When my sisters and I were growing up, my mom saw only two possible life paths for us. We were either going to be bank robbers, or achieve something significant that would get us invited to the White House. There was no average life on the agenda for me. I was going to jail, or having dinner with the President. (Note: In those days, moms hadn’t yet learned to say to their little girls, “Someday you could be President.” The pinnacle of a girl’s achievement was simply being invited to dinner with him.)Mom took great measures to propel us down the path to success. Church three times a week, and heavy Bible memorization, would keep us from robbing banks, while etiquette courses would prepare us for an invitation to the White House. She took Etiquette 101 and 102 at the local college, and then used her knowledge to teach us things like: wait until everyone is served before taking your first bite, start with the outside fork, and don’t use your fingers to fish pickles from the jar.
Recently, I realized that all of her hard work and effort didn’t exactly pay off. I attended a dinner two weeks ago that involved sitting at a round table with 11 other people. The problem with a round table is that everything is on a curve, so each place setting sort of blends into the next. I knew my forks and spoons with no problem, but which wine glass was mine? Mom didn’t drink alcohol, so we never learned that one. Of course, by the time you have your second glass, no one cares. And why haven’t they created a new standard for place settings that includes a spot for your cell phone? This was a struggle for everyone at the table.