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Opening Arguments

Table for one

Remember when social observers decried the effect of television on the evening meal? People were sitting around the tube while they ate instead of conversing civilly across the dining room table, and civilization as we knew it would be doomed. Now, those seems like the communal good old days:

Indeed, a 1999 survey found that the number of people who ate alone at least part of the time tripled between the 1960s and 1990s. By 2006, nearly 60 percent of Americans regularly ate on their own, according to the American Time Use Survey. Today, that number is even higher.

Breakfast has undergone the most significant transformation. Roughly 53 percent of all breakfasts are now eaten alone, whether at home, in the car, or at one's desk, according to the latest report.

Lunch meanwhile is nearly as lonely these days. Some 45 percent of midday meals are had alone, according to the report.

Dinner is the only meal that is still largely communal. Roughly three quarters of all suppers are still eaten with others today. But even that is changing.

"Every meal is becoming a more solitary affair, even dinner" Seifer said. "People are eating alone at home and out."

So, yeah, households have been shrinking and people are too busy to make eating a social event. But I think we're becoming more solitary, too, or maybe we've always had a little bit of that in us. First radio sucked our attention away from the group, then TV, then computers. The social media phenomenon is enabling us to even isolate ourselves while seeking company.

Eating alone at a restaurant can make you self-conscious, especially the high-end ones. But it's never bothered me much, especially since I've learned the joys of Kindle. Just refill that coffee cup, and I'll dive back into Chaper 5. I eat a lot of meals at my desk at work, but eating in the car has never appealed to me.

Watch "The Big Bang Theory"? Man, they're always eating on that show. Never at a dining table, but in their favorite spots in the living room, usually not alone but in a group. And they don't even turn the TV on. Nerds.

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