What’s With Brunch?

A cause of urban ennui.

Urbanites do odd things; one of them is eat brunch. Brunch itself is a portmanteau word, jamming two fine and noble concerns, breakfast and lunch, into one Frankenstein event. There was a time when people would wake up, have breakfast, do some things, then have lunch, do more things, and then eat dinner. It all made sense and each was timed nicely with our bodies’ rhythms. We’re hungry when we get up, so we eat. We’re hungry again after we’ve done some stuff, so we eat again. We don’t want to eat too soon before bed, so we have dinner well before we sleep.

But brunch can ruin your day. Brunch can occur anywhere from late morning to late afternoon (there don’t seem to be any set rules), meaning people will wake up and not eat, lest they spoil their brunch, but they’ll be grumpy and hungry until “brunchtime” randomly rolls around. After brunch, whenever that is, dinnertime probably comes too soon, so people won’t eat but are hungry again before bed.

Of course, if brunchtime actually happens at lunchtime, it’ll still be brunch because of the ritual that surrounds it. Traditionally, people go to diners for breakfast or lunch. Some are fancy, others are all truck stop, but they work the same: you show up and a server brings you your food. Often you might get a big booth to sit in. Sitting in a booth makes you feel like royalty (or a member of the Rat Pack); it’s your own sovereign domain. These are good feelings to have. Everything works as it should.

Urban brunch tends to happen in tiny little, fashionably fey places carved out of old stores with lineups out the door and onto the sidewalk. The hungry and grumpy brunchers must wait once they arrive, adding to their self-inflicted pain. People don’t like to eat brunch alone, so longer waits occur as most parties want to put two or three of the small, awkwardly shaped tables together. People walking by brunch places look at those waiting outside with light disdain: Who are these people with so much time to burn? Isn’t there work to be done or other fun to be had?

Once inside, they’ll be crammed around a too-small table, knees touching other knees, the din loud enough to intensify the hangovers everybody is nursing. The equally hungover and grumpy staff—unlike at a diner, brunch servers are usually creative types who don’t like going to bed early—will resent the picky eaters they’re serving. Brunchers will grump about the small portions and bad service. When they do leave, still a little hungry, brushing by people waiting outside, they’ll feel the guilt of a wasted day. There’s no time left to do anything worthwhile. No beach. No cross-country skiing. No matinee performances. Brunch will steal your precious day away, so be happy: just eat breakfast.


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