Sitting far in the corner of the dining hall in Lyons building, known as the Rat, is a dark-haired girl who is munching on a sandwich as she uses her other unoccupied hand to scroll through her I-phone. At the table directly next to her’s, a group of four female students are having their lunch together, talking loudly and excitedly about some boy named Matt. I walk past the dark-haired girl and notice that she’s reading her emails. Fifteen minutes later, I walk past her again, after finishing my salad, and observe that she’s still reading emails. The girls next to her table have moved onto another topic by now. I wonder if the dark-haired girl is actually reading anything at all.
Over the past week, I’ve randomly asked thirty students at Boston College the question: What is your experience with eating alone in public? 2 out of 3 people admitted to never having eaten alone on campus, while a whopping 3 out of 3 people remarked that they preferred not to eat alone. These are some of their comments:
The SOLOMANGAREPHOBIA-FREE group:
- “Eating alone is empowering. It also helped me to get rid of FOMO.”
- “I love eating with friends, but sometimes eating alone is so much more comfortable. There’s no one in front of me judging me for the way I devour my chili.”
- “I like to eat alone because it allows me to go at my own pace.”
- “Everyone should learn to eat alone. If we can’t do it at our own school dining halls, how will we ever survive in the real world?”
The SOLOMANGAREPHOBIA-FULL group:
- Eating alone is scary… I feel like people are always staring or judging.”
- “I don’t want my boys to think I’m a loner.”
- “Eating is such a social activity. I felt so weird having to eat alone this one time… I pretended to text my friends the entire time.”
- “It’s just awkward and uncomfortable.”
Professor David Miele, who obtained his PHD in Social Psychology at Northwestern University and currently teaches students at Boston College, says that the fear of eating alone has always been a “thing”. His words seem to accurately tell the story of many students at Boston College who have a fear of eating alone in public.
“We all like to eat. We just don’t like to do it alone.
Why? Because we, as human beings, can’t stand being alone.
We crave social attention. The American culture also plays a role.
We’ve been taught that eating is social. So, if for example,
I’m eating alone and at the table next to mine is a group
of friends chatting merrily and eating all together, I will automatically
feel like a less valuable individual—like a loner, even if I actually
have many friends in real life.”
A week’s gone by since I saw that dark-haired girl at the Rat. I wonder if she’s been grabbing lunch with anyone. I wonder if she’s been reading emails again. I hope that she’s actually reading them.