My wife and I were out to lunch recently and when she stepped away for a moment, I noticed a couple at the next table eating together. They seemed to be a bit of a mismatch already but then I noticed his table manners. Let's just say they left a little something to be desired. Then I wondered, what must this pretty, polished woman with him think. I glanced over periodically and it became apparent that every time he was eating, she averted her gaze and looked anywhere else. Then when he had taken several bites, he would put down his fork (or should I say shovel?) and they would talk and share eye contact. This happened several times so it definitely seemed to be a pattern, which made me wonder: how important are good table manners in a prospective partner?
Time for some research...
Luckily for me, I have a fantastic community where I coach called "Ultimate Love and Passion" and in it, there are thousands of members from all over the world who all pursue personal development and are looking to create incredible-quality, intimate relationships. Quite simply, this group offers some of the finest, kindest — and wisest — souls I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet and serve. So I asked the group: are poor table manners something you can somehow "work-around" like the woman at the next table — or is it just a deal-breaker? About a hundred responses, anecdotes and opinions later, one comment stood out in my mind more than the others, so I had to share it here with YourTango readers. One of our members said "Once a friend of mine observed that people eat the way they have sex. In my experience, that's pretty accurate." That had never quite dawned on me until that moment, and I had to admit, it was a pretty fascinating "proposition."
Is it true?
I was intrigued by this theory linking behavior in the dining room with habits in the bedroom so I started to give it some thought. Not surprisingly, a number of the people who responded to my question also picked up on that angle. It occurred to me that for many foodies especially, eating is an exquisitely sensual experience. It's all about savoring and enjoying mouth-watering tastes, rich flavors, creamy textures, and intoxicating aromas. Likewise, for many, love-making might be the ultimate sensory experience. However, I had to consider that there are also some with, shall we say, less than discriminating palates, or more "unrefined" eating habits. What about them?
What are you hungry for?
Not to be overly clever here, but I suspect to a great degree, your "sexual appetite" comes down to your personal "taste" and your past experiences. What makes one person prefer the sexual equivalent of a 12-course gourmet feast for the senses versus a hit-it-and-quit-it, fast-food, fly-by? Why do some stick to the meat and potatoes, nothing-but-the-basics approach while others insist on the whole soup-to-nuts smorgasbord? What's the difference between one who savors every mouth-watering morsel and one who ravenously feeds until their body says no more? What does it say about the person who follows all the rules, uses their salad fork first and places their napkin in their lap as opposed to the lip-smacking, talk-with-your-mouth-full kind who jumps right into dessert before the entree? I suspect these different styles or archetypes are dictated by aspects of our personalities that are either fully expressed, massively repressed, or possibly even exist somewhere in between those two extremes.
Here's something else to think about:
Another member shared an excellent perspective as well:
"I dated a guy who was extremely rude to wait staff and poor manners. Turns out, the more I got to know him, the less I could tolerate. He was 10 times worse after a few glasses of wine. I think how a person approaches a meal in the company of their love interest is also how they will approach their life, their relationship...even their sexual experiences. Conscientious and aware people do not wolf down their food. I bet you that woman overlooked much more than his poor table manners."
The truth is we have a saying in the personal development and coaching field that says "How you do anything is how you do everything." Basically, that means there are no fences in the human personality and frequently your beliefs, preferences and your general "model of the world" bleed over into other aspects of your life.
What can we take away from all this?
It's fair to say that everything is a clue and when people tell us who they are — or publicly demonstrate who they are — we really should pay attention. However, it's also true that the meaning you attach to a situation will dictate your emotion — and your response to that situation. For instance, there's a huge difference between one whose cultural upbringing is markedly different from your own and is simply unaware — and one who is purposely rude or disrespectful. The best advice to be aware of who you are, what you want and what's most important to you in your life. Get really clear on what you want and what you don’t want. Perhaps even more importantly, you need to be crystal clear on your must-haves and deal-breakers also.
What does this mean to YOU specifically?
The more I think about it, it's like anything else in life. Maybe the best piece of advice is to be smart, educated and prepared for anything. There's a time and a place when displaying good table manners will only benefit you. Likewise, there's a time when poor manners will reflect badly on you and limit your choices.
I guess it comes down to what my grandfather told me just before he passed away: there's a time to know when to follow the rules...and there's a time when you get to make your own rules. In fact, sometimes, it can be A LOT of fun to break rules. Especially when it's in private, or not. Here's hoping you find someone amazing to share your meals — and your love with — just the way you like it.