Wow. Please Kill Me if I End Up Like This.

Yes. I was raised to be a respectable young lady. Sorry to disappoint, mother!!!

I was raised with strict guidelines on how to act as a hostess. One must always be graceful, tactful, delightful, and set a welcoming table in a stylish house while appearing as beautiful as possible without ever offending anybody as guests enjoy their delicacies which are paired with the proper succession of wines.

It always grated on me, but that is how my mother viewed what being a proper woman was while entertaining. Periodically, she would appear in my room and tell me that we were “expecting guests” and I would have to don my best dress and come downstairs to the dining room. I was expected to engage in scintillating repertoire while being non-threatening to the men around me and being gracious to the women. People would mill around and I had to always respond with precocious responses to any questions regarding my family and educational ambitions while, at all times, be a lady, as my mother used to say.

This was not easy, people, and I was not built for it. I can do it, due to my training, but I absolutely hate it. I would have preferred to run upstairs to my room and snuggle into my bed with a book. My sister had it worse, as she was older and had to bear the brunt of such duties, but she enjoyed it much more than I did. I told my mother often that I hated to be fake, and she would always answer that acting as a Stepford-child (although she didn’t use that term) wasn’t being fake, just being polite or nice.

All of this came to mind this weekend when John and I welcomed some of his family into our home. I madly cleared off the dining room table of all our files and unopened mail, thinking that we would eat there in the formal style that I was used to. Instead, we ended up at the kitchen table munching off of small plates. It was fun, although unexpected on my end.

I then realized that John’s son also seems a little taken aback whenever I set out place settings with napkins and flatware; I saw then that he may think l that do all that for him since we are all settling into new family dynamics, but I don’t. That was simply how I grew up. I was instructed at an early age on what utensils went with which dishes, which beverages should be served with which meals and in what order, and how to properly eat and act during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In a way, I still eat that way to this day. If anyone cared enough to watch me eat, they would probably notice that I’m very proper, which my close friends have teased me about often. Just like how I have a straight posture whenever I am sitting in a chair (although not nowadays, suffering from a sore back from all the moving). Most of it, though, is due to hours playing the violin and viola; because of it, I tend to sit at the very edge of my chair. It’s great if I need to store my purse anywhere since I have lots of seat space. It’s not when you are at a very fancy restaurant and the waiters are constantly trying to scoot the chair under you. Once, a waiter asked me, “Would Mademoiselle like a pillow for her back? Would Mademoiselle prefer another chair? Would Mademoiselle like me to settle her more comfortably at the table?”

No, Mademoiselle would not. This is how I sit. Do I come to your home and criticize you on how you sit? Back the fuck off, asshat!

I read all about how kids nowadays don’t have any etiquette and how Americans are viewed as hulking, snuffling savages in other countries while they scarf down food in restaurants. And I can’t say I blame the criticizers. Americans, in general, aren’t very delicate diners. And when we are, in country clubs and the like, we seem to do it consciously, as if we were following some Emily Post manual.

I don’t think the right approach is to make kids into tiny etiquette robots. However, at the same time, I don’t think — if I ever have any children — that I would also simply let them eat without any guidance on proper manners. What is that fine line, between complete Stepfords and Viking hordes when it comes to dining room behavior? I’m not sure. Since I don’t have any kids, I’m afforded the luxury of not having to decide that quite yet. But…yes, we Americans in general have terrible, atrocious table manners. Although, perhaps that is what makes us Americans?

Apparently Suburbia Loves Yippy Dogs

Whut?!!? Where are all the Labradors and Huskies?

I am obviously completely out of the times when it comes to my vision of suburbia living. I always thought that it would be resplendent with Labradors, Huskies, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, and the similar, but apparently, that’s not the case. At least in my neighborhood.

Everywhere I look, all I see are these teeny yippy dogs, which I have to confess, I’m not a fan of. And they are always being walked on cute, slender leashes by huge men. As they trot beside them daintily and then start barking at you if you look at them askance, which I always do.

What is with these small dogs? When did they become so popular? I mean, sure, they’re cute, but let’s face it, if you don’t live in the city with restricted space and an elevator, shouldn’t you have a burly dog, one that can bound around in joy and chase squirrels? Or am I delusional?

That is one of the reasons I never had a dog while living in Baltimore. I didn’t feel like it was fair to constrain a large dog to a small space. Secondly, I am severely allergic to animals. And finally, I grow too attached to my animal companions.

My mother always told me I did and I never believed her when I was a child, when she would say that I took loss too severely. But, I was the girl that always chose the runt of the litter, the smallest and weakest one because I wanted to nurse it back to health and shelter and protect it. Oftentimes, it backfired on me because the runt of the litter is the runt for a reason; despite my best efforts, sometimes my chosen one would sicken and die and I would cry and mourn for a long time.

I had two bunnies, Roo and Yuri, for about twelve years back when I was in Baltimore. I have written about them on my blog. And when Roo died, I knew that I probably could never have another bunny again, or even another “pet”. I lost both of them within the span of a year and them passing just cut too deeply.

“Just get another bunny! Or dog!” People said. As if it was that easy to replace them, as if it would just make you feel better because they’re just animals. People would never say that if someone lost a human child, they would be more sensitive about it, but just because you lost a non-human, suddenly it’s understandable that you can just substitute the old with the new.

Maybe I’m unusual or weird or however else you want to put it, but Roo and Yuri were really special to me. Through my hard times, when I didn’t even have family support and had limited friends, they were always there. They gave me comfort as they sat on my feet or looked up at me with understanding as I spoke to them while working or cooking at home. And they were always happy to see me, even if Yuri was surly (which I kind of liked). They chewed everything to bits, which caused me to rant and rave, but when I came home, they would be huddled together as huge balls of furs as they cuddled and then hopped up to greet me.

They didn’t need to always need to be by my side; actually, they often weren’t since they were potty trained and had free roam of the house so liked to lounge around wherever they chose to, but they were more than just pets or even friends. They were part of my heart.

So, although John has mentioned that perhaps we should get a puppy, I’m not so sure about that. He would hate the work that goes along with it, but I know that he would agree to get one if I wanted to. But I don’t think my heart could stand another loss like the ones I always felt when my pets as animal companions, friends, and yes as family, left me again.