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Embaressing Dining Partner- What to Do?

I recently visited a close family member who I haven't seen in a while- I love this person. However, my relative makes me cringe anytime we go out to eat (which ironically is all the time when we are together as she refuses to cook anything!)
Here's a common scenario:
We go to a diner or a deli. As soon as we are seated, she complains of a draft (sometimes there is one but more often than not there isn't). We move our seats.
She complains of another draft (no, I am not joking- this usually happens minimally 2 times in a row). We move again- and at this point we may even have glasses.
She orders her meal but dissects it- a typical meal being broiled salmon, veggie and baked potato- but no spices on the fish including salt or pepper, no sauce. (In her defense she does have acid reflux so some spices can cause her problems, but then she'll drown her dish in ketchup which has salt and spices in it...I refuse to point this out to her)
Not always but many times she'll send her dish back- I recall more than one occasion when she sent the same dish back twice. Sometimes she has a justified reason- they didn't cook her steak medium well as asked for example. But sometimes she'll complain that there are spices on it and there really doesn't seem to be to me at least.
Throughout the meal she purses her lips and doesn't seem very friendly to the waiter.
I want to emphasize again that I love this person with all of my heart and obviously I feel that whatever discomfort it is eating out with her is worth it despite my embaressment.
If you have been or if you were ever to be in a similar predicament, how would you react?

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  1. I overtip and/or pull the server aside (out of earshot of dining companion) to apologize profusely.

    3 Replies
    1. re: marthadumptruck

      The big tip and talking to the server is a good idea. To bounce off this, I'd attempt to "train" one restaurant of the particulars (same table, same service/server, same big tip) and only go to this place with the relative, i.e., find a regular place. If the servers know there will be a big tip and it's sort of a game and that you'll screen them from the fussy one, they'll probably be happy to serve you.

      1. re: ML8000

        talking to the server in private is a good idea. i know whenever i get a warning i'm less likely to be bothered by a customer.

        i served a this family once- and grandma was acting very strange. she'd say no when i put down what she ordered in fromt of her, etc. i was patient with her anyways because i love little old ladies, but one of the guests whispered to me that she had alzheimer's. i thought that was nice of them to tell me.

      2. re: marthadumptruck

        I recommend speaking with the restaurant in advance, making a reservation, and requesting a tough-skinned server, whom you will pay in advance because you know that yours will be a difficult table. If possible, talk to the server personally to describe your plan. Palm the money to the server when you get there, and then tip appropriately afterwards. This way, you know that the server is being paid properly for service above and beyond what is reasonable and that amount is not dependent on the vagaries of your order (wine? appetizer? dessert? coffee? chicken or filet? - your choices can add up to significant differences in the amount you tip if you are basing it on a percentage of the cost of the meal). The tip can then, alas, remain subject to whatever influences you customarily choose.

      3. I suggest you either cook for her (in her house if necessary) or spend time with her that does not involve a meal.
        For all intents and purposes it sounds as if SHE didn't enjoy the dining out either.
        Obviously she must eat at other times, so find out how she eats normally and join her that way, even if it's warmed-over frozen dinners in front of the TV. It's the company that counts, right?

        7 Replies
        1. re: Covert Ops

          My relative honest to goodness eats out almost every single meal except for breakfast. (She and her husband are retired). That is how she eats normally!:} Therefore when I visit I really don't have a choice because she never wants to let me cook (believe me- I have offered- and the one time she let me I regretted it because she nitpicked everything I made)- if I am to visit I have to eat out with her, end of story. Believe me- I know there are a lot worse things in life- and again, I love her and appreciate the time spent together- but it still can be an embaressing experience.

          1. re: Covert Ops

            Can't you talk to her about it? Not while you are at a restaurant obviously, but at some other time?

            1. re: Missmoo

              OOOh, don't go there! This is obviously an ingrained behavior. Talking to her in unlikely to change her behavior, and risks pissing her off. If you value the relationship, (which it sounds as if you do),suck it up and go with the first suggestion to tip big and apologize profusely. But don't let her catch you!

              1. re: Missmoo

                Definitely- I am a big believer in not holding things in. I've gently asked her about it but she always gets defensive, justifying her dining behavior with a "medical" reason. She has acid reflux but that's pretty much it.
                Let's put it this way: her husband drives her everywhere- she never has to walk. I think she's just used to having things her way and as I've said, I've reached a point where I realize that spending time with her is worth it. However, I was curious as to how others on this board would react, and any ideas of how to find situations like this less embaressing?
                (My own recent trick is to try and find some humor in it- see how many times we have to move our table for example and try to set a record!) :}

                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                  Any chance that since your relative goes out a lot, and you are visiting her, that you are eating at establishments that she frequents regularly? and that the staff know her ways?

                  If not, I would probably just pull the server aside on the way out and say a heartfelt "thanks for being so understanding" and slip em some extra. You can also convey the same idea when the requests are placed. I wouldn't feel embarrased about it, but more work with the server so you are working together to make your relative at ease.

                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                    I'm with the "leave a v. big tip" camp, and try to take the waiter aside to explain if possible. I've had some very odd dining experiences with my father in law at some of our favourite restaurants (yes, I should learn not to take him to those, due to hitting on waitresses, v. strange dialogues with servers whose English is not great, etc.) and that is the approach that I (we) take.

                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                      In that case I agree with what everyone else says ;)

                2. Yikes, this sounds so much like my own mother it is frightening!

                  For instance, we went to a nice steak place not long ago... she ordered her filet medium-well... I ordered mine medium rare. Of course the cooks butterflied hers (they were thick) to cook it evenly throughout. Well when they served our steaks and she saw hers and mine, she complained that they gave us different steaks, and had her take it back! I tried to explain it to her but it was too late at that point... these kinds of people dont like to be told they are in the wrong.

                  It is very difficult indeed, especially when you're trying to enjoy yourself (and your meal) as well.

                  I'm interested too to see how people deal with it... since in my lifetime I still havent found a way to get her to just enjoy a meal out without literally looking for something to be wrong.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: littlelea

                    warn the server in her presence. Say something like, we might be moving tables as my aunt/cousin/sister likes to complain about draughts. Then once you order, again warn the server, she might be sending her food back 2 or 3 times until satisfied. Do it with humour!!! She might realise she is a PITA.

                    1. re: smartie

                      Exactly what I would have suggested!

                      Or ask the host/ess in advance to the table which has the least draft.

                    2. re: littlelea

                      I've come to believe that for some people the enjoyment is in the bitching. My mother dearly loved being miserable in her old age -- nearly drove me crazy! She complained about everything, but I knew her days were numbered, so I just let it be.

                    3. Sometimes when someone is annoying me I tend to focus on that and nit pick every little thing he/she does. Then I tend to overexagerate and obsess over silly small stuff that in the end doesn't really matter. I'm sure the moving and the tons of special requests can grate on your nerves but you can't change her behavior. Instead, change yours. Try focusing on something else, like how nice the atmosphere is, how delicious the food, maybe ANOTHER glass of wine, anything. Just relax and smile to yourself at your inner joke and enjoy yourself.

                      1. My grandfather tends to be difficult in restaurants, not quite as bad as you describe, but tough. I make sure the server is well compensated financially for his or her troubles, and I make sure to give the server a couple of heart-felt, eye-contact, knowing thank yous. You know, the sort of "thank you" that comes with a look that means "thank you so much for being kind to us, I realize she's a bit of a handful." When I was a server, one of those thank yous went a long way.

                        1. Talking to her won't work. Some people just have to complain about their food, service etc. It's almost an obsession with some people, or at least a way to get some attention. It is common, unfortunately, with older people, although I know a few young PITAs as well. These are the people who feel that they are paying for a dinner and they get to pick and pick and complain until everything is right for them, or at least until there has been a big fuss made for them. I knew someone who would always complain that her food was "ice cold" and send it back regardless of whether or not the plate was so hot that the server had to use a towel to handle it. She would do that everywhere she went. Your relative won't even be happy if you cooked for her.

                          I think the only thing you can do is, as suggested, 1) pull the server aside and tip heavily, and/or get yourselves on a "wink" relationship with the same restaurant and staff, who know that you will be compensating them well for their trouble.

                          1. My favorite quotation from Abe Lincoln comes to mind here. Old Abe said, "Most folks are about as happy as they have decided to be".

                            Clearly, your relative is an unhappy person, or at least she has decided to be unhappy. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to change her, although intensive therapy and medication might help. Of course, if she is happy being unhappy, then nothing would motivate her to want to change.

                            What I am trying to say is that if your relative wasn't complaining about everything in a restaurant, she would likely be bemoaning her fate regarding something else. So, you have your choice of listening to her unreasonable complaints in a restaurant or listening to them in some other venue. (Hint: I don't suggest that you take her to a Broadway play!) Of course, listening to her in private might be less embarassing, but in private there would be less to distract you from her rantings than in a restaurant.

                            However, if you want to try a mild form of behavior modification, I do have a suggestion. You might tell her that you have to hear at least one positive comment for every negative comment that she makes. This might make her realize how difficult it is to listen to someone like her, and to realize just how negative she really is.

                            I certainly don't envy you.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                              Thanks for all of the suggestions! I particularly agree with the extra tip- though I would have to find a way to do it secretively so as not to insult her, or if not, at least making sympathetic eye contact with the server. Either way, I do try to enjoy myself- as I always say- life's too short! :}
                              By the way- do you think there is any risk of "retaliation"? I sincerely hope not- but then again. if you've ever read some of those waiter rants on the web....you'd get scared! :}

                              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                you can slip it to the server while "going to the bathroom" or when walking out the door after your meal, suddenly discover that you must've "left your sunglasses/reading glasses/lip balm/keys/whatever at the table" and run back--

                                another trick is to leave the tip with the host or the service bartender while "going to the bathroom" and out of eyesight of your relative-- this has the added bonus of alerting other staff of your aggravating but ultimately, hopefully, funny and profitable dining situation.

                            2. Nic

                              when jfood first read your post the firstthought was that she had an eating disorder, but then reading your responses below jfood has the following conclusion. She's elderly and some elderly people have difficulties in restos no matter how oftenthey go. If she is on some form of blood thinners (coumadin comes to mind) she will feel drafts and chills way before anyone else at the table, one of the side effects of the pharma. the trick is to make her comfortable at one table or another.

                              Next steps is to try to direct her ordering to the simple side and it seems she gets there pretty well herself. then here's where jfood steps in when eating with certain people who have these types of dietary restrictions. While the server is writing it down, softly re-emphasize the need for veeeeerrrrry light if at all on the seasoning, then smile and wink. works like a charm. Servers are pretty smart at picking this up when a younger member of the table emphasizes the point.

                              Jfood also likes the idea of giving t he server a head's up butplease do it away from the table (no need to embarass) and good idea is at the server station. A gentle "she can be a little difficult but she's a wonderful lady" works nicely and maybe slip the waiter the extra tip at this point.

                              getting old is difficult, going out with the elderly can be a challenge but handling the situation with dignity and respect both ways will lessen any tension that may ensue.

                              Good luck.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                Thankfully she's not on any blood thinners- as I already stated, aside from acid reflux she is perfectly healthy. But I agree with you that dignity and respect is absolutely important- and as you've said in other posts- food is just not as important as human relationships.
                                That being said, and maybe this would be fodder for a new thread, but why do so many elderly people (aside from the factor of health) seem to have so many food bubbameises that they just didn't have when they were younger? It can't just be my bubbe:} [If you didn't catch the yiddish phrases, bubbameises=hangups and bubbe is grandma or nana] :}

                                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                  jfood is a shainakup (sic) so understood. doing the Boca shuffle with one-generation up at dinner is always a challenge. one member insists on a new bread basket at the end of the meal to take home, yet two days later its still in the napkins on the kitchen counter. go figure. you gotta love-em for their tenacity at any age.

                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                    Well, I'm a shiksa who has spent 25 year learning how to be a Jewish wife, so one thing I can tell you is that the same insanity runs in the Italian (my) side of this family too when it comes to eating in restaurants. It is an equal-opportunity phenomena. I think it is a combination of a few things: 1) Money. Yes, they may have loads in the bank, but the notion that they are on a "fixed income" just overshadows everything. Notice that they never took extra sugar and jelly packets home until they were retired?; 2) Truly, they can't digest food in the same way as when they were younger. Heartburn, indigestion, nausea -- this is all much too common with older people who take many medications. Not only do the medications change the way they can taste food (metallic undertones are common), but they can't eat heavy meals late, too many spices, too much dairy, etc. This is a real issue and is not made up at all; HOWEVER -- and I have studied this carefully, the biggest reason may be; 3) the public complaining, whining, demands, send-backs of entrees, etc. may have something to do with getting attention. It's as though they have earned the right to be catered to and treated as special. It is one of the reasons most seniors I know hate discussing their friends' ailments -- only theirs. They need to dwell on their own situations, and it is a rare opportunity that they get a whole dinner date with a younger person to use for this purpose.

                                    Just my two cents, and maybe a bit cynical, but I've spent enough time having lived with some of the parents at this stage to believe it really is true, as well as almost funny to watch.

                                    1. re: RGC1982

                                      Amen to all that! As my Mom got older she was more and more like Nicole's relative. Everything had to be just right or she would complain about it. Drafts were a problem for her too. She'd be the first to refuse a dish or send one back if she wasn't pleased.

                                      To some extent she had just reached a point in her life where she had no tolerance left, or at least had come to a place where she could no longer keep things in the same perspective that she had when she was younger. I can relate to the idea that many older people reach a point where they feel they deserve to have things their way and refuse to compromise.

                                      A lot of that is understandable, but what is difficult is that many people like that often seem to add on an attitude that can be easily interpreted as just plain nasty or mean in the way they interact, especially with servers. It's not just that there's a problem, but they show that they are irritated by it and they tend to make it the fault of the server. Things get easily overblown and it's just plain embarrasing to be around. It takes a lot of patience.

                                      My cousin's step-dad i slike that, but he's suffering from some dementia, which makes it bith harder and easier. My cousin just tells him to be quiet when he starts to get out of hand. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. Dementia is a whole other thing, though sometimes the line gets blurred.

                                    2. re: NicoleFriedman

                                      My dad lived to 93, and he was grumpy most of his life... but he had me when he was 52, so when I was old enough to know better, he was already a senior citizen. My general feeling about some of the grumpy older people is that they figure they don't have to hold it in anymore - you spend all your grown up years being non-confrontational, following all the rules, walking away to be the better person, and finally, you've had enough. They should be able to complain about whatever they way and be left alone. My dad used to complain loudly about the service of the bus system, while he's on the bus, and he'll tell me that other people agree with him. Umm, okay. Funny thing is that he never complained about eating out.

                                      I understand that there are many younger demanding diners as well, but it seems like we're focusing on age right now (at least for my response anyway).

                                      1. re: boltnut55

                                        Boltnut, you and your dad have a lot in common with my daughter and me. She'll be four soon and I'll be 57 next birthday. I used to be much harder driven at work and had less patience in places like restaurants. With our daughter's arrival, I work and travel less, spend time on CH without guilt; the three of us go fishing, to the zoo, and I spend time alone with her--and I'm getting so relaxed at restaurants that I almost laugh at the occasional bad service. So, my hopes are to live to 93 as well and to get less cranky rather than more. Course I'll probably get grumpy if my daughter calls me a senior citizen.

                                  2. We have had several of these in our family and seem to be getting more by the day. It seems like they are all turning into grumpy old people in restaurants. The suggestions above are good but I find that it is not always easy to take a server aside. What I try to do in a place I am not a regular is to try to build a relationship with the server for the period we are in the restaurant. Sometimes if I can get them to focus on my good vibe instead of my companions bad vibe it helps. Also it can create a sense of we are in this together with the server.

                                    I have found as far as servers go, dealing with difficult people is part of what they do and they are very good at it; after all they are professionals. It amazes me sometimes how good they are with my difficult dining companions. I think that anything you can do to show that you understand how difficult the situation is will help, a wink, a nod, a grateful smile or a heartfelt thank you all seem to work if you can’t take them aside for a personal thank you. And of course the big tip helps as well.

                                    1. My parents grew up with limited means but have done pretty well for themselves and I would say that they are comfortably upper middle class. But they just can't shake their frugality and it can be pretty mortifying. They always ask for hot water with their meal. Not tea, not coffee, but hot water because it's free (at least they don't bring their own tea bags). And whenever they server asks if they would like a soup or salad, the response is always "is it free?". I don't think they've ever ordered an appetizer, soup, salad, or dessert, or drink. I always leave a good tip whenever we dine together!

                                      1. I've found hotel restaurants are often the best equipped to deal with this. They are used to catering to people with all sorts of special needs, since they need to keep the hotel guests happy. Thank you.

                                        1. I would remind her to bring a cardigan sweater, or bring one for her. And I'd stick to restaurants with paper napkins.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            Oh, she's always dressed to the nines with a beautiful pantsuit with blazer or a skirt and blazer combo. (Emphasis on the blazer- yes, she comes prepared! :} )

                                          2. OMG this thread is cracking me up. Nicole, maybe we have the same relative. My great aunt is exactly like this, oy. Our family still talks about the Mimi's Cafe "incident" where we all (8 of us) changed tables three times because of a "draft". Also my aunt always claims she is "not very hungry" then orders half the menu.

                                            However her favorite word is FRESH. Everything she orders she asks the waiter if it is fresh. Is a waiter really going to say no? Comical to us, painful to server.

                                            TIP HUGE AND BEFOREHAND. It's the only way

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Oh Robin

                                              Hey- that could be useful information! :}

                                            2. Why is it that we will tolerate behavior from adults that we wouldn't hesitate to correct in a child? Sometimes people just don't realize how they are coming across, and they need to be made aware of it. This can be done quietly and politely.

                                              I have a friend who used to be a lot like your relative. After a couple of embarassing restaurant adventures, she found herself with no takers on eating out. She made a remark about how everyone was "too busy" to go out to dinner, so I took the opportunity to fill her in. As it turns out, she didn't think her behavior was obnoxious at all, but she was quite troubled to learn that she so thoroughly embarassed her dining companions (to the point that several of us are too ashamed to visit a particular restaurant again!). Yes, we are still friends, and her eating out behavior has improved tremendously. That's how I handled it with a friend. If it happened while dining with a family member, I would make sure the fam. member saw me hand the server an extra tip, and then I would make sure he/she knew why I did it. Then we could all get in the car and yell and scream about it, lol! If you aren't comfortable with talking to your relative about this behavior issue, I agree with the other suggestions about warning the server up front and letting him/her know that you will "take care" of him/her after the meal.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: foodstorm

                                                Oh wow yes. I'm embarrassed all the time by dining companions.

                                                My grandmother used to make me cringe when we went out to eat. She'd pester the poor waiter with her entire medical history. She also pulled the draft thing too, numerous times. What frightens me is that now my mom is becoming a bit long winded with the waiter about her medical requirements. Instead of, "I can't have pepper" she insists on explaining the details of what diagnosis she recently received.

                                                I'm also wary of the wine to volume ratio of dinner companions. I HATE noise makers. Laughter is one thing, but headturning noise makes me want to hide under the table.


                                                1. re: OrganicLife

                                                  I've noticed that also- a lot of elderly people have a tendancy to divulge a lot of their medical history, even to people they just met. (I doubt that this is just a phenomenon in South Florida)

                                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                    Wait a minute! On other chowhound topics, there has been significant discussion that when you order food for medical reasons (no dairy, peanuts, uncooked vegetables etc.) you should, in fact, tell the server exactly why because otherwise, they will consider you a picky, unreasonable customer rather than someone with a serious issue. Where does one draw the line, assuming the problems are medically based? As soon as they start collecting social security? (I do like the idea of printing up a card for the kitchen if you have serious limitations)

                                                2. re: foodstorm

                                                  >Why is it that we will tolerate behavior from adults
                                                  >that we wouldn't hesitate to correct in a child?
                                                  I like your answer best.

                                                  is there any behavior you wouldnt put up with?
                                                  say the troublesome party asking for a bottle of A1 at a "nice" restaurant,
                                                  to go with their fancy steak? i know somebody who has come close to
                                                  doing this. same person has asked the wait staff if they had stuff they
                                                  would have no business having ... like asking a waiter at an indian
                                                  restaurant if they had soup [and they didnt mean dal]. or after hearing the
                                                  list of decent beers at a decent restaurant asking if they had something
                                                  like miller, bud, etc.

                                                  of course cases where there are mental health issues are much more
                                                  difficult, but the perpetual draft?

                                                  i was once dining at a cheep wonton soup operation and the older man doing
                                                  table service told my "it's cold" complaing 30something friend to "wear
                                                  more clothes" ... the look on her face was priceless. he said it in chinese
                                                  and i had no idea what he muttered until she told me. we constantly make
                                                  fun of her. of course when she said she was cold at pere lachiase cemetary,
                                                  i suggeste she could crawl into an open grave. it looked like she was considering
                                                  that ... and tht made me kinda nervous.

                                                  yeah there are generational issues, but for people who are fully functional adults,
                                                  i think you've got to draw the line somewhere.

                                                3. It sounds like a sweater and some Prilosec might help.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                    That was my first thought. Also, maybe going to somewhere that doesn't have waiter service (such as somewhere that you order at a counter and sit where you want) would be better. That way, if she's determined to return her food, she has to go up and do it herself.

                                                  2. Why not order in?, I have an aunt similar to this,one of her big things is insisting thst every plate be cleared as soon as the last bite of food comes off of it, i've seen her be really rude to waitstaff over this....i no longer go out to eat with her family.

                                                    1. OMG, I can relate to this thread. I used to take an elderly aunt out to dinner on a fairly regular basis but she would just make me crazy. Everything, from the "draft" to calling the waitress dear and once telling another waitress that we needed "our girl" at the table. I was mortified, tipped tremendously and went back later to apoligize. After that I invited her to my home and cooked for her. That turned into "no caffeine after 6:00; no whole milk; no spices; no onions and a request for Harvey's Bristol Cream rather than Taylor's sherry for her after dinner drink.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Pegmeister

                                                        Try living with one! My MIL wouldn't eat cooked dairy products ( such as anything with cheese), pasta and assorted other things, depending on whether or not she liked me that day. Couple this with a husband who only liked meat and potatoes and 3 children under 3 -- in a community where the nearest decent grocery store was a half hour ferry ride and an hour's drive away. I got so that I dreaded mealtimes. (I must say, though, that she was always very agreeable when we all went somewhere else to eat -- no issues then!)
                                                        I think that food was a power thing with her -- if she felt powerless or neglected that was where she exerted her will. I wonder if that's some of the probelm in the situations in this thread.

                                                        1. re: Pegmeister

                                                          You've reminded me something that bothered me a lot and I let my family know it- the older generation (not just my bubbe) would call any help by "the boy" or "the girl". I realize that they are from another generation but I was trying my best to explain how this is understandably perceived as racist by many people, or at least "classist"- and I am not a politically correct person by any means. However, referring to an adult as a boy or girl obviously is employing an air of inferiority which is just uncalled for today.

                                                        2. Is there any possibility of convincing this person to go for a "gormet take out" at- home dining option? We have an embarrassing friend and this has worked well for us. We either cook for him or when it's "his turn" to treat we get take out to enjoy at home. Our friend is not old, but rather lacking in social graces. He has done quite well for himself professionally and seems to love the act of having others wait on him - to the point that he is incredibly demanding as a diner. Think about a John Belushi type of person who then goes on to become a doctor. For reasons I won't go into, I do love the guy, but boy I hate to dine (or just about anything else) with the guy in public...

                                                          1. This doesn't seem to be a very popular opinion here, but I would tell the relative frankly that while I loved her, I found her behaviour to be embarrassing and that while you want to continue to eat out with her and you cherish your time with her, this is starting to affect your motivation to do so. I realize that this may be harsh, but it sounds like this is a consistent, ongoing problem (which probably affects all her dinner companions) and sometimes people need a swift verbal kick in the behind about these things: she may not even realize just how obnoxious her attitude and demands consistently are and someone telling her might help her to understand. And yes, while I agree with the others here that you won't likely be able to change her feelings, she can certainly realize the impact that her actions are having on you, prioritize her needs with regards to the atmosphere and the food, and then reduce her complaints to the bare minimum for the sake of your happiness. I don't see why you should be the one having to make all the compromises in this situation and sit idly back pretending that there is nothing wrong with her attitude, or compensate for her issues financially. (A very kind gesture, of course, but why should her complaining be your responsibility?)

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: vorpal

                                                              i agree with you as well.
                                                              althought i keep in mind a distinction between "clueless" behavior
                                                              and "high maint" behavior.

                                                                1. re: jword2001

                                                                  Thank you! I appreciate the compliment!

                                                                2. re: vorpal

                                                                  I think your idea would work is everyone involved would agree to abide by it- however, when you are the sole person in a family who is willing to give the "swift verbal kick", I think it would just cause resentment- especially when the problem had already been brought to her attention. In a way I suppose my family is a bunch of enablers- when I confronted her (nicely) in the past, it was a solo effort. Until her husband and everyone else pushes her to change though, it won't work.

                                                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                    Look, she's not going to change, any more than my mother is. To expect otherwise is folly and just frustrating. So the only thing you can control is your reaction and the way you deal with it. Leaving a bigger tip and alerting the waiter (perhaps when you make a reservation?) is about all you can do, and you're doing that, sounds like, so just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

                                                                3. This IS too comical in some ways. I always remember a visit from my grandmother and taking her to one of our favourite "high end" dining spots. Of course they had the mood lighting set just right....and all we (and everyone in the place) heard loudly as we perused the menu was "they probably didn't pay the electricity bill because the darn lights are so low I can't read the menu!" I almost crawled under the table - some embarassment, but also I was trying not to laugh. I immediately recognized my mistake in taking her to this type of establishment...live and learn. After reading all the comments on the board, I just sat back and wondered as WE get "closer to the finish line" ourselves if there will still be a CH board of our kids and grand kids with all these funny stories about us!!! Oooh...now there's food for thought!! LOL

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: LoN

                                                                    Oh yes, I'm sure. My husband was very kind to my dad, but he wasn't used to him as I was (since I grew up with dad, of course). And admittedly, much of may dad's thinking and things he said were nutty (although as much as I hate to admit it, I swear sometimes the same things come out of my mouth, and of course sounds so correct!). He had been exposed to my dad almost weekly for about 14 years, and I remember in the past year that many times I've told him that HIS parents are starting to say and do the same things that my father, and he knows it too! So I KNOW my daughter is going to be on some message board some day telling all sorts of stories about us! :-)

                                                                    Just today both my husband and I were bothered by a "draft," actually it was really heavy wind blowing through the door that we sat near, and he went to close it halfway!

                                                                    1. re: LoN

                                                                      Ha! That reminds me of the time my whole family went out to a "fancy" restaurant to celebrate my 8th grade graduation (so we are talking late 80s). At the time our town had a hydroponic lettuce farm, and the restaurant served salads with fresh, organic, local red-leaf lettuce. After we were all served my grandfather slams his fist on the table and yells "With the prices we're paying you think they could serve us fresh lettuce!" My mom tries to calm him by explaining that the lettuce is supposed to be red, and he keeps yelling, "I know my lettuce and there is no such thing as red lettuce!" My younger brother and I tried valiantly not to laugh and ate all of our salads (a rarity for us at the time) to try to show him that it was good, but he could not be convinced.

                                                                    2. i think you also have to take into account the fact that we all eat out a whole lot more than our parents ever did, which to many of them I'm sure is an extravagance. For us it's a way of life, to them, a luxury.

                                                                      1. I would stop going out to eat with this individual. And if they asked why you dont go out to eat with them anymore tell them the truth. Lifes too short do deal with people like this.

                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                        1. re: swsidejim

                                                                          I disagree if it's a family member who you love. Life's too short- you're right.

                                                                          1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                            Well, I guess we've all got our limits. I am just at a point in my life where, if I know I'm going to spend precious time worrying and wondering how so-and-so is going to behave THIS time, and even more precious time feeling embarassed and uncomfortable while I'm out with so-and-so, I'd just as soon politely pass on the whole ordeal.

                                                                            1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                              Yes, that's right. Too short. And you obviously care for this person. Grin and bear it for the sake spending time with her. Leave a big tip if it makes you feel better, I'm sure she's not the only annoying person the waiter has ever encountered. And probably if she eats out all the time the staff know her anyway.

                                                                            2. re: swsidejim

                                                                              jfood agrees w Nic. Life is too short and the elderly deserve more empathy than many have posted here. Enjoy the time with them for they won;t be here forever. you will have plenty of time for yourself when they are no longer here.

                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                I agree with Nic & jfood. Would give anything for more time with those who are gone.
                                                                                I just feel the elderly have earned the right to have some character to them! Give me an older person with some stuff about them anytime!

                                                                                1. re: dklipscomb

                                                                                  Like the Fruitcake Lady on Jay Leno? I can't decide if I'd love to take her out to a restaurant or if I'd spend most of the time hiding under the table! She was such a riot but what if she was my aunt?

                                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                                  I think I'll side with you and Nicole here. The elderly and some of our other relatives can require more of our patience sometimes.
                                                                                  Think of the times we ourselves ask to be moved to another table after we've been seated at a table that we find not to our liking? Are we embarrassed for ourselves? Why should we be embarrassed if the person we're with does it if they're really uncomfortable?
                                                                                  Have we sent back under or overdone food or something that was just done wrong after we had given pretty clear instructions? Maybe we even had to send it back more than once. Some CHs have posted questions about whether they should be comped, not whether they should be embarrassed!
                                                                                  It's just for a little while during one meal. Most of the time the elderly relative just needs a bit of attention. Not so much to ask. They're not rude or nasty. Just smile and remember that we'll be old one day too.

                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                    Very good answer. I'm 71, my closest friend--about the only person except my kids/grandkids I dine out with--is 81, and compared to some things I've read from you youngsters on other threads (e.g., all the things waitpersons do that irritate you) we are the easiest people in the world to please.

                                                                                    You can call us ma'am, dearie, honey, sweetie, young lady, etc., and we don't mind; we like being asked, "Is everything is OK"; if we're asked a question when our mouths are full we just smile & hold up a hand til we can answer; we almost never send things back because we know that everyone doesn't do things just the way we do and that restaurants have less-than-perfect days just as we do in our own kitchens (and Depression babies don't like to see good food wasted); we wouldn't dream of relating personal info like our medical histories, we don't like hot or cold drafts to the precise degree other people don't like them.

                                                                                    The only dining companions I've ever been ashamed of were the people--usually the men (incl. my husband) in the group--who were already three sheets to the wind when we got to a restaurant.

                                                                                    One night ca. 1970, four couples met at one of the cottages for drinks before going out to dinner. The men kept drinking and talking until there was only one restaurant anywhere near that was still serving at 8:30. (Maine has changed a lot in 40 years.)

                                                                                    We arrived and sat down, the waitress came to take orders, and many of the menu items they were sold out of.

                                                                                    The (sober) women understood this was to be expected late on an August Sat. night, but my husband and two of the other men got so snippy and rude that I rolled my eyes at the waitress and shook my head in disgust with them.

                                                                                    Maybe it gave her some extra spunk to know that not all of us were jerks, but what she proceeded to do is one of my fondest memories.

                                                                                    She brought the bread baskets. My husband picked up a roll and bellowed, "This roll is cold!". She reached under the napkin and pulled out a roll, felt it for a second, said, "I've seen colder", dropped it back in the basket and sauntered off.

                                                                                    My husband was speechless and we ladies almost fell out of our chairs laughing. He finally muttered something to the effect that at tip-time she would be reminded of the old saying, "You can't be a funny man for nothing".

                                                                                    I don't know how much the men ended up tipping her, but every one of the four women pressed money in her hand as we left.

                                                                                    1. re: PhoebeB

                                                                                      Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you.

                                                                                      1. re: PhoebeB

                                                                                        little sprout thanking you again for a wonderful perspective. the last line is priceless.

                                                                                    2. Nicole, if you love the person, then you just deal with it.
                                                                                      Grab the server as early as you can, pull them aside and tell them that you're dining with a difficult aunt, mother, whatever. Tell them you apologize in advance and you'll compensate them well.
                                                                                      Then smile, and enjoy your meal and your time with your relative. Tip your server well and everyone will be happy.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: QueenB

                                                                                        maybe even get little cards printed up with an explination that you can slip the host/hostess and or waiter:

                                                                                        My aunt is a nut, and sometimes a pain, but
                                                                                        I love her. Thanks for your indulgence!

                                                                                      2. you know, sometimes you don't need to be confrontational with people you dearly love but who have annoying tendencies. sometimes you can be your normal, charming, lovable self just making conversation.

                                                                                        call it manipulative and underhanded, but here goes:

                                                                                        dinner conversation:
                                                                                        "oh aunt mabel, do you remember my old neighbor/ foreign exchange student/friend's progeny/whatever?"
                                                                                        "well, no . . ."
                                                                                        "well i ran into him/her the other day and we went to this cute little cafe to catch up. guess what, s/he's a server now (or use waiter/waitress)!"
                                                                                        "gosh i never knew that being a server was so interesting, they sure have some fun!"
                                                                                        "he talked about how this older fellow who came in all the time was so rude, nobody wanted to wait on him-- you know how some of the older folks get, right aunt mabel?"
                                                                                        "well, yes"
                                                                                        "so every time he came in they'd all go into the kitchen and draw straws to see who had to put up with him!"
                                                                                        "so so-and-so lost and had to wait on the table, and of course nothing was right!"
                                                                                        ". . ."
                                                                                        "and the chef was feeling particularly bad-tempered that day, and the old fellow sent his soup back twice!"
                                                                                        ". . ."
                                                                                        "and you know what the chef did?"

                                                                                        and kind of continue the narrative. sometimes it's easier to see obnoxious behavior in someone other than yourself, and take a lesson from someone else's foibles.

                                                                                        of course, say how much fun you had hanging out with the staff in the cafe when you all got along and don't forget to mention that since you're well-liked regulars that the cooks brought out pieces of pie because they were trying out new recipes and wanted to know which one tasted best. . .

                                                                                        it's amazing how many people can change their attitudes, even very late in life, when they just think about something from a perspective they never have before.

                                                                                        just my silly idea. it might work, though. :)

                                                                                        1. Interesting discussion, and some good ideas there. Let me take it from a different perspective....I am not elderly (I hope!) and certainly not a very picky eater (with one or two notable exceptions). But I do have a thing about drafts. A BIG thing. Actually, I don't like air blowing on me at all. Today the temperature tied the ALL-TIME high for our city, and my house isn't airconditioned. Nonetheless, as I type this the fan is turned so that it may help cool the room but nothing blows on me.

                                                                                          I don't know why I have this thing about fans and drafts...I just do. Its not even a cold thing as much as it is that I HATE the feeling of anything blowing on me...even gently. Now, my husband is fully aware of this little "issue" that I have...and he is very proactive if we go out somewhere. He will stand where I am meant to sit first, and see if he can feel any draft. (He tries to be subtle about it). If he can, he will gently tell the host or hostess something to the effect of: "My wife is really quite a nice person, but she's very picky about drafts...they really bother her. I can feel a draft here. Is there someplace in the restaurant that might be more suitable?" Or something to that effect. I think he does this out of self-protection...he is really much more polite than I would be about the whole thing. I am more likely to be like your relative: a PIA who will be seated and then complain. At least I (almost never) complain about food......

                                                                                          So maybe the proactive thing might work. Next time let the hostess know right away about the draft issue, and almost make a joke of it if you can. "We love Aunt Sadie, she just has her quirks...." Or something like that. The hostess will get the hint, and Aunt Sadie might be just a little embarrassed to complain once you've gone to the trouble of finding a suitable spot. It works for my DH.....

                                                                                          1. My mom is 81 and my dad is 80 and they are a lot of fun to go out with. They are up for anything new, any kind of food, etc. Amazing attitude, really. We live in Los Angeles, but my mom can find a "draft" in 90 degree weather! But she dresses in layers and always carries a sweater, so she's prepared for any situation, such as too-cold air conditioning. (I think that a sweater is much warmer than a blazer.) And, my mom can usually find something else that concerns her, but after awhile she settles down and has a great time. I communicate with a lot of humor with her and she "gets it" -- like last week she didn't like our table but I told her that Steven Spielberg gets "stuck" at the same table, in her actual seat, and it's good enough for him! She dropped it.

                                                                                            Don't know if this is L.A. or just the places that we go, but the servers are always great. No problem for them to deal with the elderly at all. My husband and I are pretty friendly so maybe that helps too. And, I think it's clear that we are there to have a good time, really, and not to complain. My dad is a big tipper so if the waiter knows us that probably helps, or if the waiter doesn't know that, he or she will soon find out. Either way, it always works out. And, when my husband and I go to a regular place without my parents, the staff will sometimes ask how the folks are!!! My mom brings meyer lemons from her tree to one person in particular if she knows we're going to that restaurant!

                                                                                            Anyway, I think I'm more demanding from an ordering point of view - no salt added, sauce on the side, no peanuts or nut oils, etc. I'm probably the embarrassment!