Dear Lola,

How do I avoid having to eat lunch with coworkers when they invite me somewhere? I eat lunch out of the office at one of the many restaurants within walking distance. Many of my coworkers do the same and they routinely ask around if anyone is going to the restaurant they have chosen so that people can eat together. I typically remain silent or just mumble something about having not decided and that’s worked out well. Until it didn’t. The other day I decided to use my excuse of having not decided where to eat and headed out immediately to get some distance from the pack. There was an extremely awkward moment when I looked up as my food was arriving only to notice several coworkers being seated at the table next to mine. How can I avoid having to eat with my coworkers?


Lone Luncher

Dear Lone Luncher,

I can just see the mental calculations running through your coworkers’ heads as they were walking to the table next to yours. Obviously, you knew exactly where you wanted to eat because, despite walking from the same office, you managed to get seated, order your meal, and have it served to you at the table – all within the time it took them to get to the restaurant. Unless you’re a secret superhero with the gift of speed, your coworkers knew exactly what kind of stunt you pulled.

If you are a superhero, then today is your lucky day!

My first solution for avoiding your coworkers was going to be to pretend you are a superhero who fights crime in their free time. Lunch breaks, that downtime between dinner and dessert, or even prior to reading a really good book on Saturday mornings – whenever the mood strikes, you must be ready to spring into life-saving superhero action. One of the hallmarks of Superman’s ability to save Earth time and time again was his lunch breaks while working for the newspaper.

Surely your coworkers prefer the Earth not to explode in a giant ball of fire.

If, however, you are not an actual superhero, the first solution may not best suit your needs. While you may still be tempted to pretend you are a superhero, I fear you’ve missed out on the opportunity now that your coworkers have actually seen you eating lunch. The only way that particular solution would work is for you to never, ever, be caught eating lunch when you should, in fact, be out saving the planet from aliens from outer space.

I can assure you that no workplace gives you enough time to save the planet and also have a plateful of tortellini.

Is there any chance you could pack your own lunches? I know, I know. What am I thinking?? Why anyone would willingly choose to pack a meal instead of having one magically appear in front of them is beyond ludicrous. I have never had to cook my own meals and I can state, for a fact, that my life is much better because of it. Instead, I wave my magic wand (it’s my tail) and the humans in my vicinity spring into action and shower me with all manner of edible offerings and gifts until my belly is full and in need of a nap. Much like your relationship with the restauranteurs. Perhaps you could grow your own tail and wave it at your coworkers in order to turn their attention away from your lunchtime shenanigans. Alright, let’s be realistic.

You need a solution that makes this situation less awkward and growing a tail would not achieve that goal.

It’s time to go with a tried and true method by starting up the gossip train. Let it slip one day that you’d love to join them but you are meeting someone for lunch. When they press for details, which they will, be coy. You want to pique their curiosity in order to get them to leave you be for a few days. Eventually, someone will become emboldened enough to ask you to once again join them for lunch. This is when you let a new detail slip about your lunch partner only having this time to meet each day.

This will undoubtedly lead to rampant speculation about your midday secrecy.

Perhaps your lunch partner is a member of the mafia who needs to spend their evenings taking care of business for the family. Or, maybe your lunch date is in the witness protection program but was unable to cut off all contact with you due to their deep infatuation with your skills at picking delicious restaurants. I know it sounds weird, but I’ve seen humans stay in relationships for a lot dumber reasons. I can name three people who would risk their lives for a delicious meal, and that’s without even giving the list my full attention!

However, none of these solutions really address the awkwardness of the situation you’ve created.

You should find new employment and then go with solution one. You can totally pull this superhero gig off if you just commit to never being seen by your coworkers in public during the lunchtime hour. As for what to do with that hour, I recommend you hire a driver to bring you a lunch you can eat… while he drives you around the city looking for crime.

Hey, I did say it would take commitment on your part.


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