Doggy Bag Dilemma

Dear Helena,

The other night I went on a date at a Thai restaurant. My date and I couldn’t eat all the drunken noodles, so I asked for a doggy bag. When I dropped my date off, she didn’t kiss me. I got paranoid it was because I had asked for a doggy bag and she thought I was cheap or somehow not classy. Do you think this might have been the case? Is it ever not OK to take a doggy bag, and why? —Waste Not Want Not

Dear Waste Not,

Your paranoia was actually astute intuition. Doggy bags can make a bad impression, and just to be sure that you don’t make one, when dining with people you don’t know well, you shouldn’t ask for a container for your leftovers.

At business dinners and lunches, as Francesco Barbera, a lawyer in Los Angeles, says: “You need to project power and authority, and there is something vaguely weak and humiliating about taking a little doggy bag home from a restaurant.” Barbara Pachter, a business communications and etiquette coach, says: “You’re there for business. You shouldn’t be concentrating on your food.” She adds, “And sometimes the bag leaks.”

Forgo the doggy bag on dates too—at least for the first three. Barbera, a seasoned dater, says: “A doggy bag suggests a certain degree of frugality and practical-mindedness that is contrary to the mood you’re trying to establish.” Patti Feinstein, a “dating coach,” agrees: “Taking a doggy bag makes you look cheap.” A doggy bag sends the wrong message about your lifestyle as well. Nell Waters, a massage therapist in San Francisco, says: “It speaks to the likelihood that he is more of a bachelor than I perceive; perhaps he never cooks.”

Doggy bags also present practical obstacles to seduction. It’s hard to lean in for the good-night kiss if one of you is clutching a carton of chow mein. And the aroma of lukewarm spareribs filling your car on the ride home isn’t very sexy.

Table Manners appears every Wednesday. Have a Table Manners question? Email Helena.