Forward Living Column: Eating out? Mom’s got her eye on you

04/15/2011 12:34 PM |

My mom, who is 92 years young, could have written a book on manners. Her warning to remember our manners included, but was not limited to, writing thank-you notes, addressing our elders respectfully and saying please and thank you. She also cautioned us not to stare at other folks and to keep our voices well-modulated.

Table manners were another arena in which Mom gave directives that started with the word “no.” No slouching, no elbows on the table, no grabbing, no talking with your mouth full. Mom’s phrase “You’re going to get a ‘what for’ if you neglect your table manners” still resonates in my brain. In case you’re wondering, a “what for” was a scolding.

Back then, dining out was a rarity. Fast food restaurants were practically nonexistent, or perhaps, with six kids, money was tight and my parents kept fast food a secret. While my kids were growing up, I noticed a proliferation of fast food eateries; however, we didn’t frequent them. Hmm. This may have had something to do with my upbringing.

Nowadays, eating out is pretty much the norm. This brings me to my burning question: Shouldn’t we establish some contemporary restaurant rules?

Recently, while Frank and I were dining out with another couple, we noticed that the restaurant was getting a tad crowded. Clinking our glasses together, we congratulated ourselves for making an early reservation.

Toward the end of the meal, we felt that all eyes were on our table. When the server asked if we wanted to see a dessert menu, the folks who were eyeing our seats seemed to wait with bated breath for our answer. Truthfully, I felt bad about saying yes.

Talking on a cellphone while dining out is not only rude, but also annoying to anyone within earshot. Worse yet are the folks who put their phone on speaker. The squeaky disembodied voice coming from the phone can take one’s appetite away.

On our first date, Frank and I went to a lovely restaurant on Staten Island. Frank was quiet and attentive while I was chatting away, as usual. Seated at the next table were a man and woman who weren’t speaking in well-modulated tones; they were having a doozy of a fight. Frank leaned in closer to me and whispered, “Not my style.” I was glad to know that.

Then, at the other end of the spectrum, are couples who engage in a lip-lock that goes on forever. I consider myself a romantic, but as Mom is fond of saying, “There is a time and place for everything.” And, folks, this ain’t the place.

Some restaurants leave their salt and pepper shakers out on the table. I’m not a germaphobe, but I’ve become suspicious of said items. We know that babies are notorious for putting stuff in their mouths, right? So pray tell, when Baby puts the saltshaker in her mouth, why do the parents proceed to place it back on the table?

The term “finger-lickin’ good” is often used to describe barbecued ribs and such. C’mon, lick your fingers at home. The folks at the next table don’t want to see a complete 10-finger demonstration with surround sound.

Miss Manners and Mom said it’s OK for us gals to discreetly touch up our lipstick after dinner. However, engaging in a full-face makeover would cause Mom to swoon.

According to Mom, talking with food in one’s mouth is a grave offense. Why then, after I put a big forkful of spaghetti into my mouth, does the server approach me and solicitously ask, “How’s everything?”

Frank and I are heading to New Jersey to take Mom to dinner. Undoubtedly, Mom will be watching my table manners, and you can bet that I’ll be watching them, too.

Ah, me. Some things never change. Mom is still a force to be reckoned with and has no problem giving me a “what for.”

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.