Core Decorum


Dear Decorum,

I was invited to dinner at my friends’ apartment last week. I am a very fussy eater, and unfortunately there wasn’t anything there I cared to eat. I joined my friends at the table, but I said I wasn’t all that hungry and didn’t eat. Apparently everyone discussed my behavior afterwards and said I acted extremely rude. They felt I should have stayed in the living room, saying that I wasn’t hungry.

It was a very informal dinner, where everyone served themselves from the counter. Would it have been better if I had stayed in the other room by myself while everyone ate?

–Fussy with Food


Dear Fussy,

You shouldn’t have been expected to sit by yourself. But you might have consulted with your friends beforehand to explain that you’re a fussy eater (surely they should know by now) and offered to bring something you would eat – something that could be shared with the other guests too. It was impolite for your friends to expect you to sit in another room, but it was just as impolite for you not even to make an attempt to eat something.

There aren’t any manners or rules in the world that force you to eat something that makes you gag. It is polite, however, at least to try the smallest something. Who knows, maybe the chef has found a way to make that particular food delicious. That’s what the “No Thank You” portion is all about. You put just a taste of the item that is not so appealing on your plate rather than saying, “No, thank you.”

Whether it’s a food you’ve never tried or a food you haven’t liked in the past, this gives you the option to try it and at the same time show respect for the person who has taken time to prepare it. It’s much better than just saying, “No, thank you,” unless, of course, you have a food allergy. In that case, you don’t even want to take a taste and a simple “no, thank you” is just perfect.


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