How To Stop Someone Chewing With Their Mouth Open

Dear Agony Uncle,

How do I tell my housemate nicely that she really needs to close her mouth while she chews? Seriously, she is a 20-year-old!

Chewed Up

Dear Chewed Up,

Chewing with one’s mouth closed is one of the simplest bodily functions that divides the cultured from the zoo animals, yet so many cannot master the art of mastication. There’s no worse than being seated across from someone whose slack jaw reveals the contents of their bouche ouverte from which a chaff bag wouldn’t appear out-of-place; likewise if they were crouching on their haunches, shovelling torn pieces of a carcass into their waiting pie hole whilst scratching their armpits between bites.

Then there’s that horribly uncouth joke where someone asks you if you like seafood and if you reply ‘yes’, they open their mouth and show you whatever happens to be ground up inside. Delightful. If you’re going to cause offence, you’re better to do so with a witty quip that further marginalises a repressed minority with a killer punchline than reverting to base humour fit for a primary school playground.

As you said yourself, your housemate is of an age that she should know better than to share her meal visually with anyone who deigns not to do so, however, it’s important for you to exercise tact, particularly as you live together. If you wish to take a slightly indirect approach, ask her whilst she’s eating if she has a cold. Of course, she’ll reply that she hasn’t and will enquire why you ask. A simple “Oh, you’re chewing with your mouth open and I thought your nose must be blocked” should do the trick if she has half a brain; thus giving her a bit a of a nudge to keep her trap shut.

If, however, she’s not the sharpest knife in the block, then maybe you need to be a little more confrontational, in the nicest possibly way, of course. Schedule a dinner where she prepares the meal and sandwich the criticism between two slices of pleasantness by telling her you enjoy her cooking and while it’s delicious, it’s awful to look at when it’s half consumed; then conclude by telling her that you’re only pointing it out as you don’t want her to embarrass herself.

She might acknowledge her poor manners, apologise and then change her behaviour, or she might react badly and you’ll end up covered in mushroom casserole. If it’s something you can no longer tolerate, then perhaps it’s worth the risk; if not, then maybe you should start taking your meals at different times: Contact your local zoo, find out when is feeding time and plan around it.

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About Adrian Fernand

Adrian Fernand is a writer specialising in screen, television and fiction. As the Agony Uncle for etiquette and social protocol site, I Do Believe I Came with a Hat, he responds to the quandaries facing polite society in a modern world. He has in excess of 90 pairs of shoes. Follow Adrian on Twitter @AdrianFernand
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