Flavor of the Week: Eating Alone

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Birds do it. Bees do it. And if we’re continuing with that theme, even educated flees do it.

I do it. I eat alone.

Yes, in my head all of the above was sung to that tune.

Unlike falling in love, as Ella Fitzgerald puts it, eating alone does not seem to be something we all do. Eating alone requires a certain confidence; a balanced ego, if you will. Of course, if your ego is so large that you become insecure, which is normal so don’t be too worrisome if this is you, then you would never be seen eating alone. If you are this person, then your ego is dependent on what everyone else thinks of you and your sad salad bar creation with maybe some whole grain bread on the side.

There is also an alternative ego: your ego could be what I would like to think is well-sized, so that you are comfortable enough to eat alone without having to tell a passing friend, “Oh, I’m just reading quietly here, getting some ME time!” and push her away when in truth, you just had no one to sit with when you got to the place of eating, the home of said pathetic salad bar, and you’d rather stick with your story than admit your intentions were not solitude and loneliness from the start.

There is an art to eating alone, of course, no matter what size your ego decides to make itself on any day of the week. One must consider where he or she is eating (consider seating arrangements, location of place, type of eatery/cuisine), what he or she is eating, and what he or she is doing, if anything, while eating.

All rules can fly out the window if you decide to throw them there. My dad has two great stories from his high school years. Both involve vomit, but the more hysterical (and perhaps less disgusting) of the two is when he was driving his ‘Stang (hell yeah daddio) and his inebriated friend was riding shotgun, who proceeded to roll down the passenger window and vomit out onto one of the great highways of central Jersey as my father continued driving at 70 miles per hour.

In this fashion, you can throw the etiquette of eating alone out the window.

To do that, though, you must be truly confident, like the tired, middle aged people on lunch break with not a brain cell to spare for catching up on Instagram or reading the Times. Instead, these people eat alone, like so alone that his or her phone is not in plain sight, and they look out the window and make me think, wow, is this my New York life in ten to twenty years?

These people are the exception, though, because they don’t care about eating alone because they don’t think about eating alone. They just eat.

If you are a college freshman, though, you think and care about eating alone. You think and care about eating alone so much that you have group chats with eight girls in them and your conversations, maybe even your friendships, are built from the foundation of sharing meals, eating at the same times, and not being together but rather just not being alone.

To avoid eating alone at any stage of life, one might get “to-go” or “take out” and eat at his or her desk. Whenever I try to do this, whether it’s to save time or to avoid eating alone, I can never actually work and eat simultaneously. I have discovered that it is a lot more comfortable to eat in a place of eating, where you can chew freely, and if I’m going to be catching up on Instagram for those fifteen or twenty minutes regardless of where I am, I may as well eat alone.

So, I do. I eat alone.

I’m not the best at it, though. I usually spend my time on my phone, or writing emails between bites. Once in a while, however, I have no shame. I get quality, one-on-one time with Dinner or Lunch, who become proper nouns when your friends with real names are not dining with you, and I just look at my food and think about chewing like the French nutritionists tell us to do.

In the city, I can eat alone anywhere at any time and feel okay. In suburbia, however, I cannot do that. This could be for a few reasons: I am still afraid of half of the people I went to high school with and their judgments; the odds of me running into someone I know, even a mother, at an eatery is too high, and our conversation would ruin the point of eating alone; when I am in suburbia I usually spend most of my free time catching up with people, and the best way to do that is over a meal (arguably because it is a good way to avoid eating alone); people are in less of a rush, restaurants are in less of a rush, there are less places for counter service, less people to people-watch; this leads to everything becoming awkward.

I want to say that eating alone is eating alone, so if I can do it in the city I can do it in a small, Jewish suburb of the city. But then I remember that eating alone, like the math from AP Calculus I have very much forgotten, depends on its factors, as previously stated; it is not an independent variable. Math people: did I do that right?

I have no problem eating alone when I’m alone, if that makes sense. I don’t get self-conscious. I’ll face the world solo with my fork and knife — and teaspoon, if I’m feeling dessert — even in peak hours of eating.

Do you? Would you? Did you? Don’t do? Should you? LMK. Asking for a friend.

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Flavor of the Week: Facebook Chat

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Since podcasts are so trendy these days, I decided to make one. Well, I was assigned to make one. But I made one (and it might end up on here, undecided as of now), and it’s about all the stuff you’d expect: social media, breaking up, hookup culture, young lurv.

In my interviews, I asked a male friend if he still Facebook stalks his exes. The answer was ‘yes,’ and if you’re wondering, as was everyone else’s, but he justified his tendencies with the following excuse: Facebook puts the people you interact with the most all over your newsfeed and at the top of your chat list. Stalking, therefore, is unavoidable.

Technically, he’s right. It’s hard not to stalk people you’ve been involved with or are involved with because their faces are front and center on the screen. But before I could grant him a free pass for stalking, I knew I needed to do the research on my own. I had to figure out exactly how Facebook does this–what they consider in their “algorithm” and what I need to do to make certain people’s photos go far, far away.

The first thing I did was take to Google. “Algorithm Facebook uses to order your chat bar” and “How Facebook decided who comes up in your newsfeed” were probably too wordy and therefore unsuccessful. The larger problem, though, wasn’t in my diction. I genuinely believe there was wasn’t, or isn’t, a solid answer out there.

A few articles mentioned that Facebook declined to comment, numerous times, when asked for the variables in its magic algorithm, an algorithm so magical you’d think it was a Baked By Melissa recipe. Nevertheless, many have speculated. They think it has to do with the following: who you’re geographically near to, which is freaky, who you have the most tagged pictures with, recent friend acceptances, who you chat with both recently and frequently, and a slew of some other things I’m forgetting but you’d probably be able to figure out, anyway.

And because I know you were wondering: apparently, none of it has to do with who’s looking at your profile constantly. Apparently.

Unsatisfied with my findings, I thought I’d make up my own list of ways Facebook orders your chat bar.

1. Your hookup/boyfriend’s best friend is always on there. (However, there is a rational explanation for this and it could be because he sometimes messages you from his friend’s account, or his friend messages you to find him.)

2. Not people you have messaged recently, but the one person you usually don’t Facebook-communicate with who messages you three weeks ago asking something very random but specific.

3. People you have recently texted but not messaged via Facebook. Which is weird. But happens more than it should.

4. Three to five boys from high school you used to be close friends with but rarely, almost never, speak to anymore.

5. The president of your sorority.

6. A few people who you never communicate with but stalk on a daily basis.

7. Completely random people because the people you stalk aren’t stalking you in return and Facebook just feels bad for you and doesn’t know what to do about that.

8. Friends of friends. Similar to the friends of boyfriend theory but slightly different. Like you two aren’t friends at all but share a best friend. You probably have never even met before because you’re from different places and go to different schools. “But, like, if you two met, you’d absolutely love each other!! OMG!!”

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Flavor of the Week: Paying the Restaurant Bill

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Many things can go awry in a restaurant. But suddenly, I’ve found myself living in a world where “Check, please!” is more of a death sentence than one’s salad arriving with dressing not on the side. Oh, the horror.

It’s even come to a point where, at the start of a meal out with ten friends on Friday night, I begin to dread what will happen to us two hours in the future. There, we will be presented with one slip of thin parchment that sends a blissful Shabbat meal into the fiery depths of Hell/Hell’s Kitchen (depending on where you are). As the maitre d’ seats us and I use the foresight of That’s So Raven, I wonder why we decided to go out to eat in the first place.

There are certain truths and strategies to paying the bill when you’re out with a group of people. Here is what I’ve learned thus far from my adventures in fine dining:

1. There is the token “bill-payer” in every group of friends. When the check comes, you give it right to her, and she is in charge of a) telling everyone how much they owe, including tip and tax, and b) giving back change to those who ugh only brought a twenty sorry!! She’s appointed to this position because she was always better at math than the rest of you. The actual math skill involved in paying the bill has become somewhat obsolete – we all use our iPhone calculators to figure that shit out, anyway. Regardless, she is still the only one willing and able to magically figure it out whatsoever. Especially change. Giving back change is the worst. (Shoutout to my homegirl Caryn.)

2. There is always the cash vs. card issue. The girl mentioned in #1 is going OK WHO’S PAYING IN CASH? WHO’S PAYING IN CARD? And then someone who has no idea what she’s doing, usually me, is like “Can we all pay in cash or can we all pay in card?” If you’re all paying with card, do you need to label each card with a Post-it clarifying how much it should be charged? Did you bring Post-its with you to the restaurant in anticipation of this happening? (That is the real question.) And is #1 good enough at her job to figure out how you can pay with cash AND card AND how you’re going to leave the tip? (Mine is. Muahaha.)

3. Is there a specific reason as to why we don’t ask for separate bills from the start? Especially if more than four payers are involved? I understand how high-maintenance we are, but we don’t ask for extra plates because we’re fine with eating off each other’s. Can that compensate? If your party is of four or less, paying with one bill should be manageable. If you’re a party of eight but you’re really just four couples, then one bill should still be manageable. But ten lonely single hags?

There are certain ways to avoid the chronic problems of bottomless brunching with twenty of your closest friends. Bring someone’s parents along so that nobody has to pay. Ask for separate bills from the start. If that’s rude, then ask to be seated alone – pretend you don’t know each other, Walter White and Lydia style – so that you can avoid asking for separate bills but push your tables together when the waitress isn’t looking, like we did with our beds at sleepaway camp. Also, plan ahead – make sure you incorporate a solid 15 minutes of “figuring out the check time” before calling your Uber to GTHOOT (get the hell out of there).

I simply cannot fathom the stress involved in a meal in which one is trying to food-stagram and pay a check with a large amount of people simultaneously. That’s just a lot to put on someone’s plate, dontchya think?

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