When someone is eating lunch alone in a communal context (school, army, etc.), it means they're being actively shunned by everyone else, or the student is the New Kid and has not yet made any friends. It rarely ever means that they chose to eat lunch by themselves. Often, their return into the fold will be symbolized by someone else accepting to have lunch with them. Or if they keep their outcast status, having lunch with them will be a sign of independence of mind and refusing to follow the herd. Or it could be because that person has very poor hygiene for days on end.
May end up being the fate of the Alpha Bitch when her poor treatment of others comes back to haunt her.
Very much Truth in Television. There are introverts who enjoy the solitude, and even extroverts with normal social lives are known to do it for various reasons. More rarely, there are numerous anxiety disorders that can make one extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable about having others watch them eat. Another reason for it to happen is that cooking and eating are (somehow) parts of one's culture, so eating together can cause various Culture Clash.
- In Sailor Moon, Makoto is seen eating her absolutely delicious and abundant lunch alone since everyone fears her for her huge height and bad reputation. Then Usagi bursts in and Mako lets her have some of it.
- Ai Haibara in Detective Conan claimed she was that. As a Child Prodigy, it is of course due to Intelligence Equals Isolation.
- In The Prince of Tennis, Kaidou Kaoru always eats lunch alone... to the point that the other students in his class scoot their desks away from his in order to give him a wide berth. In this case, it's not so much that he's shunned as that everyone is scared of him/creeped out by his aloof attitude. It doesn't help that he eats his mother's very high-quality traditional food in an overly reverent manner, which freaks them out.
- In the beginning of CLANNAD, Nagisa Furukawa is eating lunch alone at school because she's repeating her last year, so she doesn't know anyone in the current senior class.
- Sasameki Koto: Back in middle school, Kazama ended up eating alone (until Sumi suddenly joined her) after she accidentally outed herself to her friends.
- Justified in a tear-jerker way in Angel Beats!. Due to the system that the afterlife works in, Angel will always eat alone since being friends with her is automatic grounds to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. This picture sums her life up,◊ and for all we know, she may have lived this "life" for years. Granted that this was the implication, not the truth, as the members of the of the main cast found out when they befriend her, it still takes quite a while before they're able to 'move on'. She would eat alone because the people she wanted to help were antagonistic towards her instead.
- Bleach: Uryuu Ishida does this early on, and objects to being invited by Ichigo to eat with others.
- In Umineko: When They Cry, Ange essentially eats lunch by herself every day because she is constantly shunned and bullied by the other girls at her private school. However, she uses this time to read her cousin Maria's diary, which she sees as a way of communing with her, and later learns to summon magical beings, Sakutarou and the Seven Sisters of Purgatory, to keep her company. Depending on your perspective, this is either genuine magic and a great source of happiness for the long-suffering Ange, or a truly pitiable case of someone who has to resort to deluding herself just to stay sane.
- Rei from 3-gatsu no Lion is usually eating alone on the stairwell to the roof of the school or the roof itself, since he's yet to forge any bonds with his classmates. Only Hayashida, his teacher, comes up to eat with him on occasion.
- Yuuta of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions in his middle school years, due to his All of the Other Reindeer treatment (for being a extreme case of Chuunibyou). Thus he treats Makoto's offer to eat lunch with him in the first episode as a good start.
- In the beginning of Ao Haru Ride, Yuuri ate lunch by herself outside, even in cold weather, since most of the girls in the class don't like her.
- Chihiro and Yugami, who sit next to each other, both do this in Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai. In the former's case, she's a New Transfer Student that's yet to make friends, while the latter insists on invoking this trope. He's rather displeased to discover Chihiro is eating lunch beside him.
- How would this trope not be used when Haruka of Kotoura-san has a serious case of All of the Other Reindeer in the Downer Beginning? The situation actually reminds viewers of the Instant Mind-Reading Radius at the first scene of the anime.
- Gourmet Girl Graffiti
- Implied regarding Yuki, the local Shrinking Violet. In Episode 10, she mentioned before that episode's events, she had never ate with anyone that's not her family. She's a college graduate at this point, implying this trope. In fact, Ryou sees her dividing a large pizza into 4 single meals a bit "sad." Even after she got a job as the high school librarian, she still tends to have lunch in her car.
- Shiina appears to be this when she was in Cram School, mainly because she's a quirky loner.
- In ReLIFE, Kaizaki notices Hishiro does this and tries to convince Yoake to eat with her. It doesn't work, but Hishiro does manage to become friends with Kariu and Honoka.
- No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! deals extensively with the subject of social isolation, making this a fairly common trope.
- Tomoko suffered this badly for the longest time. Because she had no friends, and her anxieties left her unable to talk to people, all of her lunches were spent eating alone surrounded by groups. This got really bad when someone once took her desk, which forced her to consider alternative places to eat, ultimately choosing to have lunch in a room reserved for storing extra chairs and desks. When that was taken away, she just settled with not eating lunch at all.
- While Kotomi is generally better off than Tomoko, she's shown resorting to eating in the bathroom when her Only Friend is absent. Because Tomoko considers this the absolute lowest thing a person can do, she can only look at her with absolute pity when she finds out, despite disliking her.
- Smax in Top 10 initially eats lunch alone by choice.
- Dead Kid Fred in The Intimates is a zombie, and is generally found repulsive by the other students at his Superhero School, forcing him to spend lunch hour effectively alone. He does have some company, but it's just Sykes, a walking vegetable who can't talk.
- Happens several times in Supergirl books:
- In Supergirl (Rebirth) the titular heroine eats lunch alone when she is transferred to her new school since everyone thinks she's a weirdo.
- In Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade: Early on, Linda eats lunch alone because she is shunned and bullied the whole time by cruel schoolmates. Later Lena joins her, but both girls are still shunned by everyone else.
- The Blind Side: Except it's not lunch, but study hall: Michael always sits alone, until Collins leaves her study table to sit with him instead.
- Used twice in Mean Girls. On her first day of school, Cady Herron eats lunch alone in the restroom. Later, after her fall from popularity, she has to return to brown-bagging in the bathroom.
- Private Santiago is shown eating alone during the montage that sums up his miserable experience in the Marines in A Few Good Men.
- It doesn't seem to hurt Peter in Spider-Man.
- In Superbad there's a throwaway joke that depends on the viewer's understanding the mythos surrounding Eating Lunch Alone. Seth and Evan are eating lunch together when Evan gets up, claiming he has to leave. Seth protests, "You want me to eat lunch alone like I'm fuckin' Steven Glansberg?" and gestures to another table. We get a brief shot of a lone kid gazing into the middle distance and taking a pensive forkful of his canned peaches; then it's back to Seth and Evan, and Mr. Glansberg is never seen or heard from again.
- In Smart People, Vanessa Wetherhold (Ellen Page) eats alone during lunch. Though her outcast status seems self-inflicted, as she refers to others as stupid, often, to their face.
- The protagonist Brendan Frye eats alone, though he does it by choice.
- His friend also says that he finds lunchtime difficult, presumably for this reason.
- George McFly, in the first Back to the Future.
- Toula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding ate lunch alone as a child.
- Momoko in Kamikaze Girls is shown eating her (utterly adorable) lunch alone.
- Both played straight and subverted in How to Train Your Dragon, where Hiccup first eats his food alone in the great hall, then ends up literally mobbed when he starts doing very well at dragon training.
- In the Disney Channel original movie Brink, after the title character has a falling-out with his friends, he approaches them one day while they're eating lunch and says, "Can I sit here?" They all say yes... and then as soon as he sits down they get up and leave him there.
- Deb in Napoleon Dynamite, when Napoleon awkwardly compliments her. Napoleon himself would be, if not for Pedro.
- In Easy A, this happens to Olive after she's become ostracized by much of her school.
- In Welcome to the Dollhouse; a heart-breaking scene in a heart-breaking movie. This scene, where Dawn tries to find a place to sit in the school cafeteria and is rejected from every occupied table is also used in the film's trailer, because it completely encapsulates the deperate and hopeless mood of the film.
- In Pump Up the Volume , Nora uses this to identify Harry. He eats lunch alone in the stairwell.
- Warren Peace from Sky High (2005) eats lunch alone until the sidekicks start joining him. He's not happy about it.
- In Can't Buy Me Love the protagonist ends up eating lunch alone after his plans to become popular explosively fall apart when the truth is revealed.
- In The Lonely Guy Steve Martin's character, after a breakup, is uncomfortable eating alone in restaurants - until his lonely friend tells him what to do: act like you're a pretentious food critic. They'll assume you are and give you the best table, the best service, and the best food.
- In Disconnect, Ben is seen eating his lunch alone at school which underpins his status as a loner.
- The main character of the YA book Speak not only eats lunch alone, but in the bathroom.
- Harry Potter, at least once. Presumably, Harry would have had to do this every day at the Muggle school he attended before Hogwarts considering he was made a social pariah by Dudley's gang and their bullying.
- Rae Voight in Fingerprints looks for a different place to eat at lunchtime after her 'mental breakdown'.
- Tally in Uglies eats lunch alone when her operation is delayed, and later when she suspects that her friends know she's a spy.
- Ender's Game: The title character at the beginning of his military training. Significant in that commanders have their own mess hall; a new commander cannot enter until after his first victory. Typically they're greeted enthusiastically. Ender is not only the youngest and smallest: he's the only commander ever to win in the Battle Room without having first been defeated a few times. The other commanders—envious, spiteful or intimidated—pointedly withhold the congratulatory rituals.
- The title character in Ethan, Suspended eats lunch on the stairs outside the cafeteria as often as not.
- Nikki, the protagonist of Dork Diaries, eats lunch alone at her new private school before she meets Chloe and Zoey.
- Lu, the protagonist of Murderess, does this frequently, out of disdain both for the food the cafeteria serves and for her classmates, although the disdain is mutual―other students think she’s a loner freak and a black-clad basket case.
- In Finding Snowflakes the main character, who suffers from No Social Skills. He usually reads to avoid mortification and insists fictional characters technically count as people.
- In Worm, at the beginning of the story, Taylor Hebert has been eating lunch in the girl's bathroom for weeks to avoid a trio of bullies that have been targeting her for a year and a half.
- In Selfie, Eliza eats lunch alone, standing up over a trashcan. She says its better for digestion. At the end of the episode, Henry buys her a trashcan of her for his office so they can be near one another at lunch. She explains the digestion thing was a lie and that no one wanted to sit with her at lunch in school, so now she's just used to it.
- Battlestar Galactica:
- When Gaeta is suspected of having collaborated with the Cylons on New Caprica, he eats alone in the mess hall.
- Happens to Starbuck as well around the same period, not because she was hated but her captivity in New Caprica had left her bitter and anti-social. She finds company with the equally bitter and traumatised Saul Tigh.
- In one episode of Full House, D.J.'s first lunch period in high junior high is spent in the phone booth, eating lunch while listening to time and temperature, after she is snubbed by some older girls.
- In Misfits, Simon eats by himself until Alesha comes to sit by him.
- Veronica Mars, until Wallace decides to sit with her.
- Malcolm is seen eating alone in the first episode of Malcolm in the Middle. He explains how people actively keep their distance, and then an overhead shot reveals a crowd gathered at a wide radius from him, moving along as he does.
- Though in most episodes afterwards he actually has quite a circle of nerd friends around him during lunch.
- This is bookended nicely at the graduation ceremony in the final episode when the other kids give Malcolm and Reese a wide berth and the other guests give the rest of the family a wide berth. Though this time, the smell provides an in-episode reason. Doesn't excuse everyone besides the family giving Malcolm applause as he's about to make his valedictorian speech, however.
- In a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, Mary and Nina refused to have lunch with Dick:
Dick: Fine, I'll have my lunch alone! Like a man! [sobs] My apple is so tiny!
- Randy in The Wire was given the cold shoulder at the caffeteria after the word got out that he'd been snitching. Then his house got burned down.
- On The Steve Harvey Show, this trope is why Regina created the student assistant position in her office for Lydia as she frequently ate lunch in the girls' restroom because no one would talk to her.
- Frasier has struggled with this trope in restaurants on several occasions. Generally, he thinks he should be fine with it, as a cultured and self-confident adult... but it just feels weird. Of course, trying it on Valentines Day was probably asking for trouble.
- Similarly, Rachel from Friends had this problem during one episode after being stood up. She decided she liked eating alone in restaurants until it started to feel awkward.
- Weirdly subverted in Gilmore Girls, in which Rory often ate lunch alone in high school, reading and listening to music, until she was encouraged by her headmaster to sit with other students at lunch. Unfortunately, the kids whom she chooses to befriend have a weird initiation ritual where they "kidnap" her in the middle of the night, break into the headmaster's office and get in trouble. By the end of the episode, she was happily eating lunch alone again, and not another word was said about it.
- When Ja'mie King from Summer Heights High has fallen out with her friends, an inversion of this trope leads to her spending lunchtimes in the staff room, rather than eating alone.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is first treated warmly by Cordelia, who sees her as another Alpha Bitch. She is disturbed by the way Cordelia treats Willow however, and when watching her eat lunch alone Buffy splits from Cordelia and chooses to be friends with Willow instead.
- In Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Ami used to each lunch alone before befriending Usagi and the others. Later, when Ami is turned into Dark Mercury, she makes the other students shun Usagi, who is then seen eating lunch alone on the rooftop, where Ami used to eat.
- On Seinfeld, Elaine pretends to live in the janitor's closet of the apartment building across the street because her building isn't in the delivery zone for a certain Chinese restaurant known for their flounder. She says this is preferable to eating it alone in the restaurant "like some loser".
- Liz from 30 Rock (a Big Eater and Only Sane Employee) is repeatedly said to eat lunch in the bathroom at work just for some peace and quiet, although we usually see her eating with other people.
- On Peep Show, Dobby's family can't make it for Christmas dinner, and she declares that she's not going to go to a hotel to eat alone "like a millionaire madwoman." She then talks about trying to buy a last-minute turkey for herself, and Mark can't take the pressure and is forced to invite her to his family's Christmas.
- In Teen Wolf Boyd eats lunch alone, and states that the reason he decided to become a werewolf is because '“I just want to not eat lunch alone every day”'.
- Tuvok, the Vulcan security officer from Star Trek: Voyager. He does this through choice, though this doesn't stop him from being bothered by his human colleagues at nearby tables trying to draw them into conversation, or the excessively-chatty Neelix trying to force his latest Alien Lunch on Tuvok. Captain Janeway dines separately due to her rank, though she sometimes invites her Number Two Chakotay for a home-replicated meal. The Captain actually had her own private dining room, but Neelix turned it into a kitchen (without asking permission) early in Season One.
- The Billy Talent song "Nothing To Lose":
My parents never knew that I ate all my lunches alone in the bathroom.
- The music video for Taylor Swift's song "Mean" shows one little girl eating alone in the bathroom after being snubbed by the other girls for wearing the wrong color sash.
- "Miss Invisible" by Marie Digby:
There's a girl who sits under the bleachers, just another day eating alone.
- Charlie Brown eats lunch alone sometimes in Peanuts, sometimes while watching the Little Red Haired Girl who clearly has a lot of friends to eat with.
Charlie Brown: Some studies say those who eat peanut butter sandwiches are lonely. When you're really lonely, the peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth.
- In Adventures in Odyssey after a boy commits suicide a girl remembers that he used to sit alone when eating his lunch (it is hinted that he decided to commit suicide because of his loneliness). So she decides to invite a girl who was going to eat her lunch alone to sit with her.
- It is never said explicitly that he committed suicide. The girl does infer that if he had had at least one friend he would not have fallen to his death, because the train trestle he fell from was where he went when he was depressed.
- During the rehearsals for the original production of West Side Story, the cast members were encouraged to stick to their groups, even during their free time, leaving the actress who played Anybodys to complain, "No one will eat lunch with me!"
- Discussed in Wicked. Elphaba (ostracized since day one for her green skin) offers to share her lunch with her teacher, Dr. Dillamond, ostracized for being a Goat. She eats her sandwich; he eats the paper bag it came in.
- You do this in The Trail Of Anguish, being new and friendless. But the entire cafeteria applauds you for managing to finish your lunch at all.
- MAG ISA — Eman Cruz eats lunch alone cuz he’s not like everyone else.
- PHD: Eating lunch alone at the campus cafeteria makes Cecilia feel unbearably self-conscious.
- Misfile: Emily, after becoming two years younger, no longer dares sit with her former friends.
- In The Adventures of Shan Shan, Shan Shan eats alone. So does Adam, but Adam can pull it off.
- In the "December" arc of Bittersweet Candy Bowl, Mike tells Lucy she'll likely be eating lunch alone once the new year starts, as he won't sit with her anymore and expects the rest of their friends to follow.
- In Sinfest, cranked up as no one comes to his birthday party.
- Starfighter: Keeler, despite his friendly demeanor and officer status, is sitting alone at a table on the Navigators' side of the mess hall.
- The Onion: Obama's Approval Rating Down After Photos Surface of Him Eating Big Sandwich All Alone
- The Sad Keanu meme, born of some paparazzi photos of a somber-looking Keanu Reeves sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich. You can now buy a Sad Keanu action figure (sans sandwich, unfortunately).
- In Stop Bullying Now Milton was this way at first before he got friends.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man "Intervention" Gwen eats alone with Harry being Put on a Bus and Peter off under the influence of the alien symbiote. Mary Jane soon joins her, as she too has "Lost track of her clique."
- Valerie Gray of Danny Phantom in the episode "Shades of Gray." She's banned from the popular table thanks to her sudden lack of affluence and rather than sit with Danny, Sam, and Tucker, decides to sit on her own at another table.
- Poor "Big Patty" from Hey Arnold!, who's percieved as a bully but is really just shy, hates lunch period most because she's always eating alone. Harold, who befriends Patty and loves to eat, has difficulty comprehending this.
- Happens a few times in The Simpsons.
- More often than not, Meg Griffin from Family Guy sits alone at lunch time. Especially in the later seasons.
- When Peter secedes from the US and starts his own country, he is mocked at UN meetings and forced to eat lunch alone in the UN cafeteria. He is then approached by another ambassador who gives him some advice.
Ambassador: They don't respect you.
Peter: Whaddaya mean?
Ambassador: Listen to me. I used to be the laughingstock around here until my country invaded Kuwait. Now I have a seat in the third row. Look, the only way to get any respect around here is to find something you want and just take it!
Peter: Wait a second. If everybody respects you, how come you're still eatin' here by yourself?
Ambassador: I don't shower.
Peter: Ohhhh, that's what that is...
- When Peter secedes from the US and starts his own country, he is mocked at UN meetings and forced to eat lunch alone in the UN cafeteria. He is then approached by another ambassador who gives him some advice.
- Happened to Courtney Gripling from As Told by Ginger in the episode where she lost her position as the most popular girl in school to another girl named Hope.
- Happens to Lemongrab of Adventure Time in "Too Young" for a few reasons. He sent everyone in the kingdom to the dungeon, so he was alone anyway. Aside from this, he doesn't have any friends, and he doesn't like anybody because he's a jerk with social problems. Contrawise, nobody likes him, either.
- Hawkgirl in Justice League Unlimited. There's even a little bit of awkwardness beforehand when she and Wonder Woman reach for a tray at the same time.
- Mission Hill - Kevin tries to start a relationship with classmate Eunice, AKA 'Weirdie' (to get in good with her physicist father and get a letter of recommendation for college entry) - he introduces himself at the cafeteria where she's eating alone (however, she's quite comfortable in her loner status).
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Boating Buddies", Squidward wants to sit at the lunch table at boating school, but refuses to sit with SpongeBob, so he has to eat alone behind a dumpster "just like in grade school".
- Young Justice: In "Terrors", the Riddler is regarded as such a loser that none of the other supervillains will let him sit with them in the Belle Reve dining hall.
- X-Men: Evolution: The Blob/Fred Dukes in the episode "Mutant Crush". He decides to sit by himself at a secluded table away from everyone else rather than sit with the other Brotherhood members. It's because he hasn't made friends with them yet.
- Played with in The Lion Guard. Fuli's friends notice that she goes off to hunt by herself, so they decide to join her to make sure she feels included. They then learn that Fuli enjoys hunting alone and needs time to be by herself sometimes. Moreover, the fact that she needs to be by herself sometimes doesn't mean she doesn't still love her friends.