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Miss Manners: Dealing with ‘teasing’ from waitstaff

Dear Miss Manners: I don’t know how to deal with the rude comments I occasionally get from restaurant waitstaff about how I eat — specifically when I eat quickly, or eat everything on my plate.

I’m not overweight, and I’m male, so they may feel it’s okay to tease me when they probably wouldn’t do so with an overweight customer or a woman (as I’ve always been taught that it’s the height of rudeness to comment even obliquely about a woman’s weight).

So given my appearance, coupled with the “We’re all friends here” attitude you get in most restaurants, it feels like servers consider me fair game for this ostensibly innocent joshing.

But to me, it feels like they’re saying I eat like a pig, which I find both embarrassing and infuriating. Just this morning, when a server came to clear my table at breakfast, she paused to look at my plate and said approvingly, “Very good!” as if I were a child. I’ve also gotten, “You must have been hungry,” and “Wow, that was fast!”

For the record, yes, I do tend to eat fast, and yes, I do tend to eat everything on my plate. But that’s not the server’s business, and it’s certainly not appropriate for them to comment on how I eat the food I’m paying for. But I never know how to respond to these comments in a dignified way that also lets them know that their comment is inappropriate and hurtful.

You’re not all friends there. They are paid to wait on you, not to critique your eating habits. But yes, Miss Manners knows that the boundaries are often violated.

The tactful way to counter intrusive teasing is to take it seriously. “I’m sorry — am I going too fast for you?” and “Good? Yes, the food was good. May I have the check, please?”

Dear Miss Manners: I am hosting an Easter event, and my boyfriend and I have an etiquette conflict. I want to include gift bags with handwritten “thank you for attending” notes, but he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

Allow me to expand: We host an annual Easter celebration. The duration of the party is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Guests are instructed to bring a side dish, and we provide the main entree. Our activities, besides the food, include an egg hunt (for children and adults), an egg race (for children only) and egg decorating (also for children).

It is not Miss Manners’ job to discourage the writing of letters of thanks. Considering how often she has to chastise people for not doing so, it makes her dizzy.

But the gentleman is right that there is something not quite right about hosts writing to thank their guests for attending. It is fine for them to do so as the guests leave. But the next day is the time to reflect on what a great party the hosts threw, and the hosts themselves can hardly do that.

If the hosts beat them to expressing gratitude, it seems like prompting. And for occasions associated with presents — for which the hosts should certainly express thanks — it will seem like dunning.

Besides, although you are organizing this event, you and he are not the sole hosts. Requesting food donations means it is a cooperative party.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2020, by Judith Martin

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