Earlier this month, The Atlantic published a story about how family dinners help children do better school, keep people from becoming overweight, and help us all stave of feelings of alienation. But as anyone who’s had a bad dinner date would knowing, breaking bread with the wrong people can completely ruin one’s appetite.
Since restaurant money and quality time don’t come easy to us who work late into the night, we thought we’d spare you the wasted time by urging you to avoid poor mealtime company. Surely, there are better people to invite out than the following:
1. The people who live in another time zone
In a perfect world, no one would have to set the meeting time an hour in advance to accommodate the stragglers. Nor would anyone show up alone at the set time and spend half an hour selflessly queuing for seats. But alas, stragglers abound in every group of friends. These people include:
- The person who saunters in half an hour late because only over-eager losers with too much free time on their hands would show up early.
- The person who arrives just as all of you are finishing up, only to order his own full course, thus forcing the group to awkwardly sip water while he eats.
- The person who thought the gathering was tomorrow.
2. The person who doesn’t let anyone eat until they’ve taken photos for Instagram
One photo of their own meal isn’t enough. They also need photos of each course in everyone’s individual orders. Oh, but don’t bite in just yet! We must wait until every item arrives so that she can snap a photo of the spread.
Our solution? If you can’t put your foot down, either stop inviting her or avoid any restaurants that look remotely picturesque.
3. The person who can’t eat anything on the menu
You all decided to meet for sushi, but since this person refuses to touch raw fish, she’s stuck eating crabstick, tamago, and pickled inari. Then you have the other guy who’s decided that nothing on the menu is paleo-friendly or gluten-free. Then you have the person who’s decided to eschew anything that’s not organic. Why they agreed to come along despite not being able to order anything is anyone’s guess. Even though they insist that it’s okay, you still feel a little guilty watching them nibble a salad all night.
4. The aunty in a young person’s body
“Aiyo! Are you really going to drink cold water and eat at the same time?”
“Carbonara again? Don’t you know that milk gives you cancer?”
“Eating so much tofu! Are you trying to get pregnant or what?”
Traditional beliefs about food? Good. Nagging your friends who have moved on from those beliefs (and who clearly aren’t sick or dying because of it)? Not so much. If we wanted a lecture, we would have eaten at home with our mums and grannies instead.
5. The boyfriend or girlfriend who would obviously rather be somewhere else right now
It is a truth universally accepted, that at a group dinner … there is a bored, helpless schmuck who clearly only came because his girlfriend dragged him out. Or there is a bored, helpless girl accompanying her boyfriend to supper with his NS friends (who spend the entire night talking about camp, of course). If this sounds like your significant other, they’d appreciate it if you worked harder to make sure they were included. Otherwise, spare them the awkward socialising and enjoy your night out.
6. The flake
You’ve cleared your schedule, filled up the gas tank, and made a reservation, only to receive notification that … your friend can’t make it. Sorry! She overslept. Her boss is making her stay back. Her refrigerator broke and she needs to fix it. She feels a headache coming on but isn’t keen on taking Panadol. However legitimate these excuses might be, once they become frequent enough for you to create backup plans every time you meet up, you might want to consider cutting this person loose altogether.
7. The person who never has cash
We’ve all be short of $10 or have forgotten to withdraw money from an ATM, but then again, we’ve all known somebody whose repeated requests for charity deprived us of a cab ride home after dinner. You should start hiding your extra bills once the person’s ‘forgetfulness’ becomes a habit.
8. The person who kicks up a fuss when splitting the bill
Modern etiquette experts say that the classy thing to do would be to split the bill evenly no matter what. Who cares if you got the $6 Caesar salad while your friends ordered the $12 pasta and the $22 steak? It’ll even out eventually. But since we’re not really there yet, we’re willing to extend the line at appointing one person to calculate how much everyone owes. But if there’s one person who simply must triple-check the group accountant’s work every time you dine out, then beware – you’ve got a miser on your hands. Let’s hope he at least has the decency to volunteer his accounting services next time.
9. The kiasu person
This person makes restaurant reservations at three different times, under three different names (and using three different phone numbers) just in case you need to change the meeting time. She races to the table once your whole party arrives just so she can get the best seat. She also steals stacks of Starbucks tissues, handfuls of ketchup packets, and hides rolls of free bread in her purse when the waiter isn’t looking. Resourceful? Yes. Embarrassing? A thousand times yes. Save it for the hawker centre, not upscale establishments.
10. The high-functioning (kiasu) alcoholic
One margarita becomes two, which becomes three, which becomes four plus a bottle of beer because hey, it’s happy hour, and I might as well take advantage of the discount since we came all this way. The next thing you know, they’ll be getting drunk on purpose so they have an excuse to hitch a ride home from y’all instead of stumbling onto the MRT. Okay, maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but eventually we all grow too old to still be getting wasted at dinnertime.
11. The complainer
“It’s so dark in here. I can’t see anything.”
“This disco music is so annoying.”
“The service here is worse than in a third-world country.”
Does nothing please you?! Is the experience of eating with a friend – no matter how bad the venue – really worse than eating in front of the TV alone? No restaurant is perfect, but your date could at least have the decency to complain to someone else, once you’re both done eating. Which breaks us to our next person…
12. The naysayer
No matter what he thinks of the food, a polite person would see the effort you put into picking a restaurant and try to enjoy himself. The naysayer will not only complain about the venue, but he will try to one-up your choices with his own superior experiences. He’ll say things like, “You call these prawns good? I’ve had way better in Malaysia”, “This place is overrated,” or “This coffee is good, but it’s nothing compared to cappuccinos in Italy.” Fine, if his taste is so great, then he can make the reservations himself next time.