From Miss Manners:
Dear Miss Manners: I am appalled that on more than several occasions, I have had friends, family or employers assume that since they don’t have lunch (during an entire day when I’m helping them), neither do I.
At the very least, I would like them to state, “I don’t have lunch, but you’re welcome to do so at this time, if you chose.” I don’t think it’s my place to bring it up, since I’m on their turf.
I end up very starving and very angry. In my opinion, it’s highly disrespectful to assume that someone who is helping you has no interest in lunch. I would never let a friend, relative or employee go without lunch, and I am amazed that people even consider conducting themselves in this manner.
Gentle Reader: Feeling grouchy, are we? Have a sandwich; you’ll feel better.
Miss Manners cannot offer you one at the moment, but she can offer you the means to get one. Simply ask, “When are we breaking for lunch?” While your hosts certainly should have offered, it is not odd for you to ask because, you point out, lunch is part of the normal routine.
Should the answer be “Oh, I never have lunch,” you can cheerfully reply, “Well, I do, so I think I’ll take a break and go get some.” In cases where you are doing a favor, you might add,
“So maybe we should break for the day.”
I can definitely see this from both sides of the (lunch) table. I get cranky when I don’t eat and need to if I’m to maintain my sanity and to keep working through the day. But I’m also known for not breaking for official meals. I’ll snack or graze, or decide to take lunch at 4:30 or something, and tend to feel constricted by folk who need to stop and sit down with a sandwich, a milk carton, an apple, and a cookie at precisely noon for Lunch. Nevertheless, the folks who do are smarter than I am: they know they need the break and the fuel, and take it. Everyone’s different and runs on a different schedule.
I have to say though, that as a sporadic eater who half the time forgets to feed herself, it can be exhausting to keep track of which people you’re working/socializing with need to eat specific meals at specific times and make plans to meet all of their needs. As Miss Manners suggests, if this is you, I think you should just say so and take care of it yourself. (This is different when you’re a guest somewhere and your host has the responsibility for making sure you have the things you need–this can still wear me out as hostess because I forget–not because I’m evil and sadistic–but it’s still my job and one I took on).
When you’re working on a project together (at work or with friends or relatives) it’s your own job to stand up for yourself and eat when you need to–don’t expect others to take care of it for you. Especially “during an entire day when [you’re] helping them”–these kind of help-days are more common, I think, with older relatives. They may not feel the need to eat as much, or may not have the means to treat you to lunch. Alternatively, workaholics may get so into what they’re doing they have no idea how much time has passed.
Just as you shouldn’t have to skip lunch to accommodate them, they shouldn’t have to stop working and eat because you want to. Just eat (or don’t) as you choose!