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Restaurant Owner Takes Assumptions A Little Too Far


I am a woman in my mid-30s and a bit on the bigger side, especially after traveling long distances which usually leaves me a bit bloated for a few days. The weight is a thing I am working on, but it’s slow going. My partner and I had traveled across Germany for a family event and after said event, we decided to spend the evening with a good friend. Since he lives in the area, he picked an Italian restaurant for our dinner and the food was excellent. 


Then the fun started:

We were sitting in the booth furthest from the door, with me by the wall, my partner across from me and our friend next to me by the aisle. The woman running the restaurant, came over to ask if we needed anything and we asked for the check. As is customary, she offered a drink on the house (usually Grappa, Ramazotti, etc.) and all three of us declined. She then singled me out and said something to the effect of, “Well, you’re not allowed anyway in your condition”. Note that I’d had the tomato soup with gin as starter and my empty wine glass was still standing right there in front of me! I couldn’t come up with a snappy/snarky/any reply at all, because I had a case of total brain freeze. She did say that when I sat down it had looked as if I was pregnant, then went to get the check and I hid under the hood of my jacket while the guys were what I can only describe as bemused. 


The woman came back and said that being pregnant was a great thing to which I replied that my sisters had told me otherwise (actually, the worst they told me was about back pain, I just really did not want to have that conversation), but she still wouldn’t get the hint and leave me alone, she said she had loved being pregnant and that my mind would certainly be changed once I was pregnant myself to which I replied that I had no plans of having kids. This is something most people accept as a valid life choice and I usually put in a disclaimer that I reserve the right to change my mind, you know, when talking to people whose opinions actually matter to me. This woman proceeded to label me as a child hater which is definitely not the case, I love my niece and nephews to bits, I just don’t know that I would make a very good mother. 


I tried to defend myself and I don’t even know why I felt the need to explain my life choices to a total stranger. This went unheard, because by then, she had told the friend sitting next to me that he’d just have to work on me a bit to change my mind. He told her that he had nothing to do with that, my partner was following the whole train wreck of a conversation with disbelief, but finally managed to get a word in and bring the conversation to the check that was lying on the table, asking the woman to leave us to figure out who owed how much. The total for the three of us was 69.60 EUR, we left 70 and left before anyone came back to the table to further comment on our lives. (Please note that usually we are generous tippers, but in Germany the servers do not have to rely on tips to make ends meet, tips are just a bonus for exceptional service and the way that woman brought our good times to a screeching halt – just, no.)

The woman never apologized for making assumptions and running her mouth, though she did run out the front door after us to thank us and wish us a good evening.

The evening ended with the three of us heading to a bar and the bar tender making me the “special version for bad mood” Long Island Iced Tea, getting my mood back up to silly and drowning the fat-shaming, the contact embarrassment and the “you’re inadequate as a woman, because you do not put your uterus to good use”-shaming in empty calories… 

 
How and when could I or we have convinced the woman to shut up? Is that even possible with such a person? She was entirely tone deaf and reading moods at a table was obviously not her strong suit (which is kind of weird in a person running a restaurant) and she basically went off on a monologue in the middle of that without leaving us much if any room to get a word in. I really don’t feel that I have to defend any choice I make with regards to my own body and life to a complete stranger, but I am also the kind of person who can’t just tell a person to drop it with no room for argument. I could have just walked out once she went to get the check and left one or both of the guys to pay and sorted it all out later, but I could not imagine that someone working in service could be so obtuse and make her patrons so uncomfortable and continue a conversation that should have had her apologizing after voicing her first assumption. Also, the seating arrangements did not really lend themselves to a quick escape and for all I know, the woman would have cut me off to have the exact same conversation in the middle of the restaurant in front of the other patrons, but without the support at my table…

Next time we were up there, my partner’s parents suggested going to that same restaurant and I was very happy when we went somewhere else after I told my MIL the above story… 0110-19

I hate brain freeze. Why do the best snappy comebacks pop into your head hours later?

The restaurant owner made several major assumptions…1) that you were pregnant, and 2) that she the authority to reprimand or control your consumption of alcohol while pregnant. You don’t need some new and snappy comeback. Recognize where your boundaries are and when people cross that boundary you react accordingly. An icy stare and silence works great. Or the classic Ehell comeback, “My, what an interesting assumption”, coupled with that icy stare. People erroneously think etiquette exists to make people feel comfortable. No. It can often aid in making people appropriately uncomfortable and that’s a good thing.

{ 24 comments }
{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Harry's Mom January 15, 2019, 10:51 am

    What that woman did to you was unconscionable but why didn’t you just stop her in her tracks rather than engage in a whole conversation about childbirth and children? I made the mistake of asking someone when they were due when in fact they were not pregnant. Why, I don’t know, probably because I was an idiot, but the woman was gracious, I was mortified, and it has never happened again. Perhaps shutting down the dialog would help this woman not to make the same mistake. Or not.

  • ladyv21454 January 15, 2019, 11:26 am

    Combining the icy stare with an equally cold “I BEG your pardon?” works well. There’s also the tried-and-true “Why would you think that is any of your business?”.

  • JD January 15, 2019, 11:34 am

    “May we have our food/check/change please?” Whatever suits that point and with the cold stare. If you already have the food, check or change back, then the icy stare and the Ehell statement, or “I beg your pardon?” said in a very cold voice with said stare, should do it.
    That woman was in need of some customer relations training. Sorry you had to go through that, OP.

  • Rhoda January 15, 2019, 11:42 am

    As a large woman who was occasionally been mistaken for pregnant before getting old and grey, I’m really surprised at the persistence of this restaurant owner. When that’s happened to me, the person has usually been really embarrassed by the mistake, mumbled an apology, and scurried off with a beet red face. Just laugh it off. If this woman is as clueless with her other customers, she won’t be in business for long.

    • Bernadette January 16, 2019, 11:38 am

      I actually had a girl in a hair salon comment on my being pregnant (I wasn’t) and then look at me like I was lying when I told her I was not in fact pregnant. I was a little heavy at the time and tended to wear loose shirts. That somehow gave her the right to comment on my non-existent pregnancy and to eyeball me as if I was nuts when I corrected her. I really wanted to drag her over the counter – but I controlled myself and left totally embarrassed and feeling much worse about myself than when I walked in.

  • Anonymous January 15, 2019, 1:47 pm

    I learned from E-Hell that it’s rude to assume that a woman is pregnant, unless you can actually see a baby coming out of her.

    • Shoegal January 15, 2019, 2:12 pm

      Amen!

      • Margaret January 15, 2019, 6:47 pm

        “You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.” Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns Fifty, 1999, Random House Digital, Inc.

        • Pep January 16, 2019, 7:00 am

          Pure gold

    • Agania January 15, 2019, 5:17 pm

      And if you aren’t the woman’s spouse/partner, what are you doing in the delivery room???

    • Jelaza January 15, 2019, 6:31 pm

      I first read that in Dave Barry!

  • staceyizme January 15, 2019, 3:06 pm

    I think that people who serve tourists sometimes make the mistake of being too chummy. Now, perhaps this wasn’t that sort of an establishment. But I have observed that people are more familiar and sometimes more solicitous of those traveling somewhat far from home, whether we’re talking about tour guides on buses in Europe or John Q. Public in the US with exchange students. They seem determined to mine your life for bits of data that they can use to “make you more comfortable” by adding a “personal touch” to the service provided. It’s often patronizing and infantilizes the recipient of such overtures. The restaurant owner would have been better served to be friendly and helpful and to leave your health and reproductive decisions out of it. I doubt it will happen again, and brain freeze is frustrating when it does. But a simple “do you ask ALL your customers these personal questions?” might suffice. Or even a simple “why would you ask such a thing/ assume such a thing”? If the response is anything other than an apology and some backpeddling, a complaint is in order.

  • ess January 15, 2019, 4:59 pm

    A direct “My reproductive plans are not up for public debate or discussion! We want to leave now ” Repeat as necessary instead of getting drawn into a discussion and defense about the current status of your uterus. No begging pardon, no giving her any ability to make excuses and pretending it’s for your own good.

  • Barney Fife January 15, 2019, 6:07 pm

    I’m having fun coming here:)

    Well, I’ve said dumb things. I was once giving out door prizes for our business and the prize was a pretty, doubly womanly-like thing and a gentleman won it. In order to keep the level of the room up and yet not have the man feel let down over his girly prize, I said something like ” well your wife or girlfriend will like that.” Silence. Someone else spoke up and said ” yeah. Maybe his husband will enjoy it.” Which, truly was even worse than what I said.

    My point is, people say stupid things and really no one means anything awful by it. Some of us just dont think, or are trying to lighten the mood, or in my case, still stuck in gender/sex roles from a previous generation.

    When I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth, instead of a cold stare, I’d rather someone just “I’m sorry, I think you’ve misunderstood the situation ( and please bring the check. Or whatever)

    • staceyizme January 16, 2019, 6:14 am

      It’s true that there’s a lot of discomfort when something that is said goes awry and it’s two-fold: the object of the remark and the person who spoke it may both sting a little. That said, the discomfort of the speaker isn’t the first priority to afdtress. In fact, the speaker may mitigate damage on both sides with a speedily offered, sincere apology.
      I think most people find themselves in difficulty when trying to manage concerns that aren’t within their purview. Someone’s reproductive choices, love life or even their presumed feelings are off-limits for casual comments, for good reason. Crossing that boundary without an invitation to do results in awkwardness and sometimes rudeness, in my estimation.

  • LizaJane January 15, 2019, 6:48 pm

    Wait. She wouldn’t bring you alcohol because she thought you were pregnant, then she chided you for not planning to have children?

    I missed the part where you got it through her head that you weren’t pregnant.

    Maybe she realized her first mistake and went into panic-chatter. I’m not excusing her at all, but the woman makes no sense.

    She should’ve stuck her foot back in her mouth to prevent more words from coming out of it.

    • OP January 16, 2019, 3:42 am

      Oh, sorry, she got that I wasn‘t pregnant before she went to get the check. When she was met with ringing silence after she made her first assumption. By way of excuse she said it had looked as if I was pregnant when I sat down…

      • LizaJane January 16, 2019, 1:44 pm

        Thanks for that. She’s ridiculous.

  • esmerita January 16, 2019, 2:03 am

    I’ve had the opposite issue when visiting relatives on whilst holidaying with my mother.

    As we were leaving, dear Auntie suggested I should think about losing some weight. I responded that I would, as soon as the baby was born. She hadn’t realised I was 7 months pregnant! So obviously she did not know me well enough to be offering opinions on my weight.

  • OP January 16, 2019, 4:14 am

    OP here, like I wrote: brain freeze. Probably add in a narcissist mother who, BTW, did not tell off a different woman who made the same assumption, but me, because I was too fat (she also wouldn’t tell me who that woman was)… I‘ve long since stopped trying to justify anything to her, since she’s the drama queen extraordinaire in my life and nothing I say has any relevance or impact, but that reflex is hard to overcome and this story happened a few years back when I was even less practiced at dealing with this sort of attack from the blind side…

  • Catherine St Clair January 16, 2019, 12:55 pm

    I have to admit that I am something of a prankster and this sort of person brings it out in me. Rather than trying to shut these folks down, I go with the assumption they have so happily made. You can get very creative with these folks because they sometimes don’t realize you are just getting creative. How about, “Yes, it is triplets, you know. The father is a rodeo clown in an American rodeo. He feels his life’s work is rescuing bull riders by jumping into barrels; and he refuses to give up his profession to be a husband and father! He won’t marry me and has run off to Texas! (Sob, sob!) Whatever can I do? My parents have disowned me because they wanted me to be a nun and give my life to God, but no convent will take a postulant with triplets!” At some point she will be sorry she ever mentioned it.

    • LizaJane January 16, 2019, 3:04 pm

      This really is the best way.. and such fun.

  • Princess Buttercup January 17, 2019, 4:25 am

    If I got over the surprise soon enough I would have made a joking comment about the foot in her mouth.
    Would you like some ketchup so the foot in your mouth tastes a little better?
    Usually when one sticks their foot in their mouth it makes it hard to continue, but look at you going ahead and getting the other foot in their as well!

  • Kitty January 20, 2019, 6:28 pm

    Why did you let yourself get roped into a conversation with her? Just make even a non-commital noise, and ignore her. You are here with your partner and friend, and are socializing with them; not her. She thinks your ignoring her would be rude? …frankly, why worry about that? Chances are, you will not see this person again upon leaving the establishment.

    “How and when could I or we have convinced the woman to shut up?”
    By not even engaging. And by bluntly and firmly putting her into her place as soon as she dropped the first line. ‘Excuse me? You are assuming something about me that you have no way of knowing, nor any business. Now, please bring us the check.’

    “the woman would have cut me off to have the exact same conversation in the middle of the restaurant in front of the other patrons”
    In which case, you could have had no shame in loudly telling her, ‘Lassen Sie mich endlich in Ruhe!’ (Leave me alone already.) Remember, using Sie in German makes it clear to potential listeners that this is not a case of friends arguing; this is a stranger who is bothering you. And if other people had stared, that’s fine.

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