My boy got a Valentine's coupon from Zaxby's with a free cookie for him and a friend. ZBoy decided that he wanted Kylee to have the other cookie, so I packed the kids up and took them to Zaxby's for dinner.
Well, I thought I took kids. As it turns out, I took a couple of crazy animals. They ran and made too much noise and I had to be very stern with them to make them sit more or less quietly in our booth until our order number was called.
ZBoy settled down to the business of eating dinner rather quickly and quietly, while Kylee kvetched about her fries, her sandwich and things in general. I opened her chocolate milk for her and told her to eat.
I can hardly describe what happened next.
A moment later, I looked up from my own dinner and across from me, Kylee had stuffed her mouth with french fries so full that she couldn't even close her lips over them. It was disgusting.
"Are your table manners always this atrocious? Are you this rude to other people you eat with?" I demanded (remember, I wasn't feeling so hot and when I feel like that, blunt is my middle name).
Tears started welling up in her eyes, but I was having none of it. I waited until she managed to swallow that mess, and asked her where she learned her manners. "From my dad. And my teachers are always trying to teach me," she whispered. Well, that explains a lot. Her dad is NOT the poster child for good manners of any sort, much less table manners.
Trying to reign in my irritation, I explained to her why having good table manners was important. And as I did, I remembered...
I don't know how old I was, maybe ten or eleven, when my mother announced that she had signed me up for a course in manners at a local department store. I was aghast. Why on earth did I need manners? Why should I have to take a COURSE in manners???? On Saturday mornings, no less? Off she dragged me, kicking and screaming (figuratively, of course - I would never have dared to to it literally) to the White Gloves and Party Manners class at Gayfers Department Store.
My instructor was a trim, older (like 40) woman with the most amazingly fluffy, gravity-defying blonde hairdo ever. Ms. Townsend was a Southern Lady and she was going to turn that class of about 15 little ruffians into ladies if it killed her. We were required to wear proper dresses, be clean, and wear white gloves to class.
I thought I was going to die.
She drilled us in how to sit down and stand up, how to walk, how to curtsey (!), how to meet people and shake hands. We had to introduce ourselves over and over, using good diction and proper English. We had tea and luncheons and practiced not leaning on the table, sitting up straight, how to keep a napkin from sliding off our laps. Sipping not slurping. No clattering silverware or knocked over glasses allowed at her table!
I grumbled every week when I had to go to class, grudgingly getting out of the car and going in for my latest lesson on how to walk.
But for all my resistance, I learned.
Oddly, the graduation was a fashion show for the department store, where all of us suddenly turned into little models. Our outfits were picked out for us (and we got to keep them!), and we had to walk straight and tall and confidently down the runway, smiling and at ease. That turned out to be a hell of a test. When it was all over, we got little diplomas tied with a white satin bow.
What I actually got was so much more.
I am not the most outgoing person in the world, but I know how to meet people, put them at ease and hold a conversation with them. I can eat barbecue out in a field or have high tea in some fancy restaurant and feel confident of my ability to do either one without embarrassing myself. I stand up straight, sit up straight - and my napkin rarely falls off my lap.
And I still have my book somewhere. I was telling all this to Kylee over chicken fingers. Her eyes got wide as she listened. And I told her that I would be willing to teach her table manners every Thursday when she came to visit. If she did well, we would get dressed up and go somewhere for our very own special lady lunch one day. She nodded slowly as she thought about it. And decided to do it.
Guess I'd better dig out that book!