The Best Advice My Mother Gave Me, Ever


Over the years, my mother has dispensed strong opinions on any number of issues, from the “smirking” Captain and Tenille to the importance of a drink at 5. But there’s one piece of advice that trumps them all.

Long before a date was even a gleam in the eye of whatever pubescent nerd I loved at the time, my mom gave me a piece of dating advice that’s had application far beyond the world of romance. “If he ever treats a server badly, that’s all you need to know,” she said. “That’s true for women too.”

And it’s absolutely true. Someone who maltreats someone to whom he’s in a position of even temporary authority is an insecure bully and an asshole with no respect for other human beings and a very mistaken idea of what impresses you.

This is fresh in my mind because the other night I saw a guy maltreating a waiter at a nice restaurant. I’d already pegged the couple as first-daters based on the semi-awkward greeting and get-to-know-you questions. But then things got ugly. He didn’t realize it, of course: he’s probably used to sending things back, not thanking servers, and replying, when asked if he needs anything, “yeah, some intelligent service would be great.” But his date grew increasingly uncomfortable — smiling apologetically at the humiliated waiter, thanking him profusely, growing progressively colder to her date.

Anyone who’s waited tables has dealt with this guy, or someone like him: “he has to go home and be himself, we get to close,” as a particularly Zen coworker of mine used to remind me. And I think that’s true: I don’t believe it’s a trait that exists in a vacuum, or can be cured short of some movie-style Christmas Carol-esque wakeup call. Rather, as my mom said, it’s what was not then but is now (not to her) known as a dealbreaker: something non-negotiable. And any child I have will hear the same thing.

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