I’m going to try to get through this week with no questions about inappropriate touching. Ready, set, go.
Dear Captain Awkward,
All in all, it’s pretty simple: I really prefer to eat by myself at lunch. I love to read and write while I eat and not have to worry about making conversation. A little bit of time spent not working and not having to talk is heaven for me.
The problem is when I started work where I am now about six months ago, a friend from school started with me. We didn’t socialize a lot during school, but the whole thing was a huge trial by fire and we all bonded pretty firmly. So I’d consider him more than a mild acquaintance.
He hated eating alone, and so we ate together every day. I often wished I could tell him I’d rather eat alone, but I could never find a way. After he decided to switch to part time (I’m full time), I thought it would be nice to have lunch with him every other day or so, and I could occasionally have some time to myself.
But we had a new guy start. He’s a nice guy, and for the time I’ve known him I genuinely like him. I enjoy talking with him while we work in the office. But he started eating with my friend and I, and now that my friend isn’t here, I think he’s assumed we’re “lunch buddies” and that we’re always going to eat lunch with one another from now on. The fact that I don’t know him as well makes the idea of eating lunch just with him sound not-very-enjoyable, and frankly, I feel like I should be able to eat lunch by myself if I want. I’m a big introvert, but I like people, and I’ve learned to socialize and enjoy talking, but it’s EXHAUSTING, and I want a chance to be alone for an hour a day.
My family and other friends have suggested a few strategies: Bringing my lunch (but I like to go out!), making up an elaborate excuse, sucking it up and using it as a “networking” opportunity, which is ridiculous because we all work in the same tiny room and we network plenty.
So here’s what I want: I want to let my friends know that, although I like them and enjoy their company and think they’re good dudes, I just prefer to eat alone so I can read and work on stuff on my own. Please help.
BOY DO I FEEL YOU ABOUT EATING ALONE.
As a fellow introvert, I really need that hour with a book and silence in the middle of my day. Though on days when I’m freelancing and would be otherwise cooped up in the house, I enjoy Monday lunches with Commander Logic. It’s about balance.
Though it’s weird to change something that feels like a daily routine, I think it’s easier than you think to just tell them. The next time the “Where are we going to lunch today?” conversation starts up, figure out where they are going (so you can go somewhere else, otherwise, awkward!) and then just say something like this:
“Hey you guys, it’s always a good time to eat with you, but I’m realizing I sometimes need some time to myself in the middle of the workday to take a real break from this place/work out this thorny problem in my head/run some errands/take a walk outside. I’m going to go my own way today, I’ll catch up with you later.”
Then you do your thing.
If you get any “But whyyyyyyyyyyy are you avoiding us?” pushback, just say, “I’m not avoiding you, but I’m a total introvert, and I go kind of crazy if I don’t get a little space to myself sometimes, and I need to change it up. We’ll have lunch later this week, ok?”
And then once a week or so, you have lunch with them. You take charge of planning where you will go, you listen to them and be extra nice, afterwards you tell them “That was fun, let’s make this a weekly thing.” Maybe you put a little more love into that daily coffee break, and/or make sure you ask them how they are doing a little more often than you already do. If they’re both really social they will happily go out together, though sometimes really extroverted social people don’t understand the need to be alone and it’s sad-larious to watch them try to figure it out. “Wait, you want to be alone? But…I do not understand this word you are using.” That’s not your problem, though. If they are also introverts (possible!) they will be relieved to have the excuse to bail.
But guard that precious lunch hour with your life.