Originally published on It’s Not Where You Start.
This morning, I had brunch.
For many of you out there in internetland, this is not a bold statement. It’s Sunday morning, and if you’re not the church-going type, you probably had brunch as well.
Wait a sec… do people who attend church forego brunch? Or is brunch what happens after church? My goodness, if I had to give up brunch for Jesus, I could never be Christian!
Except, I had given up brunch for my religion. For the last eight years, I’ve steadily taught religious school on Sunday mornings (first at a synagogue, and later at our community Hebrew High School). This made brunch something akin to barbequeing and windsurfing, i.e., a summertime activity.
Now, I have been steadily brunching through the summer. And I was particularly looking forward to brunching in the fall with SEEMINGLY, because it’s his favorite meal of the week. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be (for now?), but I wasn’t going to let that get between me and brunch.
You see, brunch and I have a long history. In college, brunch was one of the things at which I excelled. At the risk of confirming stereotypes, let me tell you that brunch in the Harvard dining halls is exactly what you might imagine. Eggs made to order, fresh waffles (in later years imprinted with the Harvard shield), large platters of lox & capers… of course, other than the lox, the rest of that was available daily.
What really made brunch special, besides being able to have lox & popcorn chicken on the same plate, was the social scene. Sunday morning was a dead zone in terms of campus programming (outside of church, I suppose), so brunch was where it was at.
I’ve never been a small personality, so the concentration of nearly everyone I knew in one place tickled my flair for the dramatic. The way dining works at Harvard is, by and large, freshmen eat together in a freshmen dining hall, and upper-classmen eat by House. (If you’re unfamiliar with the House system, imagine Harry Potter, only each House has its own building with its own dining hall.)
I lived in Adams House, which had a tradition of being home to artists and eccentrics. Although by the time I reached Adams, housing was entirely randomized, many of us felt called to preserve and extend the Adams spirit. We had heard tales of students coming to meals in drag, or in the nude, or in costume either as an act of activism (Adams was the first House to go co-ed as well as an early haven for gay students). While I don’t recall ever dining in the nude (although, let’s face it, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility), I definitely came in costume, drag and otherwise, on more than one occasion.
My junior year, when I lived in Claverly Hall, the section of Adams House not directly connected to the dining hall, I made it a point to come to brunch in my bathrobe and slippers as often as possible. I wasn’t about to let a poor housing lottery number exclude me from my brunch in comfort. (Truth be told, I loved living in Claverly, but that’s perhaps another post for another day.)
Brunch in Adams wasn’t just about bathrobes and lox, though. It was prime people-watching. And due to the way I interacted with the world, that often meant that my friend Sarah and I would provide (loud) color-commentary on the goings-on of others around the dining hall. Junior year, we noticed a group of sophomores who had their own distinctive and noticeable dramas going on around mealtime, so we created nicknames for each of them and imagined what their stories entailed. Of course, before long we made first contact and befriended these newcomers, which ultimately only increased the size of my audience.
And that’s what brunch often comes down to for me. Sure, I love french toast and omelets as much as (if not more than) the next guy, but what makes brunch better than any other breakfast is the drama of it all. Back in college, I provided the drama as often as not. My loud and colorful retellings of vivid sex dreams I had about Nell Carter (then still living) and John Denver (recently departed) are still spoken of with awe. But once I moved to West Hollywood, where brunch is the civic pastime, I learned the value of watching and listening as well.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating brunch in a gay neighborhood, clear your calendar for next Sunday and hie thee to the closest available boys’ town. You’ll find yourself surrounded by two types of meetings: the morning after attempt to turn a one-night stand into something more (telltale sign: brunch begins with “remind me of your name again”) and the morning after debrief with the besties (telltale sign: at least one loud, overweight, single lady friend hanging on the gay boy’s every word). Get yourself the best seat in the house — ideally somewhere central — and just sip your coffee and enjoy the show.
This morning was the start of the school year at the Sunday school where I worked for the last five years. I took things slow, opting for a quiet brunch for two at the home of a friend. (He offered, and he’s a fantastic cook and generally lives like something out of Better Homes & Gardens, only gayer, so how could I refuse?) It was a delight to sleep in, leisurely head over to Cambridge, enjoy the meal and companionship, work out at the gym, and do a little shopping all before my former colleagues had finished their school day.
Post-script one: Did you guys know it’s still illegal to sell alcohol in Massachusetts before noon on Sunday? Crazy, right?! It hasn’t been an issue for me in the last eight years, but it was an issue today! No fears, I acquired my two kinds of beer (Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale & Sam Adams Octoberfest) on the other side of brunch.
Post-script two: I polled some friends on Facebook, and apparently church-going types can attend services that let out early enough for post-church brunch. Some even attend afternoon church services so there is no conflict.
Post-script three: Next week I will be brunching in Las Vegas, at the tail end of my brother’s 40th birthday extravaganza. But then I’ll be back in Boston and looking to make up for lost time, so if you’d like to brunch with me, let me know.