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Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

Diatribe: Why Can't I Eat This Bagel in Peace?

The Gavel's Diatribe acts as the satirical medium for short rants over topics ranging from complete triviality to utmost importance.

I was on the phone with my mom and she asked me if I was “doing okay” when I told her I was heading to the dining hall to eat alone. When at Eagles’ Nest with my friend a few weeks ago, she got up and left as well when I told her I had to leave early because she was afraid to be seen by herself. Yesterday, another friend waited for me in Stokes so we could walk into the Rat for late night together, not wanting to walk in by himself.

I feel like this is a common college experience: the phenomenon that if you’re alone in the dining hall, all eyes are on you. You immediately feel like an outcast, a loner, and like everyone is talking about you. When my friend packed up her things alongside me and left Eagles because she “couldn’t be seen alone,” I was immediately confused, and kind of angry that a stupid television trope was affecting her ability to eat a meal. Later that evening, our friend group broke down the ability, or inability, to eat alone in a dining hall. 

In the Rat, most agreed that it was okay to eat by yourself in the morning or for lunch, but you need to at least have a computer or notebook open beside you to pretend like you're preoccupied with your work and not yourself. But when it comes to late night, it’s a totally different story: “There's no way I’d go to the Rat at night alone,” one friend said. Most nodded in agreement.

For Mac, it’s never okay to go in alone. Some of my friends even admitted that they’ve delayed meals so that they can go with someone else at a later time. It’s fine for us to go to Lower alone because we’re freshmen so we don’t know most of the people there—even though at a school with thousands of students, we don’t know everyone in our own class either. The Chocolate Bar is fine because it’s like a cafe. But again, you need to display some sort of productivity in order to not be seen like you’re just eating alone.

I was easily in the minority group when I said I was comfortable with eating alone in any dining hall. Yeah, I’ll admit that I’ve propped my computer up in front of me in the Rat even though my attention was directed solely on my food. And sure, I’ve called my mom while sitting by myself in Lower waiting for my friends so it didn’t seem like I was entirely alone. But, as asinine as declaring this may seem, I still do think that it should be okay to eat alone. I’m writing this in O’Neill right now, and I’m looking around, and the only face I can put a name to is the girl I had a lecture with last semester. The same goes for when I’m in the dining hall—for the most part, I only know people based on the fact that I follow them on Instagram, or they’re a friend of a friend, or we once had a class together. 

When you’re alone in the dining hall, I promise no one is looking at you. No one cares, or even notices, that you’re alone. People are far too preoccupied with themselves, their food, and the gossip they’re dishing at their table to care about what you’re doing. Eat your meal in peace. Don’t let fear of judgment ruin that perfectly toasted bagel or the hard work of the person who made your bowl at Eagles.

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