When I was packing my lunch last night, I was almost impressed by how good it was. I
don't get that feeling very often of "this is exactly what you need" but last night, I got jealous of
the future me who was going to enjoy this meal. So now, as I'm headed to the break room, I'm
ready to devour my food.
Lunch is my favorite time of day, as I can imagine it is for most people. It's the time to sit
and relax. When I get hungry, I normally get grumpy so I depend on lunch to make those feelings
go away. I also love my particular lunchtime because normally no one is in the break room. I
take my lunch earlier than most people to avoid the traffic and it really gives me a sense of
I put my Tupperware into the microwave so I could set up my temporary dining table.
This is my tradition and to make the tradition even better, a recap of Real Housewives of
Potomac came out today so I had entertainment to accompany me. I leaned against the counter as
my food sat in the microwave getting ready for me.
Then my sense of peace was gone. As I was pulling up my podcast to be ready when I
was going to press play, James walked through the door. James is my older coworker who used
to be a cool alternative young guy and now is an alternative old guy who doesn't stop talking
about the good old days. I liked James from afar. He was nice enough and told dad jokes that
pained me but I managed to chuckle. It wasn't until he knew that I had seen Back to the Future or
could hold a conversation about Pink Floyd, that James started to really interact with me more. I
think I gave him some idea that I am an elevated, high-brow member of Gen Z. Not a regular,
sticky-fingered, TikTok-watching, One Direction-loving member of Gen Z (which I am).
Because of these revelations, he talks to me all the time.
"Oh, hey, Charity!"
"What's up, James?" I didn't look up from my phone very much because I hoped he
would understand that I'm preoccupied.
"What's for lunch?" Well...
"Arroz con pollo," I didn't want to ask but I was raised with manners, "You?"
"Ah, just a ham and cheese sandwich for me today. I also got this new flavor of Doritos
that sounded kind of good. I don't know," he shrugged.
I gave back a generous "hmm" and pulled my food out of the microwave. So, he was
having lunch now. That's okay, if we're eating, that means we won't be talking.
As I sat down, he piped up again. "How did you learn to cook, Charity?"
"I just get different cookbooks and try my best. I recently got a southwest one that had
this recipe and it seemed easy enough."
"Oh wow, good for you."
I nodded at him and pressed play on my podcast.
"Oh, do you hear what they're playing right now?" James piped up, excited. I paused my
podcast and listened to the radio overhead, "It's Elton John! Man, I love Elton John. I didn't
always but his music really grew on me."
I didn't know how to respond to this. I wanted to say something that would end the
conversation quickly but that seemed almost impossible, "Yeah, I like Elton John," Good
"Ya know, things are way, way different than they were before. Young people just don't
understand how many more options you have and how much more information you have than we
did growing up," here we go, "I mean, you have endless music and movies and all that shit.
When I was growing up, you listened to what was on the radio."
"Yeah, no one listens to the radio anymore. Not really. Or at least not in the way you
"The thing about radio is that like...it's so corrupt. I don't know if you know this but
artists actually paid to have their music boosted and that's why the radio would play the same
song over and over again."
"Yeah, but I think that's like, that's messed up or whatever. I also think that as a consumer
when I was 10 and listening to the radio, I didn't care if the artist I liked was playing over and
over again because that's what I wanted. And like, whoever's music was boosted but not good
their fame didn't last," I was mad at myself for saying so much but I couldn't help it. "Also, I
don't think that that form of sneaky promotion has ended. Like influencers and brands and stuff
do the same thing just in different ways."
"Yeah, that's true, I guess. But now you don't have to do that because you have streaming
services and stuff. Music just isn't the way it used to be."
"Honestly, nothing the way it used to be.”
"Thank God, honestly."
James let out a hearty laugh and I felt like I was going farther and farther away from my
goal of peace.
"It's true, though, ya know. When I was growing up, you played outside all day until the
street lights came on, and then you knew to get your ass back home otherwise you were in
trouble. Kids these days just don't go outside anymore. I used to be outside and everyone would
be at the park or riding bikes. Now, they're all inside playing on their phone and video games and
I took a deep sigh as he was going on and decided to just stand up for all of the kids out
there, “I don't know, I live in an apartment complex, and after school, there are always kids
playing with each other. Weekends, too."
"Hey, maybe, I don't see it, ya know. But it also used to be everyone all the time. I mean,
not to be rude or anything but it makes sense that the obesity epidemic would rise because no one
is active anymore. Not in the way we were," I just shoved food in my mouth so it got rid of the
expression on my face. No expression, just chewing, "And you have all this fast food and shit
and kids are lazy now. No offense, not to you and your generation exactly. But it makes sense,
right? Like, if all kids do all day is play video games and watch Youtube, and don't have to cook
for themselves. Now, you don't even have to go out and buy the food! You just order Postmates.
And I mean, I love the convenience too but if it's all you know, of course, it's going to impact
your work ethic."
Trying to think about the obesity epidemic and video games and work ethic all felt like
mental gymnastics I wasn't ready to confront. I wanted to say something about correlation and
causation. I wanted to say that this just all felt like an exhausting
"My-generation-is-better-than-you" competition that doesn't really exist or matter.
But instead, "Yeah, I don't know about all of that but I see what you're saying, I guess."
I took another bite of food and then there was silence and I thought I was free. Until he was at
the fridge, finally grabbing his food while I was finishing mine.
"Man, ordering food is crazy. I can't imagine how often I would've used it if I were
around growing up. It would've been bad. I didn't learn how to cook until I was much, much
older. I mean, I was eating boxed mac and cheese for years until I learned how to cook. I
definitely couldn't have dreamed of making arroz con pollo. Right, that's what you're eating?" I
let out a short, dry laugh and said yes, "Yeah, I would have no idea how to do something like
that. I mean, learning how to cook was awesome and it really gets you in with the ladies. I mean,
I loved cooking for my last girlfriend. Girls are always impressed by that shit and it made me
feel so good," I am not impressed, "It felt good to be like “Hey, what do you want to eat for
dinner tonight, I'll make you whatever you want” I want to do that again, I really do. I miss
having a girlfriend."
I tried to picture him voluntarily wining and dining a beautiful woman. She gets home
from a long day of work and he's standing there in an apron, wine in his hand and ready to give
her whatever she wanted. I grimaced because it was both weird to think about and felt very
unrealistic. What if what you wanted to make wasn't in the fridge?
"Have you thought about online dating? Like dating apps and stuff?"
"No, I wouldn't ever really do any of that online shit. Tinder and all that, that isn't for
"Are you going to go out to bars and stuff?"
"I feel like I'm an old guy, right, so I just can't approach a girl at a bar. Or at least, I can't
be all "Hey gorgeous, wanna come home with me?" That's not cool. I also don't want to be that
old guy who is just sitting at the bar by himself creeping on girls. It's also like okay, I've been out
of the game for a long time," It was at this moment that I realized, I didn't understand why James
didn't talk to his friends about this stuff. Or if he had any, to begin with, I wondered, "I don't
know what I would wear to a bar exactly or what girls find attractive. The times have changed, I
don't think girls go to bars and clubs in stilettos anymore."
"Do you have friends who have like single friends to hook you up with?"
"All my friends are married and I haven't asked them if they have any single friends.
That's actually a good idea."
"Honestly, I just really want to get laid. But I've only ever had 1 one night stand in my
entire life. I'm not a one night stand kind of guy. I want a relationship. But, boy, I really miss
Although my instinct was to feel bad, I couldn't help but find this sentiment annoying and
inappropriate, "I see what you're saying."
"And ya know, I love any type of woman, I don't care about race, rich or poor or
whatever. I will say - I don't really like big girls, though.." I took a deep, deep breath, "I don't
mind curves! But like, really, really, really, really, really big girls aren't my thing. I also don't like
this fake, plastic surgery shit. Ugh, I remember when there was that big style of fake Pamela
Anderson boobs and I hated that," I always feel like men are lying when they say this kind of
stuff. Boobs are boobs, "I love a woman with a natural body, I don't know why women get fillers
and all that other stuff. you don't need it. I mean, hey. You're a beautiful girl and I don't know if
you have any of that stuff but just know that you don't need it."
There seemed to be no response to this in my body that I could find. Every response I
could think of was either on the "I'm a feminist and I disagree with you" side of my brain or the
"I'm not going to disagree with you because I don't care about this conversation but if I don't
disagree with you I don't want that to validate your stance" side. When all I want to say is "I
don't want to hear about your preference in women, because it isn't any of my business and I
don't want to hear you discuss your feelings on women's bodies because it is beyond
inappropriate and weird and I just want to eat! My! Lunch!"
When I looked down, my thoughts were firing off so quickly that it took a second before
I realized that my lunch was gone. My food was gone, even my dessert. The lunch I had spent
time making, excited to eat, was gone and I spent the whole time thinking about how much I
didn't want to be engaged in these stupid conversations. Then, I looked at my phone and saw that
I had paused my podcast 3 minutes into it, which isn’t even so far in that the ads are done. I
stood up from my seat, tired from the final bits of this conversation and tired from being full.
"Yeah, I haven't had anything done but I think it's fine if people do get work done. It's not
Isabella Chasey is a full time cook and full time aspiring writer. During her free time, she spends time with her partner, dog, family and friends.