It may come as a surprise to some people, but there’s a lot of work to be done in college. Papers, lab reports, readings, projects, paperwork, applications… We students are a busy bunch. Some (unfortunately for their schedules) are also very extroverted and social. During the week, it can be extremely difficult to find time for everything you want to do — either you lose sleep or grade points by choosing to hang out with friends, or you miss out on fun times while you stare forlornly at your laptop screen. The struggle is easier for some than others, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to be around people, you have two options during the week aside from just not doing your homework (no, you should do your homework): doing work with other people, which can make it pretty tempting to goof off and get distracted, or do the social dance of mealtime socializing.
Whether it’s a close friend that you want to catch up with or someone you just met that you’d like to know better, the dining hall is pretty popular as a place to meet up and talk about what’s been happening in your life. Here’s how it often happens: You pass a friend on campus.
“Hi! It’s been so long! We should totally get a meal sometime!”
“We definitely should! Just text me anytime if you want to!”
So you wait a little while and text them, and after some back-and-forth and frequent menu-checking, this generally results in a meal together scheduled sometime in the following two months.
Some people avoid this dance by acquiring a Regular Meal Slot™ with someone (right now I have two: Tuesday and Friday dinner!). Others also like to organize “reunion dinners” with sponsor groups, OA groups, or any group of friends that have spread out over campus as time goes on. Because I love to make lists — not to mention that they seem to be trendy on the Internet — I want to devote the rest of my post to describing a few common types of mealtime socializing. Without further ado,
The Seven Lunches You’ll Eat at Pomona
1. The Too Many People
This one is incredibly common in your first year here. Frank Dining Hall has lots of circular tables designed to fit five or six chairs, but with your sponsor group you may discover that they can actually fit (n+1) people. I’ve also seen sponsor groups join two tables together to create two giant, likely fire-hazardous tables. This happens at lunch but especially at dinner, and it’s usually very hectic, full of laughter, and lots of fun.
2. The Pre-Lab
You’ve asked your friend to join you for lunch before you both have your 1:15 classes (these are very common). Sadly for you, you or your friend — whether by choice or by necessity — have procrastinated your pre-lab assignment for your afternoon science lab. One or both of you spends the lunch furiously scribbling away in your lab notebook while shoving down Frary noodles. You agree that you should have lunch another time to make up for your/their inattentiveness.
3. The Intruder
“Can I join you?”
Sure you can! Unfortunately, the two friends you’ve asked to join are newly in a relationship (or about to be) and don’t seem to notice you. Alternatively, you and your lunch buddy, Friend, are joined by Friend’s Mutual Friend, who proceeds to chat amiably with Friend about a class they’re taking together. If it’s another one of your friends who doesn’t know Friend, you also might spend the lunch trying to get the two unacquainted lunch buddies friendly enough so that you don’t have to carry two separate conversations at once. It might sound awkward, but on occasion, this leads to meeting people or getting to know someone you weren’t close enough with yet to ask to lunch yourself.
4. The Rant
Hey, Friend! It’s so good to see y– Okay, let me tell you all the things I have to do and all the things that made me angry this week. (This is one of my personal favorites.) When you’re done, it’s Friend’s turn. This is your outlet for stress, a safe space where you have a silent contract of listening in exchange for being able to vent. You catch up pretty effectively and usually proceed into pleasant conversation by the end, newly refreshed by the outpouring.
5. The Nod and Yeah
You don’t know this lunch buddy particularly well, which means that you’re not entirely comfortable with the inevitable natural gaps in conversation. While you go through the interesting process of making a new friend, you also go through a copious amount of “so yeah” and nodding about nothing in particular. Sometimes, this eventually yields to a friendship and one of the other categories of lunch!
A variant on this is the awkward Oldenborg language lunch, where you don’t know the person you’re talking to and are speaking the language in question on embarrassingly different levels. Getting to know people and learning Chinese at the same time can add extra dimensions of awkwardness while you make an effort, but pays off twice as much. Eventually, who knows? You might even learn to say “so yeah” in a new language!
6. The Heart-to-Heart
A few lunches after the nod and “yeah” lunch might come this fulfilling, personal interaction: the heart-to-heart lunch. One of you helps the other talk through a concern, one of you is having a terrible day and needs some sympathy, or maybe both of you just need to express your feelings and put the “personal” back in Mudd personal pizza night. You and Friend leave the lunch knowing more about each other, feeling closer and with more mutual understanding. (Sometimes this combines with #3, which can be poor timing…)
7. The Intellectual Discussion
They probably tell you on the college tour that Pomona students are intellectual and like to discuss current issues. That’s pretty accurate, and I’ve personally had many of these kinds of meals. You or Friend learned something fascinating today in class. Maybe you’ve had some thoughts about gender or physics or environmental impact or immigration policy. No better time to discuss it than here! I usually leave these lunches feeling grateful for peers that appreciate this kind of conversation.
All joking and list-making aside, getting a meal with someone can be a wonderful way to get to know them. It’s a great way to socialize during the week if you don’t have time to hang out, and it’s always great to see old and new friends over yummy foods and desserts.