This is how Karen's behavior ended her daughter's engagement and got them banned from a restaurant all in one night. Grab some popcorn.
With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, it's no wonder couples are feeling the pressure to take relationships to the next level. This darling couple was ready to pop the question and seal the deal, but first, they wanted to meet each other’s parents and smooth things over. Not sure why they didn't consider doing so earlier in the relationship. Oh well. Crazier things can happen in a whirlwind romance, but let this poor OP's experience be a lesson to all: meet the family before you marry into it.
OP doesn't hold back here as he can officially air his uncensored frustration about the night their engagement was single-handedly corrupted by his Karen-like almost mother-in-law. Let’s call her “Ellen” though because she always reminded OP of Ellen DeGeneres who truly is a Karen anyway. Buckle up, readers, this is a wild ride.
OP starts from the beginning, explaining how he and his girlfriend were "engaged to be engaged," meaning that they were both ready for the next step but had a few loose ends to tie up before the big question could be popped. That being meeting each other's family first.
He mentions how he always thought the old trope about meeting the in-laws being a big fiasco was a myth, both because he was younger and more naive back then, and because he was lucky to have easy-going parents who didn't question him too harshly on wanting to marry his partner so suddenly. In retrospect, they should've asked what her mother was like before being so supportive.
The girlfriend's parents had her while they were teenagers so the two now had a “do-over daughter” who was just six years old. The OP and his girlfriend made the trip up to their city and our OP met them for the first time over dinner at an upscale steak house. They scheduled the dinner for 8:00 pm, so the OP was pretty surprised to see they’d brought the six-year-old child along with them.
Strange to deal with a six-year-old to an upscale steak house at 8:00 pm, but least he's ripping off the band-aid and meeting everyone at once, right?
Wrong. After some small talk at the table, the six-year-old announced that she was thirsty. No big deal, a server would be with our OP shortly and grab them all some drinks. This, however, was when Ellen's entitled tendencies began to surface.
OP recalls that all of a sudden Ellen started screaming, “Water? Water! WATER?!” A waiter came rushing over to see what the commotion was and, before he could even introduce himself as their server, Ellen exclaimed “We’ve been here forever and no one’s even gotten us any water. My daughter’s been asking.”
The OP and his girlfriend's family had been sitting for about fifteen or twenty minutes without service. OP mentions the staff "were visibly behind, and there were no circumstances that would’ve warranted that shouting." Yet Ellen persisted and OP recoiled. "I should’ve realized from how unfazed everyone else at the table was that I should be bracing myself for a long night, but I couldn’t imagine what was to come at that point."
The waiter rushed over to them with water and apologized for the delay, explaining a few very large parties had arrived all at once. The guy was seemed sincere, and quite affable, so OP thought the water would just be an anomaly in an otherwise pleasant night. Then Ellen kicked into full gear.
“We’ll need a kids' menu,” Ellen informed the waiter, who said that they didn’t have a kids' menu, but that the chef could simplify most dishes. “What do you mean you don’t have a kids' menu?” Ellen replied in total disbelief as if he had said they didn’t have a fire exit.
The waiter explained they didn’t get too many child visitors and that there were enough plain foods on the menu so that no separate menu had ever been necessary. Ellen sighed dramatically and waved him away. Op said, "Literally, without saying a word, she waved him off from the table."
OP tried to give him an apologetic glance but, understandably, he didn’t look back. OP was quite relieved the poor guy left and didn’t have to be subjected to her anymore. Meanwhile, Ellen turned her attention on our OP, and he almost wished the waiter came back to spare himself.
“So you’re a screenwriter?” She asked and OP explained, “Well, yes and no. I want to be, but it’s hard to get a job in that field that you can support yourself on, so I’m working at a non-profit right now. There’s a screenwriting component to the job though, so I’m really happy there.”
Ellen turned to her six-year-old and went “Hear that, hun? You want to be sure to snag a man who works for profit. Learn from this. It’s not too late for you.” OP couldn’t tell if she was trying to be funny or not. So, he just let it pass, looking over to his girlfriend to see if she was even considering speaking up on his behalf. Nope.
The waiter came back to the table, visibly nervous. Mustering his courage to do his best to please Ellen, he asked if the group would like to hear the specials before they ordered and Ellen said sure. But it didn't go nearly as well as the waiter would have hoped. He started off, "First we have a lightly seared strip stea—"
"Next!" Ellen interrupted. He continued, "Oh... uh, ok. Then we have a broiled leg of grass fed—"
"Next!" Another shrill interruption from Ellen. Nevertheless, he persisted with, "Uh, we, uh, we have a pasta prima vera mixed with—"
"NEEEEXXXXTTTTTTUHHH" It went on and on until he’d gone through all seven or ten specials, even though Ellen ultimately ordered off the menu, a plain rib eye, well done. How typical of Ellen to make the waiter suffer like that only to order the most boring, bland meal on the menu.
She tried to order her daughter the same, but the kid said she just wanted plain mashed potatoes, so Ellen let her get mashed potatoes alone for dinner. Honestly, can't blame the kid for wanting mashed potatoes for dinner. But then Ellen sent the waiter away! The rest of the family hadn’t even ordered yet! And everyone else, aside from OP, just sat there like it was entirely normal!
OP waited for someone to say something, thinking it was more his girlfriend's place or Ellen's husband, but when no one did OP couldn’t help himself. “I, uh, was the one steak and potatoes going to be for all of us, or?” His girlfriend explained, in a tone of voice one would use for a tourist violating a sacred local taboo, “My mom always has the waiter put the kid’s food in first, so it can get started right away. We’ll order once the kitchen has hers.”
Like any other sane person, OP thought she was joking, since Ellen didn’t just order her kid’s food, she also ordered her own dinner too. So he laughed.
“Something funny?” Ellen asked.
Thankfully the dad at least recognized that what was normal for them might not be as regular to an outsider and tried to lighten the mood with a change of topic. But not even ten minutes after the rest of the family ordered (technically five minutes after the group ordered, ten minutes after she and her daughter had ordered), Ellen started in again.
Another table, that had been there long before OP and the crew were, got a side order of mashed potatoes with their meal. Ellen threw a total conniption. She was sputtering so inaudibly that none of us could figure out what was wrong at first.
Finally, she managed to flag down some busboy who barely spoke English and began laying into him like he’d just sideswiped her on the freeway. He kept trying to explain he wasn’t a server and he could go get one, but she wouldn’t stop to breathe long enough for him to find someone who could actually help.
All the while, the OP kept looking at his girlfriend for signs of embarrassment, or at the very least irritation but realized "you wouldn’t have known if she was even hearing any of this."
The waiter came over, somehow still feigning a smile despite knowing what he was walking into, and Ellen asks “Why did that table get mashed potatoes and ours haven’t come yet?”
The waiter kindly but concisely explained, “Well Ma’am, those people ordered potatoes before your party had placed their order.” Ellen looks this man dead in the eye and says “Well it doesn’t matter when they ordered it. My daughter is the youngest one here! Her food should come out first.”
Everyone in the room could tell the waiter was working hard to restrain himself at this point. He explained it was a first-come, first-served, policy and age didn’t help one way or the other. He offered to go check on the potatoes, Ellen agreed, or more specifically she said, “Yeah, you better!”, but OP watched was as the waiter went right back to his server station.
After a few more minutes passed, during which the OP and his girlfriend's family could have no other discussion at the table except how awful this restaurant was, how hungry the poor baby was (who hadn’t said a word about being hungry this whole time and was contently playing her loud iPad game, without headphones, disturbing all the other diners around them), and how America has lost all respect for motherhood because it’s just a “me, me, me” culture now.
OP couldn't help himself as he chimed in, “I’m with you on that last part.” And to his utter shock, instead of laughing at my joke, his girlfriend seemed annoyed with him!
After a few minutes, the waiter comes back to their table and informs the group that the potatoes will be out very soon. Ellen then did something that completely shocked OP.
"She took three singles and a five out of her wallet and put them on the table in full view of the waiter. Then she took one single away and said 'Every table I see getting potatoes before us is a bill gone.' I was absolutely mortified."
The waiter, to his unending credit, just took a deep breath and said “I don’t have control over the order in which the kitchen fires tickets, but what I can tell you is it should be out any minute.” And left without saying anything disparaging.
At this point, OP had been holding his tongue all night in the name of his relationship, but once the tip hit the table (the $8 tip for a $100+ bill, on top of all else) he figured if his girlfriend was half the woman he thought she was then she wouldn’t mind him speaking up at this point. If anything, she’d be supportive, right?
So OP scooted his chair back a bit and said, “Listen I know what you’re doing with the cash on the table, but that kind of thing makes me really uncomfortable, and it’s just not called for. Please put the money away or we can just continue this some other time.”
The dad spat back, “What? How cheap do you have to be to not believe in tipping service workers?” Before OP could process whether he was serious or yanking his chain, Ellen shocked him with, “No, you know what, you’re right, this isn’t necessary.”
But OP should’ve known better than to be relieved. She folded the bills back into her wallet, patiently waited for the next plate of mashed potatoes to be carried out, and when it wasn’t delivered to their table, she went right up to a stranger’s table and picked it up off their table.
OP mentioned, "She half explained something about her daughter 'starving to death,' as she was walking away with the stranger’s food, but unsurprisingly, that wasn’t convincing enough for them. The old lady she took it from followed her over to our table and tried to take it back."
At this point, OP was already searching in preparation to go, but a shoving match was beginning to unfold between Ellen and an elderly woman with a tennis ball walker, and far be it from him to sit through all that had happened only to leave just as the night was getting interesting.
The elderly woman was furious, yelling, “Give me back my potatoes!! Who are you??”
The six-year-old even spoke up, “Mommy, it’s ok, don’t take someone else’s potatoes...”
But it all fell on deaf ears. Ellen yelled at the old lady, “How could you sit there and eat these when my daughter hasn’t even been served yet? She’s sitting here hungry, just a little girl, and you’re over there stuffing your face? Come on, other potatoes will be out any minute.”
Then the old lady had enough. She said, “Great, if they’ll be out any minute, then what’s the freaking problem?!” To which Ellen still found holier than thou ground, gasping, “Language, please!”
Finally, the waiter and this time someone higher up as well came over to separate Ellen and the elderly woman, as they had begun to raise their voices and cause a disturbance.
Remember the six-year-old's iPad? Staff had already asked Ellen to turn down her daughter’s volume on the device multiple times without heed, and once the waiter informed management about the “tip on the table,” stunt she pulled, this was their final straw. They told OP and the crew that they were going to have to leave the restaurant.
“But we don’t even have our food yet!” Ellen complained at the guy. This was clearly not the manager’s first rodeo. “You can take the food that’s already been served free of charge, everything else will be canceled. Please leave immediately.”
OP couldn't help but chuckle because "The old lady with the walker didn’t miss her chance to knock the potatoes right onto the floor so we couldn’t try to take them with us. Nothing else had been served yet, so, we had to leave without any food."
When OP and his girlfriend were finally alone in their car, the girlfriend asked if OP could believe what happened there. OP took his chance and replied, “Not at all. And I really can’t believe you didn’t warn me!”
“How could I have known about any of that?” Uh oh.
“Is she not usually like that?” Dancing on thin ice here, OP.
“Who?” Oh no.
“What’s my Mom got to do with the terrible service at that place?”
Oh man, you hate to see it. This poor girl couldn't see past her own mother's entitlement. If that wasn't enough of a red flag, OP knew he had to get out of there.
"That was the beginning of the end of our relationship. The fact that she didn’t see anything wrong with her mom’s behavior, and that I’d be marrying into that situation, shook me too deep. We both dodged a bullet in more ways than one. In hindsight, we weren’t right for each other, regardless of who her family was. Her mom saved us both a lot of time and heartache, helping me realize in one night what would’ve probably taken us years otherwise. Within a month we’d moved into separate apartments and gone on a 'break' that ended up lasting forever."
We hope the best for you, OP. And hopefully, no other staff has to deal with Ellen again.