On rare occasions, I have the pleasure of meeting up with my girls and dining out at one of the many restaurants and eateries New York City has to offer.

The venues have varied from posh dining establishment that only seats you with reservations to dives sandwiched in between pawn shops and clothing stores. Still, as long as the food is scrumptious and the drinks are steadily rolling in, my company and I are more than satisfied.

We laugh, catch up, and enjoy socializing amidst appetizers and entrees as the worries of our daily routines are drank away, if just for the moment. In such scenarios, it’s pretty common for me to eye my girlfriend’s food as it arrives at the table on a sizzling platter.

Even more, it’s pretty usual for her to notice the ogling and offer to share a bite or two with me. Before you know it, tiny plates are filled with several menu selections as most of us have exchanged and shared portions of our own dishes with each other.

Essentially, between friends, the food boundaries are non-existent. Sometimes, this experience of shared dishes can even go well amongst family. However, in more romantic settings, I’d say it is pretty imperative to keep your hands and teeth to yourself (at least at the table).

Okay, case in point, you’re on your third date with a beautiful, charming, down-to earth woman and thus far the connection with her is unmatched with any other date you’ve had in some time.

The conversation is both casual and witty, and only cease when one of you is taking in a forkful. You excuse yourself to go and use the restroom, and when you return, to your surprise there is a white shiny spot cleaned off of your plate where you had left a healthy portion of Cuban-style rice.

You try your best to sit down and return to the woman you left at the table, but now the atmosphere is spoiled because you cannot get over the fact that she is a culinary culprit.

Your date notices, and tries her best to salvage the moment by saying something like, she wanted to order a new item on the menu and thought to opt for the rice, but she really just wanted to try it first. Or she tries to flirt her way out of the foil and say, she was jealous that you were so into the dish that she dove after it in revenge bites that went too far.

Either way, it’s pretty clear that the two of you have different ideas of food etiquette. To avoid such mishaps, I have 4 simple suggestions that can help keep a young romance afloat.

In the example above, we have two major food etiquette faux pas that should never go down on a date.

Firstly, wait for the person to offer you their food before you just dig all in. Luckily, the guy on the date was able to grab a bite of his own food first but had he not, and you were the first to hang your arm all over his plate, I could understand his irritation.

Secondly, make sure the portion you take doesn’t cross over from “just a taste” to “a pretty decent serving”. Just imagine if your date continued to scoop and scoop out of your favorite syrup, buttered up sweet potatoes with no consideration of your appetite.

In the case that your date is super cool and comfortable enough to share their plate with you do not then go a round of 21 questions asking about the dish. I understand if you bring up you food allergies as a health precaution before you take a bite, but the poor guy did not sneak off into the kitchen and prepare this romantic candle lit dinner while you powdered your nose in the restroom.

He didn’t cook the food, he just wants to eat it and is kind enough to share.

My third suggestion is to remember the point of the date is to enjoy each other’s company in the midst of good eats, and that this is not an opening to quiz the guy or girl on their culinary intellect.

My final suggestion is if the food is clearly not shareable, or if the dating atmosphere has yet to reach the point of swapping entrees, then don’t force it. However, if you are one of the free spirits whose romantic socializing is enhanced by table sharing, then suggest that your next date is a venue that offers it.

For instance Ethiopian- style dining encourages food sharing. Maybe even try a new Tapas bar that consists of small plates. I’m not saying a shared plate of pasta will automatically be as epic as the scene from Lady and the Tramp, but this dating thing can be pretty simple, as long as the give and take doesn’t come across the table top and onto a plate.

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