers, fried foods and overstuffed sandwiches at all costs. Salads, homemade sandwiches, fruit and veggies. You don’t want to look like you’re eating your feelings, and if you’re eating two McDoubles with a Diet Coke, you’re eating your feelings and broadcasting that fact to the American public. Eating a well-rounded meal doesn’t look pathetic, and if you notice judging eyes, you can throw it right back in their faces by shooting them a retaliatory glare after taking a glance at their plate full of chicken fingers, coleslaw and wedge fries.
Location, location, location. No one has ever made eating by themselves in their car look soul crushingly pathetic. Eating in your car is basically saying that you dislike your coworkers so much that you would rather risk your car smelling like curly fries for the next week than eat with anyone you work with. That, or you just don’t have any friends willing to meet up with you at Chili’s. Opt for a crowded, but not too crowded, restaurant and follow the tips 1-3 above.
Own it. Like Miley says, “Forget the haters, ’cause somebody loves ya.” That gal knows what she’s talking about, because I’m pretty sure everyone hates her. Eating lunch by yourself is only a temporary roadblock to success. Don’t let anyone judge you for eating by yourself, because the odds are that person judging you has downed a Big Mac and fries in their car while wearing large sunglasses by themselves at one point or another.