Sunday, May 19, 2013
Why Buy The Cow If The Milk Is Free?
My Mother used this saying to keep me virginal for a long time. She convinced me that there was an absolute correlation between having unmarried sex and buying a cow.
I think I was 9 the first time she imparted these words of wisdom to me. I would be 15 before i realized that one thing really had nothing to do with the other.
I don't even like milk, never mind if it's free or not. And believing that a man would chose a wife so that he no longer had to pay for milk was simply ridiculous.
Mom had a few things wrong, and a few things right. One thing that was big with my mother was manners. She wanted her 4 daughters to be polite and to have perfect table manners. I got the polite part. I am always polite until it's time to not be polite, but that's another subject all together.
When we were quite young, about twice a month Mom took us on the streetcar to downtown San Francisco for lunch. We all got very dressed up for the occasion, white gloves, dresses, shiny black patent shoes. At the time, I was about 7, my younger sister 5. (The baby was only 3 so she stayed at home with a babysitter.) We always went someplace "fancy". Mom wanted to make sure we knew our table manners. My sister and I looked forward to these outings as much as we looked forward to a dentist visit.
While we were encouraged to get whatever we wanted from the elaborate menus, we were also watched closely for behavior transgressions. We got a sharp reprimand from Mom if we did not place our napkins on our lap, or if we spoke much above a well modulated whisper. We were admonished to keep our elbows off the table and to maintain an upright posture while dining. Further, speaking with one's mouth full simply wasn't done, nor was smacking one's lips while eating.
These hour and a half manners lessons were exhausting to me and my sister. And we wondered why we didn't just go get burgers at the local drive in restaurant. However, in time, the outings became much more enjoyable. We learned not to break the rules and it all worked just fine.
Now this may sound harsh, but I used approximately the same training technique with my own kids. From a very young age, they both learned what was and wasn't acceptable while dining. I'm pleased to say that both of my kids have perfect table manners.
Perfect table manners is not really about always using the right spoon. It not even about not laughing during a meal. It really seems to me to be more about not hunching over one's plate as if you are afraid it will be stolen from you at any minute. It's about bringing your food to your mouth while you sit upright, not leaning over the plate to make the distance between food and mouth as short as possible. It's about not talking with a full mouth. It's about not smacking your lips while you eat. These things are really disturbing for me to watch.
It may not be fair, but it bothers me more when women show bad table manners than it does when men do it. (It also bothers me more to see a woman drunk and obnoxious than it does to see a man similarly impaired.)
While I still think my mother's free milk and cow reference was absurd, I have to give her kudos for teaching her kids table manners. I'm sorry more parents don't understand that this is an invaluable life skill.
Although, I may be old now, good manners never go out of style.