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by Abigail Van Buren

Nephew's Table Manners Make Him Unfit for Civilized Company

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 50-something single man living with my elderly mother. My father passed away a while ago, and the only members of my family left are me, my mom and my older sister, who has a 27-year-old son, "Jeff." They do not live with us.

My sister has been divorced for 10 years. Jeff and his parents never had a scheduled dinnertime, and they never ate together. Jeff's meals consisted of whatever he wanted, eaten in his bedroom.

Once a week, my mother makes a nice dinner and invites my sister and nephew over. The problem is, Jeff was never taught proper table manners. He eats like a caveman, slurps his food and holds the utensils like a 2-year-old. It's embarrassing. When I mention this to my mother, she gets on my case about "criticizing" him. She sees the problem, but doesn't want to say anything for fear of offending him. His mother sees it, too, but does nothing.

Jeff has no girlfriend or significant other at the moment, but if he were to go to any "nice" restaurant, he'd end up looking idiotic. It has reached the point that I can no longer look at him while we are at the table because it ruins my appetite. How can someone tactfully teach this kid how to eat and conduct himself properly? -- CAVEMAN'S UNCLE

DEAR UNCLE: This is a sad situation, considering how many social occasions revolve around food. If no one ever took the time during the last 27 years to explain basic table etiquette to Jeff, you can't blame your nephew for his atrocious manners.

You should speak to him about this -- but privately -- and ask if he would like you to give him some pointers. However, if he refuses, you might be happier eating elsewhere when your mother invites Jeff and his mom for dinner.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Family & Parenting