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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Busboy Routine Annoys and Embarrasses His Girlfriend

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Seth," and I are in our mid-20s and have been dating for seven years. We have a solid relationship, but I need your thoughts on something: He insists on cleaning up after everyone right under their noses.

We were recently invited to watch a basketball game at a friend's home. Appetizers were provided over the course of several hours. People kept losing their cups and plates because Seth "thought they were done" and threw the items away.

Abby, he was doing this in a house he had never visited before with people he had never met! He also does it with family instead of sitting and relaxing after the meal and enjoying the conversation. When we eat at a restaurant, Seth will pile up our plates and silverware as soon as he thinks I'm done "to make it easier for the server to clean up."

Clearing the table was not a chore my boyfriend was assigned as a child, nor is he overly concerned with neatness in other areas of his life. He's not shy around people, so he isn't keeping busy to avoid conversation.

He says he is being polite. I say he could volunteer to help tidy up at the end of a party, but he shouldn't touch other people's eating utensils in the middle of an event. What do you think? -- DATING MR. CLEAN IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR DATING MR. CLEAN: It appears you are dating a frustrated busboy. I don't know where your boyfriend got the idea that picking up other people's dinnerware without first asking if they are finished is polite -- because it isn't. In fact, it's rude.

I am also not as convinced as you are that your boyfriend is comfortable making conversation because he appears to be fixated on making "busy work" on social occasions -- which could be an indication that he feels socially awkward.