Ask the Bartender: Is PDA Not OK?

Keep your tongue in your mouth, and other rules for behaving in public.

We eat out late quite a bit, and the last few times we've seen a couple who spend the entire meal making out and pawing each other. When we complained to the waiter we know, he told us stories of far more blatant behavior. He also expressed disdain for the couple sitting together on one side of the booth. We do this often, but why is that so wrong, and when does PDA become too much in public?—BarbI accept that people in love—and lust—like to, ahem, eat out, but only so much of that love need ever be displayed in public. When dining out, we are taking part in a basic social contract. We don't yell. We sit upright and keep our fingers out of our nose. We wear clothes and shoes. In other words, we behave as if we're at someone else's house, not at home.Following are examples of potentially PDA-ish attributes, and whether or not they have a place in a restaurant:Same-side sitters. First, service-industry workers generally dislike it when two people sit next to each other at a table for four. It's not a rule, exactly, and I can't easily explain it, except that it often leads to excessive canoodling and lots of hassle. The service you receive will be different the more you canoodle. It's a table, not a couch.At a party, you get lost in one another and no one will bother you. But in a restaurant, as a couple, your focal point changes, and as a server, I feel uncomfortable approaching your table—I feel as though I'm always interrupting even when fulfilling my job requirements: to periodically ask you questions and bring you stuff. It's part of the contract. It's why you went out.Tongue. A couple stealing a kiss between bites of dessert can be a beautiful thing, except when it's not. If you get to France, you've gone too far. It may feel good, but you don't look good—and no one should see that much of your tongue in public. What's more, you will go thirsty and starve, because I am not approaching your table at this juncture.Kissing frequency and target areas. Kissing isn't necessarily bad. Just keep it closer to "Happy Anniversary" and far away from two cats giving each other a bath. Focus on face, lips, and hands. No fingers in the mouth, please. Try to avoid the ears, neck, and obviously anything below. (Unless you're hot.) Ask yourself: Would you kiss your partner like that if dining with another couple?Rubbing. For the love of Tiger Balm, do not rub one another in public. This is akin to chimps at the zoo grooming in plain view of onlookers. In some ways the impromptu neck rub makes me, as a server, feel far more uncomfortable than repetitive smooching does. Whether you're playing massage therapist or just doing that weird wax-on/wax-off back-petting thing, it never comes off as loving to anyone but you and your partner. It lands closer to creepy and possessive.Under the table. You may think there's a table over you, but don't forget that from six feet away and the next row of tables, everything's, well, out there.Much of this is lost on amorous couples in the moment, or on people who get off on being seen. You also have more leeway in a darker restaurant or at a more secluded table. When you're out, it's no longer about your personal comfort level with PDA, but the median comfort level of those around you. Keep it PG or keep it home.

 
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