I have a friend whom I love very dearly, we've known each other for years, and I really enjoy the time we spend together. She loves food as much as I do and when we hang out we usually go out to a restaurant or cook a meal together. There is one thing though that I have been trying to get over or ignore as much as I can but it still bothers me. She chews her food with her mouth open and it is...well, distracting. It can be off-putting for my own appetite. It's also a bit disturbing to see pieces of food falling out everywhere.
Is there a way I can broach the subject without totally offending her? Or am I being too sensitive? Should I just accept that she does this?
(Not) Chomping at the Bit
Dear (Not) Chomping at the Bit,
Distracting? Disturbing? Let's call it like it is: an adult chewing with their mouth open is full-on disgusting. D.I.S.G.U.S.T.I.N.G.
I mean, look, it happens. We're chewing something and have something urgently, hilariously funny to say and we can't wait and start talking even though there are bits of crab still floating around in our mouth. That's bad enough. What you're describing, though, sounds constant and habitual.
Were this person a casual acquaintance my advice might be different, but I'm thinking about how I would want a good friend of long-standing to treat me were I doing something gross. I'd want to know. So I'm going to go against tradition and urge you to what is kind in the long run rather than what is "correct" in the short.
The kind thing is to address it. Not in some serious conversation. There is no need to utter the horrid phrase "we need to talk." Simply the next time this person chews with moments of lips agape, say something. "I'm sure you don't realize it, but you're chewing with your mouth open" is a good start.
If there are other people around, do this on the sly, not loudly and in front of everyone, obviously. It's not about embarrassing them (which is why it's usually verboten to correct other adults' manners), it's about helping out a friend. And no need to explain further. Just state the fact.
Repeat as necessary—I doubt it should take too many rounds before they develop the self-consciousness the rest of us have about grossing out our fellow diners with see-food.
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About the Author: Molly Watson honed her ability to guide others in tricky situations by telling her little brother the best way to do everything. See what she has to say beyond dining at Ask a (Sensible) Midwesterner. Catch her work as a recipe wizard at Local Foods.