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Recently, we had a longtime mutual friend — a non-cook — over for a meal. He invited himself.

This husband and father has been a modest but successful entrepreneur most of his career. He is now semi-retired.

Although his wife was unable to join him on this occasion, it struck me how he thought what he said was completely correct and brooked no opposition. Being passive-aggressive, he wasn’t overtly unpleasant about it, but one could see that he has control issues. Absorbing all the mainstream media talking points, he is far from an original thinker. As he ages, he expects everyone to agree with him. He also does not like being asked anything that’s off his ‘script’, for lack of a better word. A simple, non-controversial question about his children met with ‘Why are you asking me that?’

To make matters worse, once we sat down to eat, every course underwent a critique. Starter: ‘Hmm. Now, see, I would have served a bread roll with that.’ Main course accompaniment: ‘Homemade bread, eh? We’ll see how good it tastes.’ Main course: ‘Hmm. Ham. An interesting choice.’ Dessert: ‘To pep this up a bit, I would use Ginger Nuts in the crust. Digestive biscuits are too bland.’

And to top it off: ‘You can try my suggestions and see how well they work for you.’

Then: ‘I’ll tell you what. Next time, my wife and I and my [two adult] children will all come over. I am sure they would find your food a talking point. My children have taken rather expensive cooking courses, so they know what they are doing in the kitchen.’

I could hardly wait until he left. Unfortunately, we will be seeing him again. I’m already dreading it.

Not only did all this take us quite a while to prepare — these are among our most reliable dishes — I also spent a couple of days sprucing up the garden and the house. Last time this man — also a non-gardener — invited himself over several years ago, he gave us his unsolicited opinion on nearly all our plants. Needless to say, he had many suggestions for improvement — never mind that both my better half and I were both working long days at the time. Perhaps my recent tidying paid off as he had no horticultural comment this year.

He would probably self-identify as a value-added guest. I can hear him saying, ‘People love having me over because they enjoy what I have to say.’

This is not how I was brought up. First, I wouldn’t invite myself over for a meal. Second, I would not criticise what my hosts served me. People prepare food the way they enjoy it. Third, don’t criticise their house or garden. Fourth, I would converse with my hosts rather than tell them what to think; no one has all the answers. Not one question to either of us unless it was part of his next ‘lesson’ and further demonstration of his infinite superiority. (The French would call him a donneur des leçons, not a welcome phrase with which to be labelled.)

I am amazed that people such as he have such a high opinion of themselves. I found him to be remarkably arrogant. He found me challenging.

In case you are wondering, he has no religious beliefs. Happily, religion did not pop up in the conversation.

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