I love hearing your modern etiquette questions! Please send them to me here.
Q: Hi Maggie, I’d like to ask your opinion on chewing loudly at meals. My boyfriend chews so loudly that it makes me not want to be at the table with him. I just cant find words to tell him,”Hey, close your mouth when you chew!” Maybe it’s just me being too sensitive. Any help would be greatly accepted. Thanks for listening. – Natalie, Pennsylvania
A: With any type of behavior that we find offensive, rude, or obnoxious, the first question I would normally ask would be, “To what degree?” is this behavior bothering you or others? If it’s a minor personality trait or annoyance that could be overlooked when all of the person’s other redeeming qualities are recognized, or a behavior that others might not think is annoying, then usually I’d suggest not saying anything in an effort to spare that person’s feelings (and to not come across as judgmental yourself – we all have flaws!)
However, you say that the loud chewing is so bad that it makes you not want to be at the table with him. Wow, that’s a real dating buzzkill, seeing as how dinner with your boyfriend is a pretty standard operating procedure for a relationship. So it sounds like the degree of this annoyance is quite high for you to not want to sit at the table with him. Maybe suggest a movie instead of dinner? Just kidding.
Assuming you want to keep him as your boyfriend, and enjoy all the perks of having a boyfriend (i.e. dining out with him!), without getting grossed out or embarrassed every time you two are in a restaurant together, you definitely need to say something. BUT! You need to make sure you choose your words wisely if you want them to have a positive effect – and by positive I mean a change in his behavior without a change in his feelings about himself – or for you.
If I were in this situation, this is word-for-word what I would say (in a super sweet, loving, caring tone of voice) at a time when you’re not eating or out to dinner (you don’t want to call him out on the spot!):”Babe, remember how we made a pact that if either of us ever had anything in our teeth we would tell the other person? I’m telling you this because I would totally want you to tell me. You’re perfect, you’re amazing, I love going to dinner with you, but I’ve noticed that sometimes you chew kind of loudly and it bothers me.” That’s all you need to say. Men respond to short, sweet, and direct.
He could respond in several ways. If he gets defensive, remain very calm and sweet and say “I’m just letting you know that it kind of bothers me and I just wanted you to be aware.” If he asks for more specific details, tell him. And if he says he doesn’t care at all (which basically translates to he doesn’t care about your feelings), then it’s time to find a boyfriend who values etiquette and his relationship with you.