This happened to me a number of years ago, but I still wonder if there was a breach of etiquette, or if I was just overly sensitive at the time.
When I was thirty, I joined an internet dating site and met a young man online called “Jack”. Jack was only 25, but he and I clicked almost immediately and began corresponding. He lived in a city on the other side of the country, but after about two months we decided that, as things were progressing well, it would be good to meet in person. For various reasons, it made more sense for me to visit him, rather than vice versa, so I booked a ticket to visit for five days. I was staying with a friend in that city, and planned to spend one day solely with her, but the understanding was that if things were going well, Jack and I would spend the majority of the remaining four days together.
Although Jack and I felt we might be a good match, his family (especially his father) did not agree, which was an issue as he lived at home with his sister and parents. Firstly, they did not approve of the five year age gap, or the fact that I “needed” to use the internet to find a boyfriend. (Of course, the same might be said of Jack, but they did not see it that way!) At the time, I was working full time as a teacher assistant while doing some postgraduate study: although my salary was sufficient for me, I made much less than Jack did as a nurse at a private hospital, which also concerned his parents. Thirdly, I am vegetarian and Jack was not – another point of concern. Finally, it was suggested that I was not very “athletic”. This confused me initially: while it is true that I do not enjoy team sports, and am not good at them, I do enjoy active pursuits such as cycling, swimming, multi-day hikes and fun runs. It eventually became clear that “athletic” was a euphemism for “attractive” and I can’t dispute that. I’m afraid that I am quite average – neither ugly nor beautiful – in the looks department.
Despite this opposition, Jack met me at the airport and after the expected nervousness, we found that we got on very well indeed. That afternoon, however, his father called and told Jack that he was expected home that evening for family dinner, which meant Jack, his parents, his sister and his sister’s boyfriend. I was not invited. I could tell that Jack felt uncomfortable at having to relay this, but he did not want to upset his parents. So he dropped me back at my friend’s place and went home as instructed. Assuming I would be busy, my friend had already gone out, so I spent a lonely evening.
Was it rude of his father not to invite me to dinner? Was it rude of Jack to take me back to my accommodation early and leave me there? Or was it a perfectly reasonable thing to do?
(For the record, Jack’s family did invite me over to dinner a few nights later, and went to the trouble of making a vegetarian dish specifically for me, but sadly they continued to disapprove of me. After offering to help with dinner, for example, and being told that no help was needed, I took my hosts at their word; but apparently I should have made a second offer, as my failure to help was considered rude. Perhaps it was. In any case, the relationship ended a few months later, largely in part to the family’s disapproval.) 0126-14
Jack was not ready for a committed relationship as evidenced by his still living at home and that he could meekly acquiesce to a summons to appear for family dinner. He was not yet an independent man but was subordinate to his father.