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by Abigail Van Buren

Father's Habit of Returning Food Proves Hard to Swallow

DEAR ABBY: I am in my 30s and moved out of my parents' home 10 years ago. Last week I decided to visit them, and we went out to eat. Dad has a habit of sending his food back to the kitchen -- "My steak isn't cooked enough," or "My food is cold. Could you warm it up?" He even does this at restaurants that aren't fancy.

Dad has done this my whole life and he's in his 60s. It's embarrassing for me and Mom, and it frustrates the cooks and waitstaff. Is there a polite way of telling him to stop this behavior? He takes any criticism personally. -- EMBARRASSED IN THE NORTHEAST

DEAR EMBARRASSED: You are certainly free to tell your father that this habit embarrasses you, but after all these years, you and your mother are not going to change him. Restaurants are in the hospitality business. If your father isn't satisfied with his food, he has a right to ask that it be served to his liking, and most restaurants will gladly comply. We are not responsible for the actions of other people, and because of that, you should not feel embarrassed about something over which you have no control.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics