Jo Knows: First Date Dealbreakers

Hi all…I hope you have been enjoying this new advice column as much as we have. Today’s topic is one that I think about often and is so fun to talk about with girlfriends: first date deal breakers and turn offs. Without further ado… (and please don’t forget to write in with your questions to hi3chairs at gmail dot com!)

Dear Ask Jo,

I recently went out on a mostly great date. The guy was super handsome, funny, smart (tall!)– we totally clicked and had great chemistry. We ordered, our food came, and this guy started WOLFING down his dinner. Elbows on the table, burping into his napkin, slurping water…it was pretty bad. Plus, when he did engage me in conversation, it was with a completely open mouth filled with food — a huge pet peeve of mine. I don’t want to be prissy, but his table manners were a huge turn off and I had a hard time enjoying the rest of the night with him. I really want to go on a second date, and he’s been following up, but I don’t know if I can overlook the bad manners. It feels way too early to talk to him about manners…what should I do?

Sincerely, Dined & Disappointed 


Dear D&D,

Ugh, bad table manners are an especial pet peeve of mine. My husband was half-raised by a family with four boys, (the saintly mother finally adopted a girl for her fifth) and he picked up some interesting ideas about table etiquette. Thankfully, he had entirely self-corrected by the time he met me. Had he retained any of the habits from his youth, I cannot say where we would be now (still married, but probably he would have sustained a few fork-related injuries).

Table manners are such a sensitive subject. I suspect this poor guy is clueless about his eating habits and you pointing them out to him is akin to telling someone post-first kiss that they have horrible technique – that is to say, entirely embarrassing for them and likely to make everyone uncomfortable for a good long while. I think your instinct that it’s too soon to bring it up is accurate, which means you’re going to have to wait this one out. From what you say, though, it sounds like this dude is worth waiting it out for. Finding that spark off the bat with someone is somewhat rare and totally worth pursuing for the time being.

Another thing I would point out is that bad table manners, though irritating and mood-killing, are not a deep-seated character flaw. It’s important to suss out the changeables vs the unchangeables. For the most part, a person is who they are and you can love it or leave it. That being said, there are some superficial things that once a relationship is established, you can negotiate. Can’t stand the smell of his deodorant? Buy him something you find less offensive and sweetly ask him to give it a try. Don’t like his mom? Going to have to deal with that one. Chewing with his mouth open is a changeable offense…eventually. Until you get to that level with him, maybe stick to non-dining centered outings. Go for a walk in a park or get some culture at a museum. Focus on that spark, girl, and see where it takes you!

Jo Knows is a new advice column where my friend, Joanna, tackles any and all of your questions every other week. Nothing is off the table (think: sex, depression, career, family, dating, etc), and all questions will be published anonymously.

Email hi3chairs at gmail dot com. Thank you!

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