In an ongoing effort to transform our dinner table from a trough to a haven of grace and civilization, I recently purchased the books DUDE, THAT’S RUDE and TABLE MANNERS FOR KIDS (of all ages).
When gas is released during the meal and elicits cackles of hyena-like laughter from all present (except me, and kindly do not refer me to Walter, The Farting Dog; I’m not gonna laugh at flatulence when I have slaved over lasagna Florentine)…well, that’s when I think we’ve gone too far.
I decided to read aloud from DUDE over a dinner of spaghetti marinara. I chose that entrée deliberately as our spaghetti feeds typically resemble the Brown Derby scene in I Love Lucy, wherein Lucy tries to manage giant balls of pasta or endeavors to suck up endless strands, and Ethel resorts to snipping the noodles with a pair of scissors.
With the book as a guide, I modeled twirling a manageable forkful lightly against my spoon. Twirling—that’s fun for kids, right?
“I can’t do it,” my daughter complained, letting her fork clatter to her plate. “Not to be rude, but I don’t like spaghetti anyway. May I be excused?”
“Of course not! We just started eating.”
Tim patted her on the arm. “Mom doesn’t want you to take a huge mouthful, that’s all. Here, try this.” He forked up a couple of strands, puckered and inhaled—with agonizingly slow glee—so that the spaghetti looked like live worms, attempting to wriggle away and splattering marinara along the way. Now our daughter liked spaghetti.
I kicked him under the table. “Let’s work on our napkins. They should be placed on our laps–”
“I don’t have a napkin,” dear child pointed out, searching around her placemat. “You never give us any.”
“All right.” I got up, scrounged in a drawer and slapped a few wrinkled napkins on the table. “From now on we’re using napkins, and they should be placed on our laps.”
My husband wiped his mouth delicately then tucked his napkin under his plate.
“Your lap,” I reiterated.
“It’s easier to get to this way. You don’t have to reach below the table.” He demonstrated. “Besides, did you notice how I raised my pinkie when I wiped my mouth?”
He and our daughter proceeded to entertain each other by seeing who could keep their pinkies raised longest while performing various tasks, most of them not dinner related. I felt a different finger trying to rise, but that would have been rude, so I practiced not speaking with my mouth full.
Flatulence and cackles followed.
It may look like I’m defeated, but I’m not giving up on those books or on us. And if you think I’m being a stickler, invite my family to dinner sometime. You’ll thank me.