New York Times Op-Ed Declares Brunch 'For Jerks'

In this Sunday’s New York Times, writer David Shaftel has declared brunch “for jerks” who refuse to grow up and instead wish to languish in endless adolescence while the real adults (like David Shaftel) live their adult lives. David Shaftel is getting older, and he hates it. A lot.

Shaftel isn’t upset with brunch as a concept; he’s just fed up with what he calls “the brunch lifestyle,” or “conspicuous consumption disguised as urbanity” for the pitiful adult babies he sees indulging in it in his brunchy Manhattan neighborhood.

Of course, Shaftel didn’t always feel this way. He writes,

I admit that I’ve found myself among the hordes on plenty of occasions. A particularly memorable fondue brunch in Chelsea that began at noon and broke up in a dive bar 15 hours later comes to mind. And there was the hedonistic all-day affair in Dubai, where I topped off courses of Japanese, Chinese and Lebanese food with a full English roast beef dinner, all consumed while hovering above the desert in an air-conditioned five-star hotel restaurant and guzzling a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot. Nor am I immune to doing a little brunch legwork — I’ve been known to travel great distances for well-prepared grits.

But now that he has a child and is 40 years old, he explains, he doesn’t have the time to do those things any more, and is bothered that other people do, that everybody in the entire world doesn’t age and mature at the same rate as David Sheftel.

Brunch for me, and none for thee.

One of the more horrifying elements of aging, for a person whose identity has historically revolved around youthful coolness, is coming to terms with the fact that there are always going to be people younger and more carefree than you are, and the older you get, the more of them there will be. They will listen to music you don’t understand. They will have hobbies to which you do not relate. They will like television shows that you think are dumb. They will use indecipherable slang. They will go to brunch in big groups on a Saturday afternoon and get drunk together while you stare wistfully from the apartment you share with your child. There will be so many of them. And because they are doing exactly what you did when you were their age, you will be tempted to lash out and call them childish. But you are not their age. You are 40. You have a baby. It’s their turn.

Sheftel goes on to justify his disdain for the brunch lifestyle by tying it to familial abandonment. He laments the end of the days when Sunday was reserved for spending time with one’s family. All those selfish youths, hanging out with each other instead of at their mom’s house, like jerks, are reflective of what he calls (hyperbolically, I’m assuming) a “malevolent” social trend of selfishness.

Once the domain of Easter Sunday, it has become a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood. It’s about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation. It’s about reveling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day. It’s the mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture.

I’m no defender of getting asshole-drunk at 10 am and spending the rest of the day puking on strangers’ stoops, nor am I willing to spend more than 40 minutes tops waiting for a table at the Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side. In fact, I’d rather fry an egg while pantsless and listening to Radiolab than cram into Park Slope’s Rosewater asses-to-elbows on a Saturday afternoon. I’m also right with Sheftel when he asserts that brunch is a time restaurant owners serve up their garbage food under a layer of hollandaise. And Sheftel is absolutely correct that jerks love brunch, but that doesn’t mean that everybody who loves brunch is a jerk.

What Sheftel doesn’t seem to grasp is that brunch, at least in my childless urban experience in a city far, far away from any members of my immediate or extended family, serves as a sort of surrogate family time. Every one of my friends works ridiculously hard at their ridiculous jobs so that they can afford to live in this ridiculous city, in a ridiculously small apartment too small for hosting much of anything, much less a get together. I don’t have the time or the energy or the space during the week for much more than a quick evening drink after work and before I get home and do more work. What I do have is weekend afternoons to get together and have a cocktail and eggs benedict with a friend I haven’t had time to talk to in three months. Believe me, if I had the luxury of the time and money to fly to Minneapolis every other weekend to hang out with my parents and their new puppy, I would. So would most New York City transplants in the brunch generation.

Have brunch, or don’t. It’s a free country. And if you argue otherwise, you sound like kind of a jerk.

Image via Shutterstock

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