Etiquette: Bad table manners show lack of respect

For the News-DemocratJuly 29, 2013 

Q. I have a problem that has been nagging me for quite a while. It concerns my husband and table manners. For the most part, we eat at home and he has become very lax when it comes to manners. It's starting to carry over to when we go out to eat and it's embarrassing. When I correct him, or ask him to read your column, he rolls his eyes, gets upset and tells me that "everyone" does it. "It" refers to any table infraction at all.

For instance, when he eats, his forearms, midway between his elbows and wrists stay glued to the edge of the table and he will lower his head toward his plate to eat. Also, sometimes he does not set his fork down for the entire meal, or he will use his non-dominate hand with the tines downward to put food into his mouth. And he will chop up all the food on his plate at once, or do things like stir the potatoes and gravy together. I don't mind when it's just family at home, but geez, in public?!

How can I get him to understand the importance of good table manners and practice them? Do you offer classes for stubborn adults?

A. I feel sorry for you having to put up with your husband's ill-mannered eating habits, whether you are at home eating with just him, or when family is there and when you are out in public. Shame on him! I have no tolerance for an individual who obviously knows better, but who prefers to act like an obstinate jerk!

Practicing good dining manners at home is critical if one hopes to be able to eat properly when in public. It is a matter of respect for oneself, for you and for family and friends.

I do teach dining etiquette classes for all ages from 5 years old and up -- individually or in groups; for corporations; colleges, universities; high schools; grade schools; businesses of all types and sizes; and organizations.

I would have to interview (probably by phone) your husband before I would make a decision as to whether I would accept him as a student in one of my group classes or in a private class.

Perhaps you could read my response to him at breakfast or lunch. I hope that will make him realize how immature he is acting.

Then I suggest you no longer correct him or even discuss his incorrect eating habits. It will be his decision as to whether he wants to return to doing what is proper.

If he is interested in a class, he can send an e-mail (see address below) and it will be forwarded to me, or he can call and provide his name, a phone number and a window of dates and times for me to call him.

Q. My husband and I like to order onion rings at several different restaurants. We have an ongoing debate about whether or not they are considered finger food? Or should they be eaten with a fork and a knife?

A. A fork and a knife should be used when eating onion rings in a restaurant. Or, if you can cut them easily into bite-size pieces with a fork, then use just a fork. If you are eating them in your car after having gone through a drive-through fast food restaurant, then fingers are acceptable. Be sure to ask for lots of napkins when you give your order.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to pkuhl@bnd.com

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