I love to meet friends for lunch. In big groups, or small groups, or when it’s just two of us. We catch up with each other’s lives, trade travel stories, or family stories, swap books… whatever. I guess you could say, I’m a lady who lunches. An unrepentant lady who lunches. 

I say unrepentant because apparently the term “ladies who lunch” is a pejorative one. Often accompanied by a sneer, and a smirk, and the implication that doing lunch is, as Preston Davis said in a recent post on her blog Keep It Chic, “a signifier of an idle life.”  Preston says that she too loves to lunch with friends. Because keeping up with friends is important. Meeting for breakfast just isn’t on since she does most of her work in the morning, and dinner is family time. So lunch it must be.
In her post Preston refers to a 2012 Vanity Fair article called Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunched! by Bob Colacello. In writing his piece on the idea of ladies who lunch, Colacello was gobsmacked that practically every rich socialite he interviewed “swore they were not now and had never really been ladies who lunched.” Huh. Even though they’d socialized with the famous ladies who did do lunch (Babe Paley, C.Z. Guest, The Duchess of Windsor et al), and of course they ate lunch themselves, they weren’t ladies who lunched. Uh, ok-ay. 
I guess these very rich women were aghast at the thought they might be pigeonholed as having nothing better to do than lunch. And I can’t blame them, really. The 1970 Stephen Sondheim song “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch,” from the Broadway hit Company, depicts ladies who lunch as lounging about in caftans, “planning brunch on their own behalf,” and drinking too much scotch. Oxford dictionary says the term “ladies who lunch” is a “derogatory” one, And Urban Dictionary pulls no punches at all, saying the phrase refers to “rich middle-aged” women who have “no jobs or other meaningful way to occupy their time.” Ouch. 
You should read Colacello’s article. It’s pretty interesting, if you can keep all the names straight. He gives the whole history of the “ladies who lunch” phenomena. Or you could read the novel Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin, same idea. 
title page for  Vanity Fair article "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunched!"
From Bob Collacello’s 2012 Vanity Fair article
Me, well, I love to go for lunch, as I said. 
I was a teacher for many years, and for teachers lunching in a restaurant in the middle of the week is a treat. A luxury. Something that we do only on the weekend, or during summer break. Most days during the school semester, teachers don’t have time to leave the building at lunch. Or the school grounds.
Our lunch time is spent wolfing down a sandwich as we rush off to a department meeting, or an extra-curricular event like a staff-student ball game, or our Multicultural Festival, or we might have to help the kids who are putting the finishing touches on the school newspaper. Or we’re grabbing our sandwich to eat while on hall duty, or yard duty, or worse… cafeteria duty. All the while cursing that we’re wearing our new Max Mara suit because we forgot it was our cafe duty day, and hoping against hope that there won’t be a food fight. Ha. I know some of my former colleagues are laughing at that last example, and thinking, “Oh, Sue, only you were worried about your new suit.” 
And if we do sit down to eat with colleagues for twenty minutes, we then use the rest of the lunch hour to finish up some marking. Or maybe print off and photocopy a test, rearrange the desks and tables in our classroom for a group activity, chase up the pad of chart paper and boxes of markers that have disappeared from the supply cupboard, and get the AV equipment set up for our first afternoon class. Let’s just say that teachers are busy at lunch, with no time for lunching in a restaurant. 
So when we do eat out… in a restaurant… in the middle of the week… we’re thrilled. I remember marvelling when I first retired, at being out in the “real world” at lunch time… during the week. 
table of women at lunch
My first “ladies who lunch” lunch as a retired person , May 2013
Of course, now I’m used to it. Being retired for five years, I’m an old hand at doing real world stuff during the week. And I’m most assuredly a lady who lunches. A lunching lady, if I can be called a lady. I think I curse a bit too much for that label, but never mind. Besides, since I don’t own a caftan, hate scotch, and am not rich, I’m not afraid of being pigeonholed as one of those ladies who lunch. 
I think that the only people who are afraid to admit that they are a lady who lunches are the people who’ve always been able to do lunch whenever they chose, who could afford to be idle if they wished. And are maybe just a little defensive over that fact. Sigh. Best get over that, ladies. 
For me and my friends, I think that just because we while away a couple of hours, a couple of times a month, doesn’t mean that we’re idle the rest of the time. Or have nothing better to do. Or that we haven’t earned our leisure time. 
Or that we’re not very grateful to be able to be a lady who lunches. Once or twice a month.

In fact, I’d like to propose a toast to the real ladies who lunch, and who deserve to do so. Ha. So there. Take that Stephen Sondheim. 

Any thoughts, my friends, on lunch, or ladies who lunch? Or on anything, really. 

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33 thoughts on “Lunching Ladies”

  1. As always, an interesting and thought-provoking piece, Sue. When I worked, I met friends for lunch, close to the office. The one hour slot was perfect for catching up. You got me thinking. I rarely lunch out of the house in retirement. It seems to break up the day and I lose the momentum to achieve after a lunch. So I mostly meet up for an early supper. That seems to work for me. But I get you and your lunches and that the luxury of time and circumstance allows you to now plan your meet-ups. Having not been able to leave the school for a proper break for a whole career of time must mean you really relish lunches now, and your happy smiley face in the pic confirms that ! Oh and BTW, the lady opposite you looks so understatedly stylish in her stand-up collar shirt and chunky necklace.
    Hugs, x.

  2. I love the idea of lunch in a restaurant! Be it with friends, family or alone. It seems such a treat and yes, perhaps a little decadent:) Like you I rarely had a lunch break, as such,at work apart from the occasional rushed 30 minutes in a hospital canteen!
    I tend to do early dinner with friends, as some of them are still working but I love to “do lunch” with my husband during the week or on a Sunday and my daughter at the weekends. I do admit to occasionally lunching out alone … it makes me feel as though I’m on holiday and does feel quite special and relaxing. Although there’s often that little voice in my head reminding me of other things I should be doing … as it is now, as I sip coffee in the sun when I should be finishing my “ clearing the utility room project” As I’ve said before though, if I start my day early with a walk and a coffee I’m far more likely to feel positive and therefore productive for the rest of the day!!
    Have a good day Sue, I hope the suns still shining!
    Rosie ( on my phone again! Still no idea why sometimes I can’t comment as myself even though I’m signed in!! )

    1. Ohhh… cleaning projects. Don't remind me. They require a lunch or tea break in between or I lose motivation fast!
      P.S. Have you tried cleaning your cache or browsing history? Sometimes that will do the trick.

  3. You say lunch? I say where? I just wish our mid-sized town, that has one of the highest eating out ratios per capita in the US, had better places-too many chains. Also like to have friends to my house for light lunch or tea. It is small pleasure after being a school librarian for many years that ate lunch on the go as I had time.

    1. Too many chains around here as well. We have a lovely restaurant in our village now, though, which has become my lunch spot of choice. Great food, lovely ambiance, and only three minutes from home:)

  4. Your piece brings back a lot of memories. I love the fact that you wore your Max Mara suit to work. My students could even tell if I changed my eye shadow colour. They often asked why I bothered to dress so well. I always said because you are my clients.

  5. Hi Sue
    I worked in a busy dental office and it was rare to get a full hour for lunch. Yesterday, I met 2 girlfriends for the most enjoyable 2.5 hour lunch. Next week with another. Being an introvert, this keeps me social. I love lunching!!
    Ps…love Scotch…never at lunch or wine. Can't drive afterwards. Lots of coffee! 😉

    1. Ha. That's the downside of living in the country…I don't dare have wine with lunch. Makes me sleepy in the afternoon.
      P.S. Your wedding outfit sounds great.

  6. When I retired from a 30 year high school teaching career my goal was never to have to rush eating lunch again and for the most part have managed to hold to this philosophy. Well remembered are the noon hours spent helping students, preparing for labs, setting up equipment, marking, holding meetings, supervising…now lunch is a time to relax, reflect and linger. It is a true break in the middle of the day to recharge batteries and whether alone, with my husband or out with girlfriends it is a special time of the day I don't take for granted. Food is meant to be savoured not gulped down as a person races from one task to another…retirement has given me the gift of being able to savour food and conversation…here's to all ladies who lunch! Cheers, Alayne

  7. I love to get together with girlfriends for lunch. Like you, there simply wasn't time to enjoy that while working full time. It is a leisurely, fun and wonderful way to stay connected. And it has the added bonus of being easier on the retirement budget than dinner out.
    I also regularly get together with friends that are still working by meeting for "Happy Hour". Luckily we all live in areas with good public transit as sometimes we get too "happy"……hahaha….all good
    Suz from Vancouver

  8. Yes to lunch, the finest meal of the day. And just reading about your teacher lunchtimes…brought it all back. Cramming down food, hoping to get a chance to go to the loo, hoping no child will appear at the staff room door with tales of woe…or parent ring up…so glad that is all over and in the past. These days I relish lunch be it big or small. There is no benefit in ever letting yourself say: too busy to lunch, no time to eat, got too much to do.

  9. Lunching out is something I associate with holidays a rare and wonderful thing! On those rare occasions when I'm not working on a week day and head out for lunch I'm always fascinated by the insight into a whole other world. More long lazy lunches are something I look forward to in retirement. So funny imagining your stress levels as you patrolled in your Max Mara suit! Definitely need to dress down on supervision days. Iris

    1. Ha. I used to hate cafeteria duty. It always amazed me that students would get up from a table littered with paper and bags and blithely walk away, then look affronted when we asked them to clean their table and put their trash in the garbage can. And if we didn't catch them before they left we usually picked up the garbage…and me in my good suit…no less.

  10. As Iris said,for me,lunching out is connected with holidays,travel,having guest….
    I would like to be the lady who lunch -from time to time-( Patti LuPone is perfect!) but that's not a thing here,we meet for a looong coffee-if it is in the morning-,for drinks or go out to the dinner.
    My friends are either still working or dieting or saving money,so lunch is not an option
    Lunch time on my work was usually non-existent
    It seems that young generation here lunch out together more than we did

  11. Of course the Ladies Who Lunch are not retired ladies, such as you and your friends. The phrase refers to a specific group of women who most definitely didn't spend decades working. There's no "ouch," no overlap between you and them. Why exactly did that phrase catch on and, and endure? Decades since the phrase's inception, I am retired and frequently eat lunch with a friend in very nice restaurants. We both have been known on occasion to say to the waiters, "we're ladies who lunch but we're not like *those* ladies who lunch! We worked for decades, are politically engaged, etc. And we actually eat while ironically those ladies just pushed the food around on their plates because they ate out almost every day. So Sue: you are not a Lady Who Lunches even if you occasionally are a lady who lunches.

    1. I meant that "ouch" on their behalf… those ladies who probably were ladies who lunched but are afraid to admit it now. Funny how people still think that it apples to regular women who have time to meet friends for lunch. I think that's what resonated with me when I read Preston's post the other day… people who are not retired have actually said to me "I guess you're a lady who lunches now." I just smile, and say…"Yep."

  12. I don't often do the "ladies who lunch" thing, but would love to do it more. My last lunch with the ladies was our book club. I loved that lunch!! Great blog, Sue. Love the video!!

  13. I prefer lunch out to dinner , usually with Hubby . Perhaps because if we’re lucky there is sunshine & sometimes we actually manage to sit outside . There’s a wide variety of eating places in the city here , mainly because of the visitors but there are some good country pubs around too . I also meet up with a group of old workmates regularly & we love the luxury of not having to clock watch . One of the great joys of retirement for us all .
    Wendy in York

    1. The only time I can get Stu to sit in a restaurant for lunch is when we're travelling. He's not much of an eater-out for lunch or dinner. When we were in France in 2015, at one small village in the Languedoc area, we found a beautiful picnic spot and went back there with a bottle of wine and a cooler of food to have dinner. But by then it was quite cool, so we ate with our jackets and gloves on. Still, we were beside a small stream, with fields behind and a lovely 12th century bridge in view. We laughed that this was out kind of eating "out."

  14. Absolutely love lunching with ladies. It's my time to catchup with what's happening with them and my own life. In fact today I will be lunching with a friend from up North. We haven't seen one another in ages. So it's catch up time. It's that one on one quality time that everyone talks about. So here's to the ladies that lunch.

    1. Yes, Une Femme, Brenda Kinsel, Antique Goddess, Amid Priviledge, Cindy Hattersly, Classic Casual Home, A Well Styled life. And we have a ball! So let's here it for Ladies who lunch!

  15. I read Colacello's article. WOW. It reminded me of an uber-high school social situation. Those "women who lunch" had an entirely different agenda! Wasn't Truman Capote a rascal!?!
    I, too, am a retired HS teacher. We had less than an hour for lunch. Many a time, I gulped down my food while grading or getting the next bio lab ready. Now my retired colleagues and I meet for a weekly hike in our local hills. So thankful for their continued growing friendship and shared laughter over memories. Sometimes I had lunch with a student or students during our brief respite. That was fun and so meaningful. Several have remained in my life through college graduations, weddings, and, yes, lunch! 🙂
    Overall, gathering over food is a beautiful sensory experience of great company, good food, and beautiful
    surroundings. So thankful for those times…I wonder if the ladies who lunched in Colacello's article were missing some of those elements.
    Charlene H

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