I’M IN THE SOUP—again. Italian wedding soup, to be precise.
On special occasions, my wife and I enjoy going to a fine-dining restaurant. By this, I mean a calm, quiet atmosphere with ambiance, white tablecloths, no need to ask for the water glass to be refilled, more than one server for your table, an extensive wine list and good, creative food. Generally, such a place will attract people with similar objectives for the night. They dress and behave appropriately—or used to.
Recently, my wife and I dined at an upscale Italian restaurant. The least-expensive glass of wine was $14. Entrees ranged from $34 to $59. The service and food were excellent. The bill for dinner—with one glass of wine apiece—was about $200.
After we were seated, three couples with three children arrived. They were wearing jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts. Most annoying was the guy wearing his baseball cap—backward—throughout dinner. I Googled it, and it’s still considered rude. In addition, one of the children was constantly running around the tables and nearly tripping the servers. For us, this brought the atmosphere down a notch.
Last December, for our anniversary, we were in another restaurant, one even better than this recent one. A couple sat next to us, with the guy wearing a hoody throughout the meal.
In both cases, I suspect, the restaurant would rather avoid that kind of dress. But they’re in no position to turn customers away, especially these days.
As far as getting into the soup goes, I posted my experiences and feelings on a Facebook restaurant group. I’ll never learn. Within hours, there were over 150 comments, 99% of which defended the offending diners.
One commenter thought the diners may have been poor, had received a gift certificate and couldn’t afford nice clothes. Another suggested the guy with the hat probably was sick and too embarrassed to remove it. I was told that I hated children and shouldn’t dine early to get the early bird special—or any special, for that matter.
We are a nation built on excuses, financial and otherwise.
“Children will be children,” I was told. Underlying themes included “times have changed,” “get with it” and “mind your own business.” Most Facebook commenters said they didn’t care and didn’t look at other diners. So much for quiet ambiance.
In the olden days—meaning 40 or 50 years ago—when we took our four small children to a nice restaurant, they were appropriately dressed, sat on their chairs and their food was ordered from the regular menu. No spaghetti with butter. No chicken fingers. And they didn’t have an iPad or iPhone perched in front of them to keep them quiet. It became a thing in our family. When a person came by our table and complimented them, we gave them each a dime—just like John D. Rockefeller.
I have a theory as to why we leave this world when we get old. It’s not our bodies wearing out. It’s the frustrating behavior of the generations that follow. If we didn’t die naturally, we would eventually jump into the ocean on the next cruise.
Our next cruise is booked for September. I hope there are no baseball caps or hoodies in the upscale dining venues we’ve reserved. The North Atlantic is cold.
I didn’t know you lived in Memphis!
Do takeout next time.
How does that help us celebrate in an upscale atmosphere? So the answer is just lower one’s standards to the lowest common denominator? And you have no issue with a guy wearing a hat while dining?
As people get older they usually get more tolerant about things. As long as no one is interrupting your dinner, what is the problem? We are all in different stages of life. I’m sure at one time you had to deal with little ones. Be grateful that you don’t have to deal with both eating your dinner and keeping one eye on the kids any more. Or maybe you really miss that? Unfortunately, we live at a time where there is such an exclusionary attitude in our society about who we want to tolerate and who we don’t because of their culture or beliefs that we shouldn’t extend it to children or to those who dress a little differently than we would. Being in a restaurant is being in the public. It can be both a pleasure and a pain to operate in the public sphere. As long as one is not being violated in some way, being in the public sphere will expose one to people who may be very different than you are. Sometimes it may be uncomfortable. Often it is an amusing, sad, entertaining or even a learning experience.
It seems we are well into the era of excuses, compromise and anything that may help get standards to a new low.
I will be censored for this, but we know where your standards are.
I hope so.
It took me until now to remember that you had written this article, Richard.
Sometimes dressed too fancy and sometimes not dressed fancy enough, eh?
Edit: Also, this one.
Yup, dress appropriately for the occasion, car shopping or fine dining – or church, or a ballgame or…
I won’t disagree with you too much there. Didn’t you have an article once where the salesperson at a fancy store thought you were dressed like a bum or something? Maybe I’m thinking of another author…
Nope that was me in a shopping mall dressed quite casually and fitting in.
I guess some people just like to complain. Let us be grateful for what we have and love our neighbor. I find these discussions a waste of time so I will leave them to you all in the future.
Richard Gore, manners are the glue that holds society together.
The NYTimes recently had an article about this topic that generated more than 1,300 comments. A comment that restaurants should ban cell phones received the most recommendations.
Leave the Sweatshirt at Home. Dining Dress Codes Are Back.
A number of restaurants are betting that Americans want to get gussied up again, but not everyone is thrilled about the fashion screening.
Ah, vindicated by no higher power on Earth, the NYT. Thanks for the helping hand. I may back away from the railing. Take that all you errant Millennials😃
As an 80 yr old great grandfather, and someone inching closer to the exit door of this world, I fully understand how Richard Quinn feels about the changing mores of society, but I do not support his views for the following reasons: 1) generational change is a feature of any developing society, and older generations always believe that their societal customs are better than those of the succeeding generation. But this was amply expressed in the response by Joey. 2) Everyone is a product of their life experiences, and since the child is the father of the man, what is learned as a youth generally stays with the individual, but that person should undergo a mind-changing evolution to accommodate changes. 3) We must learn to appreciate the thought process of the generation who will inherit the society from us. I do not imply that we should adopt their values or their likes. I still prefer to listen to big band music and the songs of the 40s – 70s, but my children and grandchildren find this music boring. 4) Each private establishment determines the conditions for service. 5) Quinn and family had the right to leave if they felt uncomfortable.
In one of his reply Mr. Quinn appeared uncomfortable with someone coming to church with oily hands (how Christian of him?), and suggested that there are too many non-necessity businesses(tattoo parlor, nail salons, etc) for the middle class (I presume they are OK for the upper class). I would think that Mr. Quinn is a capitalist, so I have a difficult time understanding why he would be comfortable in limiting these services.
Our focus should be leaving the coming generation a society full of hope but which appears difficult, given the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, which triggered Boris Johnson to state that ‘the US is going backwards’. Unfortunately, it appears so.
I fear you have entirely missed the points of my comments. It’s about civility, respect, manners, consideration of others and I hope those never go out of style.
As far as oily hands go, again the point was if you are going to go to church, express a little respect. I have had clergy express how disappointed they are with some of the dress, but dare not say much.
i never said there were too many non-necessity business’s for the middle class, I said IF the middle class is in the poor financial shape as is presented, how do so many Americans have money to spend on the things I mentioned.
It has nothing to do with limiting anything, it has to do with ones priorities when it comes to spending money, to managing finances and debt and thinking about their future. In short responsibility.
One thing among the negative responses is consistent: excuses. Excuses are for people who don’t take responsibility for things. There is a term for such people: irresponsible.
Do you have any thoughts about why the younger generations exhibit behaviors that you find offensive? You’ve written extensively about what you don’t about younger folks but you don’t seem interested in attempting to diagnose the factors underlying the attitudes and behavior you find upsetting.
Have done a lot of thinking about that, but I don’t think this is the place to go into it. Many factors i suspect going way back to the 1970s
“Children will be children.” How about: “Parents should be parents.”
While not an annoyance, I’m amused when I see a couple sitting in a restaurant, each fondling their smartphones, never speaking to each other, never looking at each other. Mind my own business? You bet.
Mr. Quinn: you’re preaching to the choir. That lost ambiance is a huge thing to me. At least they seem to be wearing clothes and shoes in your area.
Baseball caps wouldn’t bother me a bit, given that I see much worse. Because it’s a warmer climate, many think shorts, flip flops (on nasty, ungroomed feet) and tank tops are all perfectly appropriate for white tablecloth restaurants, theatre performances, weddings & funerals. No one enforces dress codes! I guess the mask battle wore them out.
I also find most are unfamiliar with the concept of an “indoor voice”. I have to listen to their medical conditions or family drama three tables over.
Don’t get me started on big screen TVs they stick in dining rooms with constant sports. I remember curated music that would enhance the meal. Sigh.
I’ve concluded it’s me, not them. I’m an old soul who should have been born in a different era.
I have had the same experience at fine dining places. The sloppy clothes are bad but the baseball caps really cross the line for me. Why should I pay top dollar for food and outrageous mark ups for wine if the atmosphere is like a diner. Look for me at the food truck
Real wage growth has oscillated between negative and flat over the past 50 years, so many traditional wage earners have likely stopped buying over priced meals in the restaurants you describe, as the US middle class shrunk from 62% in 1970 to 42% in 2020. This leaves these restaurants to old wealthy people, BitCoin millionaires, TikTok stars, and social media influencers; and restaurants can’t survive by turning a majority of customers away.
It was not the younger generation that made the world like this, it happened under the watch of the older generation; the generation that filled the air with carbon, the water with PFAS chemicals, and made living wages and pensions a thing of the past. There is a saying that when you point the finger at someone, three more fingers are pointing back at you. If you don’t like the society created by the older generation, it’s not the younger generation that you should be pointing the finger at.
Age or money has nothing to do with it. Basic manners were taught as a point of pride and self respect – by poor and rich parents alike. Rudeness and crassness is now what seems to be celebrated.
As I said a nation now built on excuses financial and otherwise. Take all those folks you mention and I bet they wouldn’t fill a McDonalds.
If the middle class is so downtrodden who has made $50,000, $60,000 pickup trucks the #1 selling vehicle in the US? Who spends hundreds if not thousands of dollars on tattoos? See, generalization is easy.
And remember, if it were not for those social media moguls, you and I wouldn’t be venting our frustrations in cyberspace for the world to evaluate.
The average age of cars and light trucks on the road today is at an all time high of 12.2 years which is just as important as the cost of a new vehicle when estimating average vehicle expenses.
Sorry, but I quoted real statistics describing wages and the middle class. In comparison, your anecdotes are meaningless.
Nick, I’m at a loss here. Are you saying that older generations are somehow responsible for an increase in the suicide rate among children? If this is due to the world bequeathed to the current generation, I have to wonder if there was an increase in the suicide rate among 10-24 year-olds during World War II, Vietnam, or the inflationary 1970s. Those were certainly challenging times.
I would think a more significant factor today is online bullying. I have often read about teen suicides attributed to the hazing some young people suffer on social media.
Personally, I’ve never regarded social media as an unalloyed good. It has its dark side.
Does anyone know how expensive it is to look this cheap?
Does this post have anything to do with finance?
not everything has to be about optimal investment strategies. This is more about value for the money you do get to spend and enjoy – and how that value is eroding for some of us.
Yeah, the meal cost $200. You may not have noticed, but HD is a lot about finances and a bit about people and life.
Well, I feel sorry for you. Good luck correcting the world. Although, I must say I don’t see any of these issues in my world.
You’re troubled by diners who don’t dress or act accordingly and you’re booking a cruise!? What happened, was the tractor pull sold out?
Actually I’m troubled by a lack of respect for others and situations, a disregard for manners and a time and place for dress.
Good thing I didn’t mention one of the women didn’t know how to eat her pasta. See, you should twirl it on the side of your dish or in America with a spoon rather than shove it in your mouth and sup in the twelve inch strands flying in the breeze.
Nope, never been to a tractor pull, does a NASCAR race count or the Kentucky Derby? I did once drive a combine harvesting corn though.
Having Dick Quinn offering his observations on this blog is the next best thing to watching Andy Rooney. (for younger readers, Rooney wrapped up the weekly Sixty Minutes broadcast each episode until 2011).
Andy Rooney! You took me back on that one!
You sir are a gentleman and a scholar. I can now be embraced by the North Atlantic in peace – wearing a jacket and tie.
Sir, I hope that’s the QE2 you’ve booked, or maybe a Silverseas ship as most anything else is well-populated with the unshaven, tattooed, pierced, and uncouth in flip-flops shoving their way to the food stations.
Don’t some restaurants still require a dress code for entry? (The type of place that would have a loaner jacket and tie if you forgot yours.)
I wouldn’t know the answer, as I am too cheap to seek out such a location, but I would be surprised if they didn’t still exist.
I thought so but apparently not. I went to such a place two weeks ago, but no more. I was outnumbered with a sport jacket and tie and a woman in the shortest jean shorts I’ve ever seen was welcome with open arms
Changing times of “dress” code, tolerance behavior “standards” shifting;
yup, welcome to the present world.
Wife and I have adopted some avoidance measures such as watching “live” events on YouTube and take-outs for eats.
Well said Philip! Many of us are following in your footsteps.
I was reading an article today and the first sentence reads: “In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of folly out there.”
I’m with you on this one. I had a similar experience this week at one of our favorite restaurants which is known for excellent food, service and $$$$. It was a horrible experience and doubt we will go back anytime soon. Now days, it’s hard to get good help, let alone any help.
But it is not just diners being disrespectful, consider the airline passengers today compared to years ago. Many day-trip business travelers are dressed to attend a meeting while being seated next to a misbehaving child or someone clothed and ready to hit the beach. Or, the person next to you with moose breath and won’t stop talking. How about the person seated behind you and takes off their shoes trying to stick their feet up between the seats, or the one who won’t stop bumping the back of your seat.
I could go on and on about other situations, but venting isn’t going to change anything. Plus, I believe viewers on this site behave in their utmost humble manner where ever they may be.
Not to disagree too strongly, but many airlines still offer first class as an option that would likely mitigate most of these concerns….for a price.
I totally agree with you.
You are my all-time favorite curmudgeon. Please, stay on the boat.
As he shakes his fist at the kids to get off his lawn…….
Hey, I’m a nice guy, I love kids and dogs – not so much cats. You aren’t against manners are you?
funny…i love dogs and cats – not so much kids. lol
This is going to seem like me arguing with you, Dick, and I’m really not–but don’t you think that “manners” is something that society defines arbitrarily and therefore changes as society changes? So what you consider manners may be different from what your children consider manners, which are in turn different from what your grandchildren consider manners? Each generation can be behaving properly according to their own generational context and the conflict arises based on the arbitrary differences across generations. I’m sure there you did and continue to do things that would’ve had your parents and grandparents wondering how you ever would survive in the world with such behavior, and you have turned out more than fine.
The examples you cite (jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, backwards hat, hoodie, spaghetti with butter, iPad) shouldn’t have affected your meal, and I don’t know why they did. (The children running around the tables, yes, was a problem.)
Maybe you’re right that we die out of frustration with other generations. I encourage you to care less about how the young uns are dressed at a fine dining restaurant, Dick. I’d like you to stick around and keep posting here as long as possible.
Sadly I think you are right and at least during the four generations I can recall, we keep setting our standards to the lowest common denominator. Leisure is another persons lazy.
I sure wouldn’t want to go swimming in a Victorian era bathing suite on the other hand there is a reason – I thought – that some places still have signs “shirts and shoes required, maybe it’s a health code, but you can bet there are those who need that reminder.
I just think there should be a modicum of respect for your environment. A special restaurant requires above average dress IMO. Same goes for attending church, a funeral or a wedding. Appropriate dress is required. I see people coming to church dressed as if they had just changed their oil in the parking lot.
In the few years before I retired I got into the casual mode and gave up a suit and tie, unless I was making a presentation to the BOD. When I was negotiating labor contracts I dressed like the union guys. It’s about respect and I don’t think that gets old.
I don’t wear a tie around the house like Ozzie Nelson or George Burns, but when I am at a function or dinner that is special, I want to feel and dress that way and I want the people around me to feel the same.
I’m getting too close the the railing.
For many years I always wore business attire like Brooks Brothers shirts and ties, Hickey Freeman suits and the best shoes I could afford. Sadly most of the companies that sold better mens apparel have closed or are hugely diminished. I learned that dressing a little better than expected always got me better outcomes.
Today there is a whole genre of books like J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy that document the struggles of America’s middle class. There are still wonderful opportunities in the US for people willing to succeed, but for many the low hanging fruit are harder than ever to reach.
The struggling middle class would be easier for me to understand if there weren’t so many non-necessity businesses like salons, nail salons, liquor stores, coffee shops even the lotteries, tattoo parlors thriving on every street corner or if more of the middle class limited their vehicle purchases to required transportation.
It would appear surveys and statistics are lacking telling the full story of the difference between needs and desires and how people actually spend their money. It’s like the survey a few years ago saying people can’t come up with $400 in a financial emergency.
Something just doesn’t add up for me.
Agree there is a disconnect there, but I can’t help but think the “Casual Friday” permission that started about 30 years ago was the trigger for the dress behavior we see now in our culture…”give ’em and inch and they’ll take a mile” in practice.