It seems like whenever I enter Morris Library, set up my cozy little study space on the third floor, and prepare myself for a deep intellectual journey into whatever Honors homework I may have, my stomach decides to make noises not unlike those of a rocket launch. Squirming around in my seat and making “ahem” noises only does so much to mask it, and fighting it just seems to make the groans worse.
It’s clear: this Honors kiddo needs food.
Fortunately, it’s a quick frolic across the Green to Caesar Rodney. However, in these situations, I often frolic alone.
Transitioning into on-campus life for the very first time, one of my main concerns was eating. Not regarding the actual food itself, but the literal consumption of food. Personally, I have a tendency to feel especially self-conscious when eating alone, as if the entire world is staring at me snarfing down my french fries and is thinking, “Gee, she must be lonely.”
Somewhat fortunately, I’ve been told I’m not alone in this predicament. Moreover, through my solo eating adventures, I’ve noticed that many people around me eat by themselves as well.
While you’d be remiss not to find a dining buddy from your classes or floor, as well as have a whole community of fellow Honors students from which you can choose to grab a bite with, sometimes you’ve just got to go it alone. Perhaps you’ve got a short period between classes or just earnestly desire some alone time. Maybe all of your friends have last-minute RSO meetings during normal dinner hours or you get an inexplicable craving for pineapple in the middle of a study session.
All of these are perfectly fine and arguably normal components of college life, but if you still find the prospect nerve wracking, consider this: have you ever actively stared at someone eating alone for the entirety of their meal?
I earnestly hope the answer is no. Regardless, it’s fair to say that your cafeteria companions are more interested in their own meals than psychologically analyzing your demeanor as you eat. While it may subconsciously feel as though everyone is looking at you attempting to balance chickpeas on a fork, to put it shortly, no one really cares.
Now, I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been a few bumps in the road in my independent dietary experiences. Fortunately, I have yet to spill anything (although I did have a close call with some cubed beets and a freshly-washed pair of light grey pants). However, whenever I look up from my meal to take in my surroundings, I often make awkward eye contact with fellow Blue Hens eating alone, sometimes more than once. Finding a spot to eat while balancing plates and cups can be an ordeal, and I have a particular knack for choosing tables directly under the speakers, frequently resulting in my chewing arugula in time to the “shun-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n” ‘s of “Welcome to the Jungle.”
But I haven’t let these minor detriments steer me away, partly because they don’t really matter in the grand university scheme of things, partly because I need food to function, even if that means getting it all by myself.
If you’re looking to ease into the table-for-one lifestyle, in my experience, Pencader tends to be relatively quiet (they also have smoothies). As Caesar Rodney can get a little overwhelming during certain hours, and given its propensity for blasting “Crazy Train” over its speakers about three times a day, I’d say it’s worth the walk to the relative solitude of Pencader if you’re just starting out on an independent dining journey.
Moreover, there are a few things to consider if you do eat alone. I personally don’t recommend watching anything or scrolling through your phone as you eat alone, since it can distract you from the reason you’re there: food! If you need to check your email or send a quick text, that’s perfectly ok, but by putting your phone away during meals, you’ll avoid the inevitable shock of looking up from your device and realizing you’ve mindlessly ingested a whole plate of food. Trust me: it’ll also help with posture.
Instead, focus on the flavors of your food. Look up every now and then and people-watch in a totally non-creepy way. Enjoy the music — bob your head to it if you’re so inclined. Glance outside the window to enjoy the scenery and sneak a peek at the UDairy offerings.
I won’t lie: eating alone can be very challenging to grow accustomed to, and it was something of a stressful experience for me the first week or two of the semester (my getting lost in Caesar Rodney about 6 times in the same time frame did not help). With a little perseverance and a positive attitude, however, it’s something that anyone can do with ease.
“Alone” is not the same thing as “lonely.” Independent does not mean aloof. As such, the next time you pass me in CR losing myself in the auditory experience of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as I chomp away at key lime pie ice cream, know that I do so with unequivocal contentment.