Explain Like I’m 35: What is Girl Dinner?

Over the past few years, a common philosophy shared on social media has been that we should all know less about each another. This viewpoint and the infamous reaction image that often accompanies it is usually deployed in response to people sharing the most gross or personal aspects of their lives; like badmouthing someone on Twitter after a breakup, or doing an unnecessarily detailed tutorial of intimate hair removal. 

However, there is no stipulation that it only has to focus on salacious things. Sometimes the rule applies to, say, so many people showing us the low effort, slightly unconventional meal they’re eating that it gets a writeup in the New York Times. As if in direct response to the 2010s boomers who complained about millennials making Instagram posts with their avocado toast, the female members Gen Z have created their own chaotic take on sharing food on the internet. Forget the ubiquitous ‘What I Eat in the Day’ videos, Girl Dinner is where it’s at for a realistic look into TikTok creator mealtimes.

The trend has been attributed to @liviemaher, who went viral after describing medieval peasant eating habits as her ‘ideal meal’, then panning to a plate  of cheese, pickles, bread, and grapes and declaring it to be ‘girl dinner’. Expanding on these pioneering words, @karmapilled created a song for the phenomenon that accompanied a video of her eating a popsicle. 

Once this happened, the floodgates opened and out came countless women eager to show off the unconventional things that they were eating for dinner. It could be a bag of chips and a handful of candy, or really bland plate of pasta. The most important thing was that it didn’t conform to what we think of when we consider a tasty, full meal. 

At heart, the dysfunctional whimsy of this trend is not so far removed from the Katy t3h PeNgU1N oF d00m school of forced quirkiness, made palatable to TikTok with an annoying audio and a candid look into a part of peoples’ mundane routines. It’s an eccentric competition over who is the most disconnected from the polished lifestyle influencers who also have a lot of power on the platform.

Are TikTokers acting out against some kind of perceived expectation? Do these numerous videos of people eating a small amount of one random item glamorize eating disorders? Are all of us so incapable of producing a well-rounded, homecooked meal? Who cares! The tens of thousands who have contributed to this trend, apparently. Perhaps at a time when our feeds are bombarded with cartoonishly indulgent food porn and freakish engagement bait, people find these ‘realistic’ takes refreshing. Perhaps we’ve all been tricked into thinking ourselves and our diets are more interesting than they actually are. Cheese and crackers will always bang, though. 

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