Politest Rude Person

by admin on July 8, 2013

My 16 year old son had a friend over yesterday. This friend “O” is 19 years old. He is a rather nice young man if a little bit immature for his age. They spent the afternoon playing video games.

My son had asked if O could stay for dinner ahead of time and I had said yes. I changed my dinner plans to accommodate the extra person. The afternoon proceeded normally, I prepared dinner. I called my son to set the table, O came upstairs with him. The meal was laid out and everybody started to eat.

O ate very little. He took a couple pieces of meat and a biscuit, but no salad. Because he took so little food, he was finished eating well ahead of the rest of us. When he was finished eating, he stood up, thanked me very much for having fed him, told my son to stay and finish his meal, cleared his plate to the counter, then went to stand about 10 feet away from the table texting on his cell phone.

The rest of us exchanged a confused look, but continued with our meal, although I did silently rush my son to finish so that he could go join his friend. It was the strangest, most polite, but rude behavior I have ever encountered.

First, I have always taught my children to eat whats put in front of you, like it or not. It only needs to be a very small portion to be polite, allergies not withstanding. Second, my children know not to leave the table until everybody is finished the main meal. They are allowed to excuse themselves before dessert if we are eating at home, but as a guest they are expected to sit tight until the very end of the meal. They are expected to join the conversation.

As I stated earlier, O was the politest rude person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I like O and I do give him credit for not using his phone while he was at the table. 0704-13

I approved most of the comments to this post but later decided to address those comments in the next day’s blog post since I believe many people incorrectly absolved O of any faux pas.

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Marozia July 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm

At least O didn’t guzzle his food at the table and then start texting! I agree O should’ve asked permission to leave the table, but at least he thanked you for accommodating him.
It would’ve been more rude for him to sit at the table and stare at you all while you were eating.

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Victoria July 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I agree with Lex. In my home growing up we left the table when finished eating. Meal times were for eating, retiring to the den after dinner was for chatting (even though many times people would trickle in one at a time), and after chatting the dishes were done, and then dessert was served. I’m not saying it was completely silent during mealtimes, but it wasn’t a requirement to stay. If someone thought of something they needed to tell someone who had already left the table, they’d bring it up in the den.

As for my home now, with my own family, casual kitchen dinners include chatting, but the kids can leave if they’re finished but others are still eating. For more formal dinners (birthday dinners, or when we have guests, etc.), we chat over dinner in the dining room, but if the guest is one of our friends, the kids can leave when they’re done, if the guest is one of the kids’ friends, we adults will leave them to chat.

So, not rudeness, just not accustomed to your rules. He probably would have felt very awkward just sitting there and waiting for everyone else to finish.

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Michelle C Young July 8, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I’m not an expert on table manners, but I do love the description of the politest rude person. LOL.

As for eating whatever is set in front of you, my parents taught us kids that, too. When we were guests, we were to eat what was given. Then we all got older, and our stomachs started to rebel. It is common for some of us to take two or three bites of a dish, and enjoy it thoroughly. Then, on the fourth bite, our stomachs clench, our mouth fills with saliva, and we know that if we take one more bite of THAT, we will throw up. So, we tend to stick to safe things or else just stop eating, if there is nothing safe for us to eat. It makes being a guest difficult. So, I don’t really think that “eat what is put in front of you” should be a hard and fast rule, especially if allergies or other bodily responses are in play.

I agree with the poster who said he could have made the whole situation less awkward by excusing himself to another room, or outside, to “make a phone call.” The real awkwardness mostly came from watching him standing there, texting, during the rest of the meal.

Of course, you could have alleviated some of that awkwardness, by asking him some direct questions, and involving him in the conversation, along with a “won’t you sit down and join the conversation” invitation.

I do believe that things are done differently in his house. Some households actually have a “no dinner conversation – eat and run” rule. These tend to be the “eat to live” types, who also typically eat a lot less than what you served him. If he was in all other ways respectful and polite, I would value him as a friend. Maybe just tell your son to have a conversation with him, about “this is how my family does dinner,” and then see whether he would like to join you for dinner again, on your terms. If yes, great! If not, then just don’t invite him at mealtimes. Or, if you value him enough, go ahead and live with the texting 10 feet away.

Some friends are worth putting up with quirks like that.

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Jays July 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm

I agree with Lex. Would it have been better if he had stayed at the table? Perhaps. But I could see if that was the norm with his family, that would be what he considered polite to do.

And I also disagree on the “eat what’s put in front of you” thing. That’s completely up to the person who has to eat it.

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schnickelfritz July 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

The guest was very polite. It was an informal meal, he was invited at the last minute. He did not use his phone at the table. He is 19 years old, and still learning.

The most disturbing of your post “First, I have always taught my children to eat whats put in front of you, like it or not. It only needs to be a very small portion to be polite, allergies not withstanding”

That is fine, for 3 year olds, to try different veggies, textures, etc., take a bite sweety, numb numbs! A bit controlling, for teenagers let alone GUESTS. It is impolite to force feed a family member, once they are old enough to have preferences. I came from a very large, strict table mannered family, elbows off the table, please pass the peas, don’t speak with your mouth full, etc. My parents were both awesome cooks, and I miss the everyday home cooking – they were more concerned with table manners, than forcing anyone to “eat it whether you like it or not” – food and family meals are supposed to be pleasurable events! If brother didn’t want liver and onions, he ate the fried potatoes and sliced tomatoes!

I do believe the guest may have been a bit shy too, you don’t sound very “laid back” – my sister fed many neighborhood “stray kids” for years, they still pop in with her kids (now all young adults), and know they are welcome, and she always feeds them whatever she has, potlock. With time and maturity, all of these formal manners fall into place. I would hardly dub an awkwardish 19 year old rude, for not “tasting” the salad. He was polite enough to remove his plate.

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Nikki July 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I agree with a lot of the comments above. It was strange behavior and I do think he should have “stayed with the group” so to speak. Maybe the text was really pressing and he didn’t want to text at the table, but didn’t know how to extricate himself in some other way? Don’t know why he was standing. It would probably have been more comfortable for everyone he had gone and sat down somewhere!

I agree with others that it is not right to expect someone to have a little bit of everything. Some people just don’t like certain food and/or it doesn’t agree with them (not that they’re allergic, but it might make them feel a little queasy). There are some foods that I would be MISERABLE eating, even though I’m not allergic. I would certainly never expect someone to choke down food they hate just because I’ve offered it! I don’t think it is bad manners at all to simply not take something without comment.

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Kate July 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Families are different. My family, everyone remains seated until everybody has finished, and no phones are allowed. My fiance’s parents don’t seem to mind if their sons get up and return to the television once they have finished their meal, or if they have phones and other devices out. I find it very uncomfortable sometimes actually, I will stay at the table after I have finished and talk with his parents while my fiance and his brother are watching television or playing on tablets and phones, and feel quite uncomfortable, but I don’t comment. And my fiance doesn’t like to sit there when he has finished, and not even be able to get his phone out, but he has accepted it. Till you know a family well, it can be hard to know their etiquette.

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Floweramon July 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I agree with everyone saying that it’s just a matter of having different ideas of what’s done during dinner time. I, personally, will never understand the idea of continuing to sit at the table when you have finished eating (it’s just awkward). And as for the idea of eating a little of everything, did you serve the dinner buffet style, or did you serve the food to everyone on their own plates? Honestly, if you hadn’t labelled him as ‘politest rude person’ I would have said that he was remarkably polite and it’s refreshing to see a young person who doesn’t need prompting to do things like thanking the host, not taking out his phone during the meal, ect.

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Misty July 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I think the OP is being a little to picky and pretty darn judgmental. Most parents would LOVE for their teenage children to have a friend who comes over to spend the day and just wants to play video games, not to mention a friend they (the parents) could describe as a nice young man.

O wasn’t rude, he didn’t eat like a pig, he’s apparently a good influence on her son (he isn’t apparently encouraging him to engage in wild/risky/out of control behaviors), he’s not rude or disrespectful to his friend’s parents – honestly, you had to work to find something to complain about. I feel sorry for this poor kid, sitting down for a meal with his friend and his friend’s family and getting judged over it.

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starstruck July 9, 2013 at 12:18 am

yeah i don’t see this as a big deal . different people have different table etiquette, and really just etiquette all together. he sounds like a polite person and that should be enough. although if it was me i probably would have said something like , you can sit while we eat and join in the conversation if ya want. while smiling, and then if he didn’t want to i wouldn’t have made a big deal out of it.

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MichelleP July 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

@M, O was not 16. The OP’s son is. O is 19. Those are both ages to know better. On another note from your post, if you have friends or family who have that attitude toward people with allergies, I would suggest you not have meals with them. I have a good friend who has a serious nut allergy. I always make sure to prepare plenty of food nut free, but I’m still going to have some dishes that do. She told me her allergy and I make an effort to accomodate it.

This is off the subject of the post somewhat, but there are ways to handle allergies, as a person who has them and as someone who cooks for people who have them. I read an article in Parents a while back written by a mother who refused to bring her 8 year old daughter to her in laws for family dinners because her MIL refused to be completely “nut-free”. I thought it was ridiculous for her to expect an entire family and dinner to accomodate one child’s allergies. 8 is old enough to know what to eat to avoid allergies. 19 is old enough to have manners too!

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PrettySticks July 9, 2013 at 9:56 am

I think one of the key points of etiquette, and one that I was definitely taught as a child, is that you follow the lead of your hosts. So who cares if at O’s house everyone eats and gets up immediately? He could see that everyone at the OP’s house was still sitting at the table. When I was six I went over to a friend’s house for dinner, we sat down, everyone was served, and they said grace. I wasn’t familiar with the practice (while my family was technically Catholic, we were definitely not religious) but they weren’t eating yet so neither did I. If I could read a room at six, O could certainly do it at nineteen. I have no problems with him eating very little, there could be a million reasons for that, but the getting up from the table is rude, regardless of what goes on in his home. He’s not in his home.

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Anonymous July 9, 2013 at 10:51 am

>>The texting 10 feet away from the table was somewhat odd – I personally would have excused myself to another room – but again, I see no egregious etiquette breach.<<

In some houses, "ten feet away from the kitchen table" IS in another room, because a lot of houses are mostly "open concept," so the kitchen, the dining table, and the living room are all one room. Sometimes, there are partial barriers, like a wall that goes only halfway up to the ceiling (with or without decorative wrought-iron bars going the rest of the way up), and sometimes not. So, maybe if O were on here, describing his experience, he'd say, "I finished my dinner, cleared my plate, and went to the living room, where I texted on my phone." We also don't know WHO he was texting–for all we know, it was his mother texting him to say something like, "O, please pick up your sister from soccer practice," and he was simply texting her in response. Or, maybe he initiated the exchange because he forgot what time he had to be at X Location for Y Purpose, and in his mind, he was just trying to be responsible. Unfortunately, from the outside, all texting looks the same. However, most people here (including the OP) agree that O wasn't trying to be rude, and since intention plays a huge role in determining what's rude or polite, I'd be inclined to give him a pass. Also, if I'd been invited to that dinner at the OP's house on the same evening, I would have eaten ONLY the salad, and left the meat and biscuits, because I'm vegan.

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Twik July 10, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I wonder if the people who absolve O because “it would be awkward to sit and stare at the other diners once he finished” would approve of this behaviour if they were on a date with him. “Oh, I’ve finished, so I’ll get up and wait for you outside the restaurant, ok? Just come and meet me when you’ve finished your meal. But don’t feel you have to hurry – I’m quite happy texting rather than conversing with you.”

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anon January 29, 2014 at 4:15 am

LOL. Good point.

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