When I was in the 3rd grade my mother enrolled me in White Gloves and Manners class. It was a poor man's cotillion class, held in the dingy gray conference room in the back of our small town department store. Our instructor, Ms. Alice Dozier, always wore a dress circa 1959, had her nails perfectly manicured, pinned her hair in place away from her face, and could present herself in the most graceful of fashion as she demonstrated the proper way to lift your spoon to your mouth as you sipped - not slurped - soup.
There were 15 girls in our class and Ms. Dozier spent one night a week for six weeks teaching us everything a well-mannered young lady should know. From properly addressing elders and introducing yourself/others/guests in a social situation to how you should behave on a date with a young man and what silverware you use and when, Ms. Dozier dazzled her starry-eyed students with the fantasies of what their future social lives would be like when they got older. I'd go home after these classes with dreams of hosting formal dinner parties; setting tables full of china, stemware, and 20 pieces of flatware; thinking about all the letters I would address to important people; and considering if I would dance the waltz at my first social (it turned out to be an awkward slow dance to Careless Whisper by Wham! with a boy much shorter than me - go figure). No matter what reality really was like, Ms. Dozier had a way of making you think you were growing up a Kennedy or at least could become one.
I was thinking about all the table manners I learned while watching the girls monitor our little Memorial Day cookout on Monday. Kevin manned the turkey burgers and dogs on the grill while I set our outdoor table. There was no china involved. Only left over college Corelle-wear, makeshift Martha Stewart dishcloths turned into place mats, and stainless flatware, but it was set correctly. Roxy kept an eye on dad's progress, hoping he would mess up and knock a burger or dog off in her direction. She has no fear of the heat of the grill so we have to watch her like a hawk. I think we could get her to walk over hot coals for a turkey burger. I believe that's what you call food motivated.
Seka, on the other hand, prefers to watch from the sidelines, knowing that such behavior is rewarded in the long run. This time of the year the bees, hornets, wasps, beetles, and any kind of flying bugs like to torture her. They buzz around her ears and dive bomb her bum to bait her into this unfair cat and mouse game. She will chase these stinging, winged creatures around the yard, jumping into the air, snapping her needle nose as fast and violently as possible, only to miss, catch site of her tiny target again and then carry on this tiny lure coursing exercise throughout the backyard . She's only been stung once or twice, but that doesn't seem to stop her.
When we eat outside, I try to bribe both of the girls with rawhide bones (U.S. made only - I'm VERY picky). It keeps them occupied while we eat. Their table manners are pretty good inside, especially Seka who is too proud to beg for scraps, but outside - all bets are off. But my trick didn't work since we had been outside 70% of the day and they had chewed on their special bones until their little mouths were sore. So, Roxy decided the best way to get food from mom and dad was to rest her head on the table, where she couldn't be missed. She obviously did not attend Ms. Dozier's class. Mom was mean and fed her dill pickles to get her to go lay down.
In the end, they both got a turkey dog and 1/2 of a bun as their meal and I don't think Seka chewed one bite of it. I think she thought the faster she got rid of her bite, the quicker she could get another.
I reminded Seka of what Ms. Dozier taught me more than 20 years ago, you must take time to enjoy your food - I think she also said you should finish your meal after the man does, leave 1/4 of your meal on your plate and always have an extra pair of short white gloves. Then again, not long after I graduated from White Gloves and Manners Class, I saw Ms. Dozier in the grocery store smoking a cigarette in a burgundy velour jogging suit buying beer.
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