DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wonderful husband is everything I could want; however, his one flaw is his table manners.
My profession requires me to attend upscale business dinner meetings, and we are asked to join friends for meals as well. Unfortunately, most people we encounter at these events are completely turned off by my husband’s table manners -- which also, for some reason, reflect badly on me. We have lost many friends and I’ve lost business contacts as a result.
I am used to it, but others are not! He likes to eat with his fingers rather than use dining utensils, even greasy foods that get all over his hands and face. If he does use a utensil, it’s a tablespoon to scoop up the food all the faster. He will ask the server for a tablespoon the moment we are seated, even though nothing requiring one is on the menu. He also drinks soup by picking up the bowl and slurping it down, and stares at other people’s plates if they contain food that he enjoys, waiting for them to put down their spoon for a moment and then asking if he can finish the food on their plate.
At one business dinner in a very upscale hotel dining room, we were seated eight to a round table. Desserts were placed before each diner, and after “inhaling” his chocolate cake, he went around to everyone at the table asking if he could have their cake if they weren’t planning to eat it! Most of the diners at the table intended to enjoy their dessert, but at a normal, leisurely pace -- which he assumes means they don’t care for the food placed before them.
The shock on their faces showed that they didn’t know how to respond, and most inched their dessert toward him. He happily sat at the table with six other desserts in front of him, tackling one after the other, while everyone looked on in disgust. Then he excused himself from the table, announcing he had to “go wash up” since the grease of the steak dinner was all over his hands and face.
Needless to say, I lost all further contact with any of my associates who dined at that table with us. Gently suggesting change does not work! Neither do dirty looks or reprimanding statements. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: Your husband’s behavior reflects badly on you because ... he is your husband. The sole reason for his inclusion at business functions is in that capacity. But even in social situations, you cannot expect to avoid some measure of censure.
His behavior is abhorrent, but you are the one most able to take corrective action. You -- or rather, he -- therefore have two choices: Reform his manners or cease to include him. This will be easier in your business life than your personal life, since you can tell your husband you have to avoid further damage to your career -- ”business people are so unforgiving” -- and you can tell your business partners that your husband was unavailable.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)