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Dietary Dating

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


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  • Margo October 24, 2011, 5:02 am

    I’ve heard of this once or twice, and couldn’t agree more, that it is incredibly rude, and presumptous, to order for ANYONE else (date or not) without consulting them.

    I hope OP’s friend, having got over her shock, told her date that she wasn’t happy with either his choice or his action in ordering.

    (EvilMargo would have been tempted to make a comment abouthow hungry he must be ordering two full meals for himself, but I try to keep her in the box these days..)

  • grumpy_otter October 24, 2011, 5:15 am

    Whether “in college” refers to 1 year ago or 25, my first impression is that this guy probably saw Cary Grant do this in a movie once and thought it seemed very suave.

    But shocked or not, I don’t understand why the friend didn’t just pipe up and say “Oh, I can’t eat meat.”

  • lkb October 24, 2011, 5:42 am

    Maybe he knew she was vegetarian and was trying to “convert” her. (Not saying it’s right to do so by any means, just trying to come up with a reason for that bizarre behavior.)

  • QueenofAllThings October 24, 2011, 6:32 am

    Very old-fashioned behavior and the way it used to be done – perhaps he thought that, like opening the car door for her, she would find it charming.

    I don’t know that I find it rude, but it’s certainly presumptive and misguided. I hope she spoke up! I’d hate to think she sat through a meal she couldn’t/wouldn’t eat – or that either of them paid for a meal that was thrown out.

  • Green123 October 24, 2011, 7:04 am

    This has nothing to do with feminism – the man featured would have been equally rude had his dinner guest been male, or just a friend, or his great-grandma!

    I know your friend was shocked at her date’s behaviour but since she is a vegetarian and was thus (I assume) presented with something she would not and could not eat, perhaps she should have developed a polite spine and stood up for herself. Or better still, stood up and walked out on this presumptious, rude, arrogant jerk…

  • boxy October 24, 2011, 7:17 am

    Or he could’ve been super nervous and just made a mistake….

  • The Elf October 24, 2011, 7:53 am

    Wow! I would be upset if my husband – who definitely knows my dieteray restrictions and personal preferences – ordered for me. Aside from possible conflicts with diet, aside from issues of feminism, you just took away the best part about going to someplace new!

    Queen, I hope she spoke up too. Perhaps not right away – I can understand being totally shocked! – but before the food order was placed.

  • MyFamily October 24, 2011, 7:53 am

    I had a guy do that to me once, as well. Only the item that was very over the top was that he ordered me a Diet Coke. I don’t drink much sodas and I definately don’t drink any colas (they make me sick), I just wanted a glass of water. I did speak up and say something while he was ordering for me, but he kept pushing it despite me telling him I just wanted water. I stopped pushing it once it became clear the poor waitress was getting very stressed. I ended up excusing myself “to the bathroom” and than just leaving the restaurant all together, though I did stop at the front and pay for the food with a nice tip before I left. I wasn’t interested in sharing any more of my time with someone who obviously didn’t care to listen to me. I did feel bad that the staff had to tell him I’d left but I just couldn’t say anything to him.

  • Hemi Halliwell October 24, 2011, 8:55 am

    Very presumptuous AND rude. Even if he was trying to be old-fashioned or charming, he still should have asked what she wanted first, then he could have placed the order for both of them. ( As suggested by Mike in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”).

    I do hope she spoke up before she was served a meal she would/could not eat.

  • Niamh84 October 24, 2011, 8:56 am


    I have to say I’m shocked by your exit. By all means, you are free to leave what was obviously going to be a disastrous date but to sneak out and not tell him I think is ridiculous behaviour.

  • livvy17 October 24, 2011, 9:03 am

    I think he was probably trying to be very sophisticated – thinking this is what a polite gentleman does. What he didn’t do was the research – to find out that the man only orders for both people AFTER consulting with his date to find out what she would like to order, then orders for them both. I get depressed with stories like this….where someone is (most likely) trying to do something properly, but in mising the details, does the wrong thing. The extra sadness comes from the fact that they guy probably never figured out where he’d gone wrong.

  • Jojo October 24, 2011, 9:12 am

    Why didn’t the friend politely interject and point out that she was vegetarian as her date was ordering? If someone ordered for me before I’d had a chance to glance at the menu, I would most definitely have told them and the waiter that I still needed time.
    Sounds like the guy was very inexperienced and nervous but it’s sometimes the role of a lady on a date ( regardless of her feminist leanings – and believe me me, I have leanings) to ease an awkward situation with light humour and gentle direction rather than just sitting there dumb, or worse leaving for no apparent reason.
    I’ve been on enough dreadful dates to sympathize ( the guy who bought concert tickets in another city expecting me to miss a night of work and then have dinner at McDonalds, the one who read MY newspaper on the train for our entire journey and spent the evening bragging about how much money he’d conned his uncle into spending on him that week) but I have always endeavored to be tactful and engaging – no matter how ignorant of common courtesy or etiquette my poor date was. At least I have some brilliant stories….

  • Kovitlac October 24, 2011, 9:14 am

    Niamh84: I have to say I agree with what MyFamily did. She seemed to have tried her best to get through to the guy, but after it became clear that he just did not care to listen to her, I feel she had every right to just get out of there.

    Besides, I have the feeling that even had she try to tell him, he’d either argue with her about it, making it even harder to leave, or just plain not listen.

  • PurplPengn October 24, 2011, 9:19 am

    Wait, I thought the “old-fashioned” etiquette was that the man ordered for the woman …AFTER she indicated to him what she would like, not him deciding FOR her what she would eat……

  • Harley Granny October 24, 2011, 9:26 am

    I really want to agree that it was rude and presumptous, but I can’t without knowing the guy 1st.

    Kids in College is just that…Kids…and they are still trying to figure out how to do things. If he was nervous or unsure of himself maybe he thought this was the correct way.
    How many of us knew at that age precisely how you act in a “nice” restaurant?
    I hope for the guys sake that your friend told him why what he did was wrong and not acceptable.

  • Just Laura October 24, 2011, 9:31 am

    LOL @ EvilMargo.

    I’ve had a date order for me, and I thought it nice. It was also nice of him to ask what I wanted first.

  • Katy October 24, 2011, 9:35 am

    I wouldn’t presume enough to order food for my three-year-old, so I don’t know why someone on their first date would think it’s okay to presume they know enough about someone to order them a meal. I don’t find the ordering as rude as that presumption.
    My husband ordered me food only one time. I was running late to a date at a movie theater that served food but only for the first 20 minutes of the show. He ordered me something I had ordered for myself twice before and raved about, and he ordered himself something else he thought I would like, then didn’t touch the food until I got there and asked which one I would like. But he and I had been married five years at that point, so I would hope he knew me better at that point than on our first date.

  • Serenity S October 24, 2011, 9:46 am

    I think that that behavior used to be considered the correct thing to do, but that the man should have asked your friend what she wanted before he ordered it.

  • Jay October 24, 2011, 9:54 am

    Not sure I could ever be so shocked that I’d let a waiter walk away with an order for something I couldn’t eat.. Whether or not there’s “feminism” involved, your friend really needs to learn some self respect and assertiveness…

    (how exactly did she last through the entire date after that, without an entree she could eat?)

  • Chocobo October 24, 2011, 9:57 am

    Sounds like he was brought up by a traditional man. Or else read old-fashioned etiquette books. I would have given him a little more slack. What is expected of men (and women) on dates is so confusing now. It’s so easy to offend someone — a man pulling out a woman’s chair for her can be totally offensive or very charming. Likewise if a woman offers to pay for a meal or opens the door for a man. It’s a minefield.

    This particular tradition of ordering for the woman is very, very old and not the safest way to impress a first date, in most cases. He probably should have tested the waters a bit more first to see if that’s something she would like before diving right in so aggressively. But I do wonder if he was just trying to impress; it was once the epitome of treating a lady out, after all, even if it isn’t any more. Maybe he was just grossly misinformed on what most ladies prefer nowadays.

    There are polite ways of informing him that you aren’t the type of lady that likes such things. I’m not saying there weren’t other reasons to decline future invitations out, but personally I wouldn’t use “ordering food for me” as a make-it-or-break-it criterium, particularly given the lack of well-understood dating standards. I think your friend handled it very well by making the best of it for the rest of the evening and declining any further dates.

  • LovleAnjel October 24, 2011, 10:01 am

    I hope he was just trying (and failing) to be gallant. She sounds to have been so shocked to not have been able to say anything at first (it happens). I hope she dressed him down & corrected the order!

  • Psyche October 24, 2011, 10:12 am

    If this were a person who had known the OP for a long time and knew her dietary restrictions, I’d understand if he orderered for her, but a first date?! And my father has a tendency to do this to me as well, usually with drink orders. I just tell the waitress I want another drink and don’t touch the one my father ordered.

  • acr October 24, 2011, 10:16 am

    I feel kind of bad for this guy. If he’d ordered himself the expensive thing and her the cheap thing, I’d be steaming. I think some of the other posters are right – he probably saw this in a movie, but they skipped the part where the hero asked the heroine what she’d like to eat. So he assumed a gentleman would “just know”.

  • The Elf October 24, 2011, 10:51 am

    No, I don’t excuse this on the grounds of ignorance or an attempt to be old-fashioned/romantic because it defies common sense. Not only is vegetarianism common, but who doesn’t know someone with a food allergy? If he wanted to do the ordering “like a man should” (snort), then common sense would dictate that he at least consult the person that is to eat it.

  • Kat October 24, 2011, 11:05 am

    Perhaps not EHell approved, but if someone did this to me I’d go ahead and order what I wanted anyway and be like…”Oh I thought you were just really hungry!”

  • Wink-n-Smile October 24, 2011, 11:09 am

    Margo – I love Evil Margo’s reply.

    Evil Wink-n-Smile would have piped up “Please be sure it’s a TOFU steak, because I’m a vegetarian.” Then grinned beatifically at the date.

  • Cat October 24, 2011, 11:17 am

    When a friend’s daughter’s new husband had a birthday, I gave him two prime steaks since I had seen him only a couple of times and knew nothing of him. That was fine. The problem came when he and his wife got his new brother-in-law’s name the first Christmas he was in the family Xmas draw. Knowing nothing about the guy, they decided to do what I did-give prime steaks.
    They ordered the steaks from a well-known company, kept the box on dry ice for the drive up to the family home, and put them gift wrapped under the tree as they would open gifts as soon as dinner was completed.
    There was turkey and ham on the table. When the new BIL did not take any meat, he was asked if he wanted turkey, ham or both. “Oh, no!”, he happily replied, “I am a vegetarian. No meat for me!” And there they sat, knowing that they were about to present their new relation with a box full of dead cow.
    For my own mis-step, a good friend’s son was getting married to a Methodist girl, or so my friend said. It was only after I had presented her with a white Bride’s King Jame’s Edition of the Bible that I learned she was Jewish. I knew no way to tell her that her new father-in-law lied to me, saying was a Methodist, so she just thinks I am a religious nut bent on her conversion to Jesus. Thanks a lot!

  • Wink-n-Smile October 24, 2011, 11:23 am

    Kat, your response would be good, if she had a chance to look at the menu, at all. Since the guy hopped in with an order before they even had a chance to look at the menu, it should be amended to, “I need more time, please. I haven’t yet made up my mind what to order. What do you recommend for a vegetarian meal?”

  • TootsNYC October 24, 2011, 11:26 am

    The thing is, even when men used to place orders for women, they ASKED HER FIRST what she would like.

    So, she’d tell him, and then he’d tell the waiter (who often had just heard her tell him).

  • Ashley October 24, 2011, 11:28 am

    I wonder how often wait staff actually sees this sort of thing. If I were the waitress, I would have asked the young lady if that’s really what she wanted or not, and given her a chance to speak up.

  • Shiksagoddess October 24, 2011, 11:42 am

    I have to say I don’t find this rude and condescending, but a clumsy attempt to make a nice impression. We all aren’t born with an etiquette book memorized and it takes some trial and error to get it right. “Commen sense” doesn’t always figure into manners. I might have gently corrected the gentleman and given him a second chance – unless he’d shown other qualities on the first date that were less than desireable.

    – the shiksagoddess

  • Serenity October 24, 2011, 11:49 am

    In my experience in the restaurant industry, I have seen this sort of scenario play out many times. Some people insist on trying to order their companions a drink they don’t want, a meal they’re not interested in, etc. etc. When I see that the person on the receiving end of this behavior is clearly uncomfortable or protesting, I always tune out the boor, and focus all my attention on the other and ask them what THEY want. The look of relief I get is worth the expense of the boor being offended. And if someone did that to me, they’d be told in no uncertain terms that I can and will decide for myself what I’d like.

  • Angela October 24, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Sorry, ordering for your date without asking…ESPECIALLY on a first date when you knew nothing about her food preferences or limitations…is not OK under any circumstances. I have heard it’s “traditional” but I’ve never known anyone to do it without asking the woman what she wants.
    I did take a boyfriend out to dinner once and ordered for him (after asking) and paid, but that was by mutual consent and it was much fun, especially for the waitress who caught on immediately.

  • Library Diva October 24, 2011, 12:38 pm

    How can this tradition be “very old” when most courtship took place inside the home prior to the invention of the automobile and the development of more public spaces like restaurants? I agree that this guy was trying to impress and was probably mimicking something he saw in an old movie. I’m also sure that he figured out eventually that most women frown on being ordered for. Maybe it just took him a few dates before someone who liked him otherwise pointed this out.

    I had a friend in high school who was presented with a “questionaire” at the end of a date, similar to the questionaires you find in hotels and at chain restaurants (“On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate: punctuality, hygiene, quality of activities chosen on the date”). The final question was something like “Do I get a goodnight kiss?” She never went out with the guy again (nor did she kiss him) but I saw him on Facebook, and he’s married now, so he either figured out how unbelieveably awkward that gambit was, or managed to find a woman who responded well to it.

  • --E October 24, 2011, 12:44 pm

    What a jerk. There’s no excuse for this. NONE. I don’t care what he was taught or what he saw Cary Grant do–this sort of thing is a fundamental sign that he didn’t regard his date as a person. It takes a special kind of stupid to do something like this.

    Back in the days when women were considered to be only slightly more intelligent than the average farm animal, it was considered proper for a man to order for his wife or fiance, because of course he would know better than she what was proper for her to eat. [/irony]

    That someone still makes this assumption is a very bad sign, indeed. I would have ended the date instantly. That relationship wasn’t going anywhere good.

  • Enna October 24, 2011, 12:46 pm

    This is rude, he should not do that, doesn’t matter if it is a woman or a man. My bf would never make a choice for me and I wouldn’t do it to him either. @ Queenofallthings, I think even in the “old days” if a man wanted to impress a woman I think he would let her choose – of course if he had a budget it would be different. I mean if I was dating in the “old days” I would be a bit suspcious of anyone who ordered on my behalf – unless I told them what I wanted and needed the ladies.

    @ Myfamily – I can see why you did the way you did, although I would cancel the order and if it was too late he could pay for it as after all he had chosen the food. The waitress should have listened to you as you were the one consuming the drink. I can see Niamh84 says about telling the person directly – it depends on the sitaution I think and the person you ware with who is being rude. By the way he was pushing it he may not have listened. So there are two “right” reponses to that.

    I agree with Purplpegn he should have asked first that would be the polite thing to do. I would be a bit with Kat – just assume he was hungry.

    On a side note how can I make text go bold on this sight in my reponses?

  • Xtina October 24, 2011, 12:57 pm

    I hope this guy learned in this episode that ordering for your date is NOT suave and sophisticated, and didn’t ever try it again! Whether it is now or 100 years ago, I don’t think it would be a safe assumption to think you know what someone else would want to eat, especially if you don’t know that person well at all. My now-husband once took me on a date to a nicer seafood restaurant and although we ordered our own entrees, he also took it upon himself to “impress” with ordering an appetizer of crab legs. He was surprised when he got to consume the entire plate himself since even the smell or crab legs is enough to make me sick. haha!

  • Xtina October 24, 2011, 12:58 pm

    whoops, the smell OF crab legs (not “or”). argh!

  • Paige October 24, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Well he wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, was he?
    While I enjoy when my significant other orders for me its always something I pick out, not something he picks out FOR me….

  • Anonymous October 24, 2011, 1:33 pm

    Wow. I always ask friends about dietary restrictions if we’re ordering appetizers, etc. Considering I have a friend who is Vegan, another who is allergic to garlic, one who is lactose intolerant, and one with a shellfish allergy, you HAVE to ask. It’s not hard and restaurants are usually great about food allergies and such if you just ask when ordering (they can usually help steer you to something they can make and make totally sure is fine).

  • Yet Another Laura October 24, 2011, 1:42 pm

    That pegs my Creep-O-Meter. Why is that considered romantic?

    I’d never heard of adults ordering for other adults. That’s what parents do with their pre-verbal, pre-literate children. I’d be insulted if someone tried to do that to me and say so immediately. Being treated as a toddler doesn’t sit well with me. I’m the youngest in my family and have had to put the brakes on infantilizing more than I care to think about.

    Good for you, MyFamily. That guy wouldn’t have heard you if you tried to politely take your leave.

  • MidoriBird October 24, 2011, 1:49 pm

    He could have been nervous and trying to be “gallant”, and maybe just once I’d try to consider that as a possible explanation, but I’m the sort who reads red flags and not ignores them.

    Had one fellow who liked to be the gallant sort to open the door for me, pull out my chair, ask what I wanted, etc….but it went too far. He’d NEVER let me do anything for myself and even though after the first date I tried politely to say that I preferred to be more active in my dates he forced many issues. It was the force that screamed “control freak!!!” not “gallant!” because he never took into consideration my feelings at ALL. He never tried to really learn my preferences about anything although he talked about his a great deal. Nearly every date turned into what he did or wanted to do and all my requests fell on deaf ears. Needless to say he’s long gone.

    Another fellow decided to spend time boasting about how easily he manipulated and seduced women, innocent and otherwise, into his bed at record speeds. He thought I’d be impressed. I refused to ever be alone with him again after that!

  • Gracie C. October 24, 2011, 2:59 pm

    Chocobo, the etiquette was never to order a meal for a lady without inquiring what her preference was. The standard, as others have pointed out, was for the man to discuss the dinner options first and then place the order for the both of them. At no point (that I know of) was the etiquette for him to actually choose the lady’s food. Now, I can see how the young man might not have known that if his only frame of reference is tv/movies, but just thought I’d point that out.

  • Butterfly October 24, 2011, 3:01 pm

    “I wonder how often wait staff actually sees this sort of thing. If I were the waitress, I would have asked the young lady if that’s really what she wanted or not, and given her a chance to speak up.”

    This for sure! When I worked at a movie theater concession counter, there would often be boyfriends ordering for their ladies (usually the standard popcorn, soda, candy) and a lot of the women would have to speak up and let me know they wanted something else, like iced tea instead of soda, so I got in the habit of making eye contact with everyone standing at my register and triple checking the order to make sure I got exactly what everyone wanted.

  • David October 24, 2011, 3:30 pm

    I would never order for my wife without asking what she wanted first and then only if she needed to be absent from the table for a few minutes. While we have gotten to know each others likes and dislikes over the years, who knows what is going to look especially yummy today to the other person?

    On a first date you make the best impression by showing that you are interested in the other person. Presuming to order them food without bothering to find out what sounds good to them lets them know you aren’t interested in them at all.

  • AS October 24, 2011, 3:39 pm

    @Library Diva – when I read your story about the friend presented with a questionnaire, it took me a while to realize that the “date” presented her with the questionnaire. I was thinking it was a blind date that some local newspapers or restaurants arrange, and then they talk about the experiences and whether they’d go out again or not.

    @OP – this guy is creepy. As you were narrating the story, I was thinking that thank God it wasn’t me, because I don’t like any meat; and then you told that she was a vegetarian. I hope she canceled the order instead of torturing herself with something she does not eat or like. As far as I know, steak is often quite costly and I hope they did not waste the food.

  • Chocobo October 24, 2011, 4:21 pm

    Myfamily — I have to agree that sneaking away was wrong. You are well within your rights to end your date if it offends you that much, but making other the wait staff do your dirty work was rude and unfair to them.

  • Thel October 24, 2011, 4:22 pm

    I would only give a guy that behaved like this a second date if he was very young (so it’s not going to happen! =D) and visibly nervous -and probably following half-understood instructions from his dad, or Cary Grant. Otherwise, no pass from me. I’m a vegetarian and I would certainly have piped up, I’d hate to see perfectly good food going to waste! Back in college I remember some guys doing the “ask and order” thing, and if there was no other display of possible male chauvinism, I took it in good stead.

  • Margo October 24, 2011, 4:22 pm

    I’ve never heard of it having been customary for a man to order (as in choosing for) his date -I’d be interested to know when/where this was normal?

    I know that it used to be more common (late 19th / early 20th C) for hosts to chose in advance so there was, in effect, a set meal, rather than each diner choosing their own meal. I’m also familiar with the idea of ‘Ladies menus’ (which didn’t show the prices) and with the lady relaying her decision to her host, who then ordered from the waiter.

  • Angeldrac October 24, 2011, 4:42 pm

    OP – do you know the end of the story? What your friend actually did with her steak?

    This same thing happened to my sister – obviously the boy never got another date. But, seriously, I cannot believe that there are TWO such boys in the dating world that would actually do this! It’s just too weird for words.