Dietary Dating

by admin on October 24, 2011

My friend told me this story a few years ago.  It’s not as horrible as some of the other stories I’ve read, but it definitely illustrates the need for a “Dating Etiquette for Dummies” book.

In college, my friend was asked out by this guy she met at school.  He was cute and seemed pretty nice, so she said yes, and he took her to a nice restaurant for their date.  When they got there, they were seated, and the waiter walked up to them and asked them what they would like to drink.  Before either of them had even had a chance to glance at the menu, her date took it upon himself to order not only their drinks and his food but also her food as well!  If I remember correctly, it was steak or something similar.  Too shocked to do anything else, my friend sat there in silence as the waiter wrote down the order and walked away.  Feminism aside (and my friend is a strong supporter of feminism, so that was his first mistake), if her date had even bothered to, perhaps, suggest this meal to her (e.g., “I have to recommend that you get the steak here.  It’s the best I’ve ever had.”) instead of taking it upon himself to make her decision for her, he would have found out that my friend is a vegetarian.

Perhaps he was trying to impress her by ordering the best thing on the menu.  We don’t know what his reasoning was, but he did not get a second date (due to this and a general personality clash).   1120-10

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

Tanz October 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I have never, ever heard of this as a ‘romantic’ or ‘gallant’ gesture, so I’m not willing to give the guy a pass. To presume that other people in your party are so socially stunted that they are unwilling to talk to the waitstaff themselves is bad enough but to assume that you can order their food for them is insane – and controlling. Opening a door, pulling back a chair – they’re accepted ‘old’ manners, acts of chivalry. Ordering for someone else is a restaurant isn’t.

And Myfamily – I think you did the right thing. A boor like that would not have listened to you anyway – he already wasn’t listening to you! And you didn’t leave the restaurant staff out of pocket either so I think you’re covered, etiquette-ly speaking :)

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sv October 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I don’t find this rude so much as I find it presumptuous and very old- fashioned. My first thought is that the guy was probably trying to be ultra-cool and failed utterly. The friend should have spoken up and simply said that she is a vegetarian and would order for herself. That’s what a first date is about, right? To learn about one another.

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Sarah Jane October 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I’m going to look at this from another perspective for a minute. My (former) in-laws used to invite us to dinner, announcing, “We’re going to take you to the finest (insert name of special dish) restaurant in town!”. Then, when we met there, they would proceed to order everyone whatever the house specialty was without even giving us a moment with the menu. Yes, sometimes it was irritating, but we tried to accept that they were being generous and made the most of enjoying their company.

Granted, that scenario is different from a date, and certainly not the case in the OP’s story, but sometimes people want to spotlight what they consider the best meal in the restaurant, and sometimes the people they’re treating to dinner don’t have a problem with it. Still, it’s always better to discuss it beforehand.

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Nadine October 24, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Sometimes people just do things out of habit. Maybe the guy was used to going to this restaurant with a prior girlfriend, a parent, favorite auntie, whatever, and just ordered the same thing he’s always ordered without thinking about it.

I went to lunch with a business associate, once. He knows I don’t like coffee, but as we sat down he said “Two coffees with cream, please”, out of absent-minded habit. (He’s married and his wife does drink coffee.) I said “Hey, make that ONE coffee!”. My friend just laughed and placed open palm to forehead.

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A October 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I’m trying to put myself in the situation…and, nope, that server wouldn’t have left the table without knowing that I was not about to eat a steak. Having not eaten beef in over ten years, I’m sure I would have started laughing out of embarassment for the poor guy who really didn’t think to ask first. If he persisted with the need for me to eat said steak, we would have ended up with separate tabs or an early night…

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Greencat October 24, 2011 at 8:33 pm

High schools really need to teach a training course on how to behave on a dinner date. I’ve had a few guys who told the waitperson that we were ready to order when I had not, in fact, decided yet. That irritates the crap out of me and guarantees that I will not go on a second date of any kind with them.

Ordering my meal without consulting me would have me telling the waitress to cancel my entree order and that I would be paying for my drink and LEAVING. Only twice have guys ordered for me, and each time it was A) after extensive discussion about what was being ordered and B) shared food. Actually, one of those times, I wasn’t even the guy’s date – I was sharing a platter with his girlfriend – but he paid for the table’s food.

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AE October 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Puts me in mind of Zap Brannigan:
“I’ll have two steaks, and the ladies will each have a very sensual salad with a very low-fat sensual dressing.

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PrincessSimmi October 24, 2011 at 10:54 pm

OP, I’m glad your friend didn’t give that guy a second chance.

I work in food service. We understand some people have allergies, preferences, intolerances, and general fussiness when it comes to their food.

Just last week we had someone come in to the restaurant with a salt allergy. We had to stop, clean everything (which took AGES) and make a special meal of plain salad, hot chips (salt-free, of course) and rump steak for this person. Which is fine, I completely understand how annoying it is to have a food allergy – I’m allergic to wheat, sugar, some dairy products and shellfish. The kicker? The guy with the allergy had never shown up, and HIS FRIEND ordered for him anyway! All that time and effort and the meal was thrown out. Both the chef and I were so angry we had to go out the back so the customers wouldn’t hear us ranting about it. It’s made me promise I’ll never ever do that to a restaurant. Can you tell I’m still angry?

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bunnyface October 24, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Sarah Jane: I read this in a similar way, like the young man was trying to do his best to make a good impression, and since I think the steak dishes are usually the most expensive (am I right about that?) it could have been his way of saying ‘Money is no object for this special lady!’ or something similar.

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Nancy October 25, 2011 at 2:15 am

This is an old-fashioned gesture that actually used to be based on making your guest feel comfortable. You know how when someone invites you out to dinner (and they’re picking up the tab), there’s always that awkward point when you’re staring at the menu and trying to decide whether to get an economical salad, the mid-priced chicken and pasta, or the pricey crab legs that you’re actually craving? And then, when the waitress comes, you hope that she takes your host’s order first so that you can choose an option in the same price range as him? Well, having the host order for the guest was supposed to remove all worrying and awkwardness about the price of the dinner. However, for this to work, the host should present the guest with a few different options (“Are you in the mood for the pasta, the seafood paella, or the steak? They’re all great here.”). Also, some nicer restaurants used to have menus printed without any prices on them. So, in theory, this isn’t a bad idea. It’s like peeling the price tag off of a gift before giving it. I was once on a special occasion double date with a couple who’d been together for a while, and the man actually did order for the woman, but a) he asked which of a few entrees she preferred, and b) he’d been with her long enough to have a good idea of what she wanted, and c) she found this practice endearing and was expecting him to do it, but d) had he not offered her anything she liked, she would have been fine with telling him what she had in mind or, if all else failed, looking and the menu and prices and deciding for herself, and e) this was only a special occasion kind of behavior… he didn’t order for her at McDonalds or anything.

However… on a first date… ordering for someone else is just awkward. I’m not sure if the guy was merely super nervous and wanting to make a good impression and caught up in the advice of outdated dating manuals, or if he was just bossy and rude. I could see it going either way. Still… bad plan.

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jess October 25, 2011 at 3:37 am

I would say he saw it on Titanic. The scene where all the rich ones are at dinner and Cal orders Rose ‘steak very rare’ and Rose looks disgusted and frustrated, One of the other guests says ‘are you going to cut her meat too Cal? I think this guy must have thought it is what rich men do fer their dates and was trying to impress her. Either that or he was extremely controlling.

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Enna October 25, 2011 at 6:58 am

@ Chocobo: with MyFamily I don’t think the man would have listened to her – it does depend on the sitatuion. If the man was just clueless then the woman politely correcting him is fine. If the man is being a rude and offensive and the woman feels uncomfortable enough to but confident to tell him she’s going that is fine. However if the man is so arrogant and obnoxious or if he has been very creepy I can see why the woman may leave without telling him incase he decides to follow her.

@ Jess, I’ve never watched Titantic film but from what I guess an engaged woman who is enganged to an arrogant idiot falls in love with a kinder man – so is this meal before or after the flirting? This kind of scene would show how clueless the man is not to mentioned uneducated about his date’s/fiance’s likes and dislikes.

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Enna October 25, 2011 at 7:14 am

P.S I agree with Yet Another Laura too, I would find it creepy if someone INSISTED on ordering food for me espcially when I had made my peferance known. MyFamily had tired to say what she wanted and he was FORCING something on her. It woud make me think what else is he going to force on me? If he can’t listen to me now what kind of bf/paretner/husband would he be? I don’t think when I date “oh I’m going to marry this man” but if he does something weird like this it would make me wonder what kind of man he actually is and what he could become.

This advice goes for both men and women when it comes to dating, if the person is really creepy or is really offnsive that she/he could be trouble I see no problem with making an excuse to go to the bathroom and then leave, but telling staff first – if it was the same waiter/ess who took the order then he/she will know why you are sneaking off – you don’t want creepy woman/man following you home.

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The Elf October 25, 2011 at 8:40 am

Nancy, interesting perspective (that still doesn’t change my dislike of the practice). I’ve been the guest where I’m trying to gauge the price. I really like that seafood platter, and if it were just me I’d order it, but I can’t justify ordering that on my host’s dime! So I pick a few things and wait for cues. When I’m the host, I usually say what I’m going to order, and that gives the guest a target to aim for. To be honest, even if we’re paying our own way, I like to discuss my order ahead of time. I love going over new menus and I love hearing about others’ choices! It’s one of my favorite parts about dining out.

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phunctor October 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

He was auditioning for a girlfriend who likes very controlling men.

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AriaDream October 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@PrincessSimmi

Salt… allergy…? That’s not physically possible. I’m completely serious. Salt is a vital nutrient and we will DIE if we do not eat any of it. He could have been on a low sodium diet for blood pressure, although new studies indicate that might be more harmful than beneficial. But he CANNOT be allergic to salt.

Can you tell I read the book “Salt” recently? :)

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Kelly October 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I know the OP mentions no second date because of a personality clash but if she didn’t go on this date because of this one, silly error, then she may have missed out on a great guy. What if this guy was “the one”. It would have made a great story to tell their kids and grandkids.

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PrincessSimmi October 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm

@AriaDream – I agree with you, I know that every person must eat salt to live. But that’s what we were told – a salt allergy. Specifically, an allergy, not an intolerance or a low-salt diet. If it had been one of those we could have provided a low-salt alternative of one of our normal meals, but when we’re told about an allergy we have to take it seriously. And yes, I’m still angry.

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Kat October 26, 2011 at 1:15 am

AriaDream, you’re actually slightly wrong. You can be allergic to anything. There is one woman who is allergic to water. She jumps in the shower for 60 seconds and comes out with hives. She can’t touch sweat or tears, she can’t drink water because her throat swells up. Google says there are 40 people with this condition in the world. So the guy might have been a blowhard on a low-sodium diet who lies about an allergy, but maybe, just maybe he really could be allergic to it.

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Liebchen October 26, 2011 at 3:52 am

While yes, the date was a bit “rude” for ordering for her I don’t see how the OP or her friend have any room AT ALL to complain as she didn’t speak up. (In fact bashing people like that behind their back can be considered just as rude)

If she were to say “hey, I’m a vegetarian” he could have ended up taking it really well and the two could have ended up liking each other. . and if not then at the very least he might think twice about doing it to the next girl.
Instead she just sits there and refuses to correct his mistake and then “punishes” (for lack of a better word) later.

Morale of the story here, if you can’t speak up then then you have little room to speak up later.
While the guy was a bit out of line, ordering for her, I feel little sympathy for her.

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Enna October 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

@ Liebchen, from what the OP said the firend was too shocked to say anything at the time – sometimes things do take people by surprise, however she would have had time to think about it and maybe she might have told the date afterwards what went wrong, unless he figured it out for himself. Next time she could well have the confidence to speak up. People have noted how the young man was a collgue student so could be very naive, maybe she was a bit naive too?

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AriaDream October 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm

@Kat – Wow, that’s incredible. How could someone survive such a condition? Intravenous fluids? Still, an allergy to salt must be just as rare as an allergy to water. So I think we can be 99.99 percent certain it was actually a blowhard on a low sodium diet. :)

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anonymous October 27, 2011 at 6:43 am

Yeah, no, no pass. Not gallant. Not chivalrous. Just offensive.

Other acts of gallantry such as holding doors, chairs etc. are open for debate (I don’t need them but don’t mind them and will accept graciously). Even the man paying for the first date (another thing I don’t need or particularly want, but in my dating days when men insisted I would just graciously accept) is up for debate, but this is not. This is pure, all-out sexism unless you know the person REALLY well and have their permission to order (ie my husband who might nip to the bathroom and say “you know what I like, get me something good” – that’s permission for me to order for him).

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Cari October 28, 2011 at 9:14 am

aquagenic pruritis is a skin condition where touching water may cause a rash. But the people who have it can still drink water. We’re made of H2O. And without sodium going in and out of the channels of our cells our hearts would not be able to beat (and we also need calcium / potassium for this). I’ve heard of people who can’t tolerate sea salt but are fine with table salt. Or there is something else in the salt they can’t tolerate. But at the cellular level without sodium your heart can’t work. And anything else in the body that moves.

I’d bet my next paycheck that salt allergy guy was just a jerk.

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Alla October 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

There’s nothing at all rude, controlling, or anything else negative, about what the boy did in this scenario. It’s simply very old-fashioned.

That may not suit the taste of today’s woman (do you see what I did there?) but the fact is, he actually behaved “properly” by ordering for his date. The trouble is, those manners belong to the 1950s and 1960s.

This is right up there with the poor fellow who opens the door for the female with her arms full, and then is treated to a vituperitive diatribe on how “unliberated” he is.

Alas for chivalry and good taste. They’ve gone by the wayside.

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chelonianmobile October 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I see nothing chivalrous in making a woman’s decisions for her without her consent. At best it’s rude assumption, at worst it’s intentionally controlling (I don’t think the latter was remotely likely in this specific case, but it’s not unknown for abusive/controlling jerks to insist their partner eat what the controlling person tells them to).

I have a lot of personal issues with food (Asperger’s-related extreme pickiness and a bad comfort-eating habit), and someone else trying to choose my food for me would be likely to leave me both offended and in a bit of an awkward emotional state. Until fairly recently I did ask my parents to order for me, because my food issues and AS mean I feel crushingly embarrassed if I try to discuss food with strangers, but I am pretty much over that, and I did, you know, TELL my parents what it was I wanted BEFORE asking them to order for me. I don’t have any allergies, and I’m not vegetarian, but both are so common these days that you just can’t assume. I don’t know a single person who would be pleased to have someone assume they knew what the person wanted to order without asking, even if the order-er picked something they actually liked.

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Riva October 29, 2011 at 4:24 am

Oops! I really wonder if he read in an old etiquette book that the man ORDERS the food at a restaurant, and thought it meant that the man CHOOSES the food! It was a pretty big mistake to make, and very rude! Yet it is possible he thought he was being gallant and generous.

Alla, my understanding is it was never the custom for the man to choose what item on the menu to order for his date, even in the 50′s and 60′s. I believe she told him what she wanted, then he made the order when the waiter came. It fact, girls were told by their mothers to always choose from the middle of the menu so it wasn’t too expensive for the boy, but wasn’t obviously picking the cheapest item on the menu.

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Kai October 31, 2011 at 7:39 am

Alla, I don’t think it’s fair to compare a girl not liking that a guy ordered on her behalf without any consideration for her feelings or taste to the modern woman being rude to a man opening the door for her.

For starters, not all of us ladies are so feminist that we find offense in a man holding open a door. For me, I’m always grateful to anyone who opens the door for me (though I admit to getting irritated with some people who hold the door open from the inside, meaning you must duck under their arm to get out. I have a spine injury that makes it quite painful to do this. However I still will not be rude to the person, because they do mean well).

Secondly, there is nothing chivalrous about someone ordering their date’s food without even consulting them. I can see this being okay with a long term couple, because in theory they should know each other well enough to know what their partner likes, and whether or not their partner is okay with them ordering on their behalf. But for a first date? Certainly not. As another poster pointed out, the custom was not to decide what your date will eat, but to find out what they want, and then place the entire order at once. Saves time on each person trying to work out what they want.

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NicoleK November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I, too, would have spoken up. With a laugh, to soften it.

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Rei November 6, 2011 at 3:27 am

I actually like having my boyfriend order for me because I suffer from a bit of social anxiety sometimes. I feel totally comfortable telling him what I’d like to have when I feel uncomfortable voicing it to a stranger, so then he just orders for both of us. It also is, admittedly, a little romantic and delightfully old-fashioned to me to have him order for me once he knows what I have selected. Also, even if you have that sort of relationship with someone and the person is pretty sure he/she knows what you want, I think the polite thing to say might be something like “I know you love [insert thing here] at this restaurant. Would you like that, or are you considering something else?” It shows that the other person knows what you like but is also genuinely interested in making sure you have what you’d prefer.

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Lisa November 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Another (very, very old fashioned) way to look at someone ordering for their guest at a restaurant is to view the restaurant as a way for a bachelor (who presumably couldn’t cook…I told you this was old fashioned) to entertain guests who would otherwise have been entertained in his home. Or for a single woman to return hospitality to those she could not comfortably host in her home. In that scenario, the “host” arranges the dinner with the restaurant, who simply brings the food for the table. Those who weren’t so “nice” would sometimes select the meal for their guests from the menu.

However, unless this was a very, very young man who was raised by very, very old fashioned grandparents (or great-grandparents) I think @phunctor has it exactly right. He was seeking a submissive.

Even those hosting dinner parties in their homes typically ask about food allergies/preferences when confirming invitations, these days. There are both allergies (which can be lethal) and ethically based diets to consider when planning a meal which will please a guest.

In the OPs description, the “host” doesn’t seem to have any interest in pleasing his “guest” (his date). Your friend is lucky to have obtained the information she needed to move on as soon as she did.

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Jessica November 16, 2011 at 3:35 am

It’s one thing to recommend a dish you think someone will enjoy, and another to order it for them. I understand the gesture of this young man, but I do not approve.

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Stitchin November 21, 2011 at 9:36 am

@Alla, in the 50s and 60s a man might very well place an order for his date – as he might well, still. However, placing the order didn’t mean that he chose her food for her! I think you and he made the same error of assumption, however, and I suspect all he succeeded in doing was making sure that the next meal his date had would be with someone else.

I have nothing against formal manners (having some myself), but it’s generally a good idea to research something new thoroughly first before trying it in public; if the gentleman in question had actually read some of those old etiquette manuals, he wouldn’t have made that error.

Of course, *I* may be mistaken – that may be exactly what he does on dates (choosing their meals, not just ordering them)! If that’s the case, he has successfully weeded out someone who does not like that kind of behaviour, and he is free to continue searching until he finds someone who does like it.

Generally speaking, though, first dates are for finding out what someone’s preferences are, not dictating what their choices should (or should not) be. And food is such a significant variable, often with such significant consequences, that it’s really just better to learn what someone else’s likes and dislikes are rather than to make assumptions about them, and to look at it as an enjoyable part of learning about someone new.

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justme June 16, 2012 at 12:36 am

@70 Liebchen: it’s possible that she wasn’t sure how to react. I was in a situation almost exactly like that. I had no idea that the guy I was with planned on ordering for me, so when he asked “anything on the menu look interesting?” I non-comittally said “um… I guess the chicken looks… interesting”. After I had finished looking at the menu, and had changed my mind several times (I now wanted nothing even remotely resembling chicken–or whatever it was, I don’t remember now), and the waiter was prompting me for my order, I was shocked when this guy jumped in and said “ahem! I will have the beef, and the lady will have the chicken.” I genuinely didn’t know what to say. We were college students, and it was the 90s, and I didn’t know guys even did that anymore. Now that I think about it, the waiter looked a little confused, so I guess he didn’t think it was the norm, either. But I remember thinking “should I speak up? is he going to be upset and call me a shrew/bitch/lesbo to his friends (or my friends–long story) later if I do? I don’t date much, maybe that’s just what people do on dates. I hate it, but I fear social rejection more.”
I wasn’t keeping quiet so I could laugh at him later, I just didn’t know how to react. Maybe the same for the OP’s friend, although I hope she didn’t have the same self-esteem issues as I clearly did at the time. Now that I think about it, everything about that date was horrible. Maybe I’ll write about it and send it in some day.

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