1 Donatella Arpaia, co-owner of New York restaurants David Burke & Donatella, Mia Dona, and Anthos, advises a friendly "We'd be happy to sit at the bar until another table opens up." If you can pull it off (i.e., keep it charming and light), a little wry humor never hurts, either. Arpaia's favorite lines:
2 The too-close-to-the-kitchen table: "We came out tonight so we wouldn't have to be in the kitchen."
3 The too-close-to-the-door table: "Unless you think we'll need to make a quick exit?"
4 The rowdy table: "We'd rather not sit next to the party. We didn't bring a gift."
...an ill-prepared dish you're served at a restaurant:
5 Arpaia's all-purpose no: "I'm not happy with this dish. Can I please see the menu so I can pick another one?" Her made-to-order lines (again, keep it light and low-key):
6 The cold dish: "My pasta is temperature challenged. I'd like to send it back for a warm-up."
7 The well-done dish that was supposed to be medium-rare: "I'm glad your cooks are so thorough, but this is a bit overdone."
8 The dish you didn't order: "I've had people send me a drink before, but a steak? This is a first."
...the dinner companion who's always insisting, "Try a bite of this!"
9 If you have an allergy, or you've never liked the food in question, tell the truth. Anna Post, author of Emily Post's Wedding Parties, uses this exit strategy for radishes: "The bite would be wasted on me. I'm just not a fan."
10 If the very idea of sharing makes you queasy, try: "Absolutely not! I'm getting such a kick out of watching you enjoy it!"
...ordering dessert-when everyone else at your table is having molten chocolate cake and trying to peer-pressure you into not being the skinny bitch:
11 Beat your frenemies to the punch. Samantha von Sperling, founder and director of Polished Social Image Consultants, recommends a lighthearted preemptive strike: "I know, I know, I'm that annoying too-full-to-eat-dessert person. What can I say-there's always one."
12 "I think I'll drink my dessert tonight. Waiter, one more glass of Pinot, please."
...splitting the check (when you ordered only a salad):
13 Turn the tables with a request of your own: "May I just take my portion out of the bill instead of contributing to the even split?" "If your friends say no to that," says Post, "you need to get new ones."
Penny Wrenn is a New York-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, Essence, and Redbook.