My kids need to learn about proper restaurant etiquette. I’m not talking about fork and knife placement, even though that is super important. Sort of. Well, I’m sure it might be important someday. Just not today. Today it’s more about teaching them the basics. Things that I THOUGHT were all pretty obvious and didn’t need to be taught. Things that other people’s kids seem to already know. I’m talking about the nitty-gritty, raw basics of human behavior…as it relates to restaurant conduct.
- Your napkin is not a dew rag. Don’t tie it around your head and then pretend to be all gangsta. Just don’t. The napkin goes on your lap. If you can’t remember to put it there (because you are too busy kicking your brother under the table) then just leave it on the table. No dew rags. It also shouldn’t be tied around your face like you are a bank robber from the old west, as this can only lead to some poorly timed role-playing. Which can only lead to us getting kicked out of the restaurant. I get it. I do. If I had a napkin tied around my face I would also be compelled to try to tip the table over and hide behind it while I fake-gun battled the bad guys. Which is why I don’t tie napkins around my face. At least not in public.
- Your feet on the table is also something that is universally frowned upon. There is no restaurant, in any town, in any part of the world that accepts that atrocious act. Yes, I know you are just trying to show me that your second toe is taller than your big toe. But now is not the time, and the table is not the place. If you are going to make a huge scene then I will agree to, very discreetly, look at your freakish toes UNDER the table. But if anyone notices I’m going to have to pretend that we are not related and that you are just some strange kid I saw loitering outside the restaurant who needed a good meal. You cool with that? And to think, I was just about to teach you about keeping your elbows off the table. I can see that we are nowhere near ready for that lesson.
- You have an inside voice. Yes, I’m aware that you aren’t necessarily familiar with what that sounds like because we basically never use it at our house. BUT you have it. And if you dig waaaay deep down you can probably find it. It’s most likely tucked away between the “how we talk when we don’t want Mom to hear what we are saying” voice, and the “how we talk when we want to annoy each other” voice. Wedged right in that little space you will probably find the “how we talk in a restaurant so the table next to us can’t hear us talking about how we once ate our boogers” voice.
- A restaurant is a place where you go to eat so you can enjoy a meal that someone else cleans up. Well, at least that is how I describe it. You probably describe it as a place where someone cooks you food that you like, that you requested, and that is nice and warm. Either way, a restaurant is not your own personal comedy stage. It’s not open mic night at Bertucci’s. The other diner’s may not be as impressed with your particular brand of physical comedy. Pretending to walk into the table and then collapse to the floor in convulsions is NOT what we do at a restaurant. We sit there and pretend to be normal. You can have a fake seizure later in the car on the ride home. Where we can properly yell at you to cut the crap.
- Even though we aren’t talking about fork placement, or salad fork vs. dinner fork, I WOULD like to address the issue of the fork… in that I need you to use it. Mac and cheese is not finger food. Spaghetti is not to be eaten straight from the bowl like you are a dog. Your finger is not an appropriate way to get mashed potatoes from the plate to your mouth. You have a fork. Use it.
- But don’t use the knife. In fact, just give me all the knives the minute we sit down. The last thing I need is a “sword fight” breaking out and knocking over my glass of wine.
- You may visit the bathroom only once while we are out to dinner. ONCE. Not five times. Not one after the other. One time, as a group, walking quietly. And I’m only agreeing to take you that one time because you are holding yourself and starting to make a scene. You clearly have to go pretty badly so I’m willing to interrupt my meal to take you. That’s how I roll. But I gotta tell you, when we get to the loo you better run to the stall with the same urgency that you had while jumping up and down at the table. None of this leisurely walking all around the bathroom looking at the paper towel holder and exclaiming in delight over their choice of decor.
- Farting. Farting in a restaurant is right up there with shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. It’s not technically illegal, but it should be. Even if you forget everything else on this list, even if you break every single rule of restaurant etiquette, even if everything I’ve tried to teach you goes in one ear and out the other…I won’t care as long as you hold in your fart until after dinner. If you can do that, I will consider myself successful.