Let’s get one thing straight, boys.  Holding a fork with your fist is not permitted past the age of 8.When your mom stops cutting your meat for you, you should know the proper way to hold a fork.


photo:George Marks, allposters.com


I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Undateable”   list.  Don’t knock it.  Every single item is absolutely spot on.

Even though “Bad Table Manners” is number 47 on the list of 311 traits and habits that make  you guys undateable, it ranks much , much higher on my personal list. 

Like, oh, top 10.

While I hate first dates, and even more, first dates that are dinner dates, I do think a date with some sort of food, relatively early on, is critical. ( Really? Do you have to ask why?)

Truthfully, not too many men have passed my internal tests on all things table-related, but the ones who have, have been significant relationships in my life.  The ones who haven’t, well, haven’t.

Where to go?

When I was 21, I dated a local Southern boy who I thought was the bee’s knees.  He drove a white Nissan Z.  He fancied himself a bartender (though he wasn’t).  He liked to sleep late and he looked great in a pair of faded jeans.  For 21-year-old me, it worked.  One of the reasons I knew it wouldn’t work was that he liked to eat at Shoney’s. 


photo: George Marks, art.com

Unbeknownst to 21-year-old me, Shoney’s has a “legendary breakfast buffet.”  So legendary, in fact, that I haven’t eaten there since he treated me to it – once.

Should I mention that when making lasagna, his mother put all of the peppers, onions, tomatoes in the blender because her oldest son didn’t like “chunks of vegetables”?? Apart from really liking to eat, I wouldn’t call him a foodie.

Twenty-one is about the age-limit for taking your beau to Shoney’s for a date.  Sure, sure, many Americans frequent Shoney’s regularly.  That’s ok. For them.  However, most women (emphasis on women) over the age of, oh, 25, would not be impressed with this as a tactic for wooing.

How is that related to table manners?  It’s not, necessarily, but it taught me a few things.  Men who take their dates to Shoney’s , Applebee’s, Chili’s, any chain restaurant are, well, undateable.

Oh, you think it’s just me? I’m unreasonably picky? 

I don’t know any women turned on by this.  In fact, more than one friend has called or texted me, horrified, because someone new took them to an Applebee’s or similarly bad chain for a first date.

Guys, this is a huge no-no.  We don’t want to be distracted by the amount of flair on our waiter’s vest, or feel like we’re on a stationary Carnival Cruise.  A date to Applebee’s tells us, loud and clear, that you are not serious.  At all. You’re not a lover of food, or yourself.  You think Monsanto is the next coming of Christ. You might be depressed.  Or psychotic.

Or live with your mother.


Norman Bates. Photo: characters.wikia.com

When is Applebee’s acceptable?  After you’ve been out several times, you know you like each other, you get all giggly in each other’s presence, you’ve done the deed, and one night, you get totally wasted together and have the need for spinach and artichoke dip and you’re sooo googly-eyed and drunk that you don’t even know where you are.

Even then, mid-hangover, we’ll judge you over it.

Dinner dates for a first date are bad. Don’t do it.  Have a drink with the option for appetizers or, if you’re feeling optimistic, dinner later.  Come on.  You want it to go well, right?  It won’t if you take her to Applebee’s.  Unless, of course, she suggests it.  I say, in that case, don’t date her either, unless you long to memorize the “Under 550 Calorie” menu.


Now what?

So, say you’ve made it to date two or three.  You’ve chosen an appropriate restaurant, replete with tablecloths and more than one fork (always start from the outside in).

Here’s where the fun starts. 

I’ve mentioned many, many times that I, and every other woman on the planet, pay attention to how you behave.  For your convenience, a glossary, if you will,  of what your actions tell us:

  1.  Telling us our price limit.

If you don’t know what I mean, congratulations, you might be a worthwhile human being. If you do know what I mean, you suck.

Never, ever, upon opening your menu, give your date suggestions on upper price limits for dinner. Did you invite her to a restaurant with a $75 Surf and Turf option? Be prepared for her to order it. It’s just gentlemanly.   If you’re worried about that, choose a restaurant that is within your budget for both of you to enjoy a meal and wine (even if you don’t drink) for you both. 

Telling us how much we’re “allowed” to, essentially, spend, is the equivalent of saying, “Yeah, I don’t really care what you have to say, what’s important to you, or whether you’re happy or not. And, oh, by the way, I am really selfish in bed, but I think that everything I do between the sheets will send you over the moon and bring you back begging for more.”

We think that if you take us to Applebee’s, too.  In my experience, it’s been true.

2.  You wipe your nose with your napkin.

Yes, handkerchiefs are made of cotton, and many napkins are too. This does not mean that a napkin should be used in cases where you have the sniffles.  You can though, use your (clean) handkerchief as a napkin in emergencies.

Your napkin belongs in your lap. Always. Not tucked into your shirt. Place it in your lap.  Exception? You’re at the beach, eating really drippy, buttery lobster or loads of crab legs.  Yes, those are the restaurants that give you a bib.  It’s the only time after the age of 2 that is appropriate for you to wear a bib.

Men who wipe their noses with their napkins are telling their date that decorum is irrelevant.  Taking care of your sniffles at the dinner table is one thing (sometimes questionable), but using a cloth napkin clearly illustrates that you have no idea that you are not alone in the world.  You don’t share the remote. You don’t realize that anyone else even knows what the TV is, even if they do pay half of the cable bill. 

A man who wipes his nose (or his brow) with his cloth dinner napkins – no matter the caliber of restaurant – is self-absorbed, and like his bros who set price limits on our dinner orders, isn’t nearly as good horizontally as he thinks he is.  And, if you’re not careful, this man may wipe his drippy nose with your hair when you’re not paying attention.

Yes, I absolutely do know someone who has done that.

3.      You are a noisy chewer, you belch without saying excuse me, and you don’t look up or pause while eating. You don’t wait to start eating until everyone has been served, and you always take the last piece of bread, the last appetizer, the last bit of wine in the bottle without asking anyone else at the table if they’d like it.

All of the above (1, 2)  are true about you.  And you don’t know that sexual intercourse actually involves more than one person.



4.      You hold your fork in your fist.


This tells us that your mother, bless your heart, kept you a little too close to her apron-strings.  She may be a lovely woman, but she failed you in one huge way.  She didn’t teach you how to hold your utensils like a grown up.

Children hold their utensils in their fists because they lack the manual dexterity to deftly manipulate the slim tools.  Over time, manual dexterity (should) improve, thus allowing children, as they grow and evolve, to hold their utensils and use them, deftly.



photo: simonlitton.wordpress.com



photo: cliseetiquette.com


(Moms, teach your children how to hold utensils correctly. Don’t let them become adults still eating like a toddler. Future generations of women will thank you.)

If you hold your fork in your fist, and saw at your steak with the other hand there are likely several things true about you.

You may be a mama’s boy.

You might have a sweet side.

You could be painfully ignorant, and have no idea how ignorant you are, bless your little heart.

You might be a foodie, but diners in formal restaurants recognize you as a wanna-be.

You use a lot of ketchup.

You probably think we want you to sleep over.

You think you know where the OnStar button is, but, well, you don’t.

In many cases, you are stubborn, slightly stupid, and you spit a little when you talk. 

Learn to hold your utensils properly and we will not make these particular judgments about you (at least, not for this reason).

And, yes, holding one’s fork in this manner is absolutely a reason for me not to go out with you again.  Unless you are OUTSTANDING in every other way.

And, yes, that exception does exist.

We like you, we really like you.

Want to impress us?

Make eye contact during dinner.

Converse about what appetizers to share. Let your date take the first bite, and offer her the last.

Wait until your date also has her dinner before starting to eat your own.

Offer to refill her glass if the carafe (water, wine)  is on the table.

Place your napkin in your lap.

Know how to correctly hold your silverware.

Laugh at her jokes.

Suggest dessert (we’ll think it’s cute, rather than worrying about ordering it, even if we say no).

Don’t try to kiss her on the first date (no, this has nothing to do with table manners).

If you want to go out with her again, ask her for a second date during dinner. 

If you like her, text her to see if she made it home safely (unless you’ve picked her up, which is rare these days).

Do these things and we’ll judge you slightly less. We may even be impressed. At a minimum, we’ll know that you were raised right, and you aren’t a waste of hours of primping.

Need to know more about what we think about your manners, or lack thereof? Read this: http://community.artofmanliness.com/profiles/blogs/the-power-of-table-manners?xg_source=activity

Alternatively, if you’re interested in brushing upon your table manners, then this is the read for you:  http://artofmanliness.com/2010/03/26/guide-dining-etiquette-table-manners/

Thanks to Theartofmanliness.com for both.

The bottom line is, we want you to be gentlemen. Yes, we go through phases of wanting bad boys, but you know what? The bad boys are to play with.

We want a man, a gentleman who we can have a conversation and a good meal with, among other things (trust, cry with, laugh with, tease, share banter, flirt, rely on, you get the idea), so that we want to play with him for a very, very long time. Sometimes even on the kitchen table. Then, we won’t care so much about your manners, and , in fact, it could be us who might utter a “please” or two.




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