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20-40-60 Etiquette---Should I have ordered for myself?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: March 12, 2013


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I am a single mother and recently went to dinner with a male friend, who ordered for me on our second date. He did not ask what I wanted. He told me he thought I would like his particular choice and ordered anyway.

What should I have said? Should I have protested and said I would order for myself? Or should I have accepted his choices as if he were wonderful?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: HA! I am sorry to laugh, but this must be a generation gap. Did you like what he ordered for you? This has never happened to me but if it did I probably would have changed the order if I didn’t like it.

Next time I would protest and say, “Actually I really thought the __ __ looked good!”

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: This has happened to me before, and when it did, I wasn’t sure what to do either.

I had known my date a long time and knew he meant well: I think he was trying to be kind, act like he thought a gentleman should and treat me like he thought I wanted to be treated. I didn’t want to take that away from him, but I also would have preferred to order for myself. This scenario raises all kinds of prickly issues — What does it mean to be a gentleman? Does ordering for your date make you a gentleman, especially when she’s not even asked for her preference? Or does that action make an independent woman feel like she’s needy and dependent and that her wants aren’t important? (That’s actually how I felt, briefly.) And what does he mean by ordering for her anyway?

It’s a lot to read into the simple act of ordering, when chances are (we hope) the man’s intentions were not sinister or to dominate. The next time it happens assume the best in him and assert yourself gently if you can, although I think it shocked me into silence when it happened to me. Just interrupt and say, “Thanks, that sounds delicious, but I think I’d rather have this.” (One more thought: Keep it in the same price range as his choice, just in case that is another motive in preempting your decision.)

HELEN’S ANSWER: You know, it is hard to know what to order for someone else, particularly if you don’t know them well enough to know if that person has food allergies or what he or she really likes and doesn’t like.

I would be tempted to politely say “give me a minute, and I’ll figure out if that is what I really want.” Then, I would very firmly order what I wanted to eat that day.

Either way, it is perfectly acceptable to order for yourself, or, if what he ordered sounds good, let him order it for you.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Richard Rosser, author of the Piggy Nation book series and musical and first assistant director for “The Neighbors” on ABC: Did you like what he ordered? Unless it was the cheapest thing on the menu or you were allergic, I say let it go. If you enjoy spending time with the guy, maybe you can return the favor and order for him on the third date!

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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