Table manners: Knife and death at dinner

by Dating Goddess on September 4, 2009

table mannersI’ve heard men say that women are too picky about unimportant aspects of a man’s behavior. I think it depends on what one considers important and unimportant.

Many women would consider table manners important (or somewhat important). Few of us appreciate a man who chews with his mouth open, talks with his mouth full, licks his knife or lowers his head near the plate to more easily shovel food into his maw. Yet men who have these behaviors haven’t a clue they are important, and would probably rebuff anyone pointing out their bad manners.

Yet for women, this can be a deal breaker with a man who hasn’t ingratiated himself to her. If she is on the fence about a guy, his table manners can be the kiss of death — the only kiss that will be present that evening.

Last night is a case in point. The guy was pleasant, nothing glaringly wrong, although he seemed to have some difficulty finding topics to discuss. I drew him out and shared relevant information. Dinner arrived. He cut off large chunks of his chicken parmesan and stuffed them into his mouth as he continued to talk. The spaghetti, which is hard to eat gracefully under any circumstance, was consumed via large forkfuls, then protruding stands slurped in. This was punctuated with large draughts of bottled beer.

Our potential romantic partnership fell to the other side of the fence — with a thud.

I wondered — briefly — if I was being snobbish to not be enamored with uncouth table manners. I decided, no, that my partner must be someone with whom I can feel comfortable in polite company. Not that I attend society balls, but I do dine with bank-president clients and worldly friends and colleagues. I can’t be with someone whose table manners are embarrassing.

In the past, some beaus’ dining etiquette was so bad it elicited comments from my family members after the event. One licked his knife in a white-tablecloth restaurant. I don’t relish making excuses for loutish behaviors.

If you chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full, stop. If you don’t know which water glass or bread plate is yours at a table for 8, get educated. It’s really not hard — information is easily available. Or maybe you don’t know you’re doing something others would find oafish. Ask someone who you think would know proper manners and get their discrete feedback.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Gatti September 5, 2009 at 2:38 am

I’m attempting to encourage a nearly 14 year old boy not to chug his beverages at dinner, get his face to a reasonable distance above his plate to prohibit shovelling, to chew the first portion of food before inserting the next one, not to lick gravy off a piece of sausage then use the piece to wipe up more gravy to lick, etc., etc., etc.. Actually, he’s good dinner company conversation-wise and knows perfectly well how to eat properly, having been taken to nice restaurants all his life. I think it’s just a matter of teen ennui and not paying attention, which, as you describe, some men have never been made aware of.

I give him scenarios where his eating act would work against him (dinner with the boss, business lunches, dates…).

Don’t get me started on his posture! (Although in a cafe in France recently, after one gentle reminder to sit up straight, an elderly man humped and bent over nearly in half came in and sat near us. It was like we’d ordered him from Central Casting as the perfect scare tactic! A look was all that was needed then and “Lille Man” is all we say now.) I did tell him about your “posture as power” blog. Start ‘em early, start ‘em right, that’s my motto!

Lilybeth September 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I had once dated a man, teacher by profession who seems to forget his table manners. My friends and sister thought he was sweet and asked me why I did not give him a chance. I said no way would I give a chance to a guy who licked his fingers while eating in public.
Another episode in my dating experience, a guy asked me out for dinnner and when the order arrived it seems the portion was too, big for me to finished it off so I offer him the half portion he said no thanks. I can take it home to my kid after. That was exactly what he said. When dinner was over, I had the other portion packed for take-out and lo and behold he took that with him! Ooops! I thought he said I can take it with me … , lol…

Anna September 8, 2009 at 11:00 am

Thats too funny DG, (well from the Blog point of view, not funny to witness over dinner!) I agree….like Gatti I am always promting my teens into good table manners and when they slip at home (as they sometimes do) I quietly correct them and explain why its important. My son sometimes laughs and says well, the Chinese, the Arab cultures etc. eat like such and such. I tell him he can eat like that if he wants when he gets to live there but meanwhile has to adapt to cultural expectations and manners in THIS culture. But I have watched him when we eat out and my teaching has paid off. A grown man should not have to be taught, I don’t care what background he is from. What you described is just bad manners, plain and simple.

Dating Goddess September 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I’m glad you’re all teaching your kids the importance of manners! And Anna, I’ve traveled abroad quite a bit, recently to Dubai and SE Asia, and educated, cultured Arabs eat with good manners! Maybe it’s different at home, but at lunch or dinner, they ate like we do!

Speaking of teaching kids, at the weekend wedding I spent time with a 22-year-old young man I’ve known since birth. Somehow posture came up and he told me his mother was always telling him to stand up straight. I told him women found men sexy who confidently stood up straight. He said he had new motivation to stand straighter! So sometimes you just have to find out what motivates them!

Elena September 10, 2009 at 6:32 am

DG,
Is that the wedding where your ex-husband officiated? How did it go? Was it awkward seeing him again in that setting?

Samantha September 10, 2009 at 10:01 pm

While sitting outside of California Bistro in Santana Row this past Sunday, my guy licked his fingers as he finished some part of the meal we were having. I was shocked. This is a delayed thing as he has never displayed this one before. I promptly told him, “dont lick your fingers” to which he replied, “OK, sorry.” Whoa. So, ya never know. These bad manners could be lurking in the background ladies…. this is a guy who has regularly and for years dined out at the finest restaurants(more recently with me). It was a turn-off, but I can’t end it on just that incident. I wanted to say to him, “uh, what the 7734 are you doing?” Whew. Whoa doggy.

Dating Goddess September 10, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Samantha: If it’s once in a while, I wouldn’t sweat it, although you were at a nice restaurant. At home with fried chicken (or chocolate!), hard to not want every morsel. Glad your guy took it so well!

Samantha September 11, 2009 at 9:49 am

It shocked me. I guess it made me think that no matter how they present themselves, there might be an uncouth caveman lurking. I laugh to myself every time I think back to that moment when I saw him doing it. It was like my eyes wanted to do that thing (i think there was a cartoon character who did this) where the eyes totally bug out of the head and go back in. I wonder if he thought it was OK because we were sitting outside and over on the side in between Yankee Pier and California Bistro, where he could slip it in and impress me? There weren’t very many people around.

Dating Goddess September 15, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Elana: Thanks for asking! Yes, it was that wedding. It was odd seeing him again after four years. But it was even more strange to hear his voice. He has a deep, “radio” voice and it is part of why I fell for him in the beginning. I always loved hearing him talk.

But all and all, I didn’t get emotional about anything I thought might trigger me. But then I’d done a good deal of work to release those emotions before the event, then had the backup of my support-date, who was a doll making sure I was taken care of throughout.

jamie July 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I need help!!! My fiance and i went to dinner with her grandparents and parents. All went very well except i was scorned afterwards for not using a knife to cut my veal. The meat was very tender and didn’t need a knife to be cut. Instead i just used the fork. We did get into a small argument over this because i feel that using a fork when not needed is just to make people think i am someone i’m not or just trying to impress. Most people that i read about say something about their others doing something in public. Like licking fingers or talking with ones mouth full. This is what they dont like. Now i do understand the licking of fingers and talking with your mouth full is not right. But!! Not using a knife? Is this for real? please help!!!!!

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