Just Behave

Just Behave: Crying Over Spilt Wine

Our etiquette expert answers your questions.

BY June 9, 2017

We were eating at a fancy restaurant and I knocked my wine glass over. I was so embarrassed. It ruined the evening for me. I tried to clean it up but just made a bigger mess. I had to stare at the table/mess the entire evening. Should I have asked them to move us to another table? Or should they have done that automatically? What could I have done better?—Bill, Estero

Dear Bill,

I hate the thought of wasted wine. And even as you appeal to your waiter for help—removing the stain, procuring a new tablecloth, covering the stain with dishes, moving to another table—perhaps you can declare the spill a Rorschach Test . That’s where you interpret what the shape of the stain looks like to you and then have a fun, lively discussion of your different takes on it. No matter what the fix is from the restaurant, you just need to move on with engaging conversation. Everyone makes mistakes, and you’ll look all the brighter for laughing it off and segueing to other subjects. And do get a refill. Make sure the wine goes where it belongs this time.


My friend always asks me how she looks. I can tell she’s not confident about her appearance. She has nice clothes but doesn’t always wear the correct size. Most of the time, she tries to fit in a size too small. Should I tell her? Or should I build her confidence with a little white lie?—Jessica, Naples

Dear Jessica,

For her sake, I would tell her the truth about the clothes in the hope that she will listen. But definitely find other ways to build her morale. Does she have beautiful hair? A pretty smile? Is she fun? Does she have a great personality? She may not love what you say about her clothes but will certainly realize you see so many positives about her and appreciate her true value. That should keep the friendship tight—and maybe her clothes a little looser.


I have a friend who has considerably more money than I do. When we decide to meet for lunch, she always suggests an expensive restaurant, orders the most expensive thing on the menu and then expects us to split the bill 50/50. I don’t think it’s fair. Should I say something? Or just order exactly what she orders?—Rebecca, Bonita Springs

Dear Rebecca,

Be true to your tastes and sense of fair play. If you like what she’s having, then order it. But the deal is to eat what you like and either pay what you calculate is your share of the bill or ask for separate checks. And perhaps you can request equal rights in picking the restaurant in the first place. Lunch dates should be pleasant experiences—no stomachs grinding over the cost—and you need to make it clear you have no appetite for mega-bills.  



Suzanne Willis is a hospitality consultant and the founder/CEO (Chief Etiquette Officer) of Mimi’s Manners, specializing in dining etiquette for children, teens and adults.

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