My 12-year-old son convinced me once again that we should eat dinner at one of those “all you can eat buffet places.” Naturally, kids loves these places. It’s a carnival of pizzas, mac and cheese, ice cream, brownies, cookies, pies and more fried items than a Southern truck stop on a country road. Yes, there are vegetables and meat choices, but the competition is tough when the child is exposed to so many other less digestible but more exciting choices.
Of course, I acquiesced, as mothers do – all in the name of that precious little smile and joyful sound of, “Thanks, Mom,” that we long to hear before the ringing anthem of “Why not,” “That’s not fair,” and, “You never give me anything I want”!
So, here we are in the trough capital, herding through the stations for our selections and finally finding our way to our booth. Our table awaits with the little placard card which will alert the staff whether we are finished or not by the appropriate placement of said card during our absence for “seconds”! Taking our seat and beginning with the same set of standards we always use, whether casual or elegant dining – we place our napkin in our lap, grasping our utensils in the proper cutting position and proceed to “enjoy”, and I use the term cautiously, the spectrum of colors and textures that fill our plate.
As we engage in table conversation, I notice in the sea of chewing faces, a very — and I mean VERY — large man. In fact, my son and I are both convinced he is a Sumo wrestler.
He is with a group of about six or seven, which I presume are family, based on the similarities shared, when suddenly, he literally takes his fork and commences to stab a slab of prime rib – and I mean “stab” the entire large piece of meat in the center — raise what is surely ¾ of a pound or more of beef to his mouth, to which he begins to chew, rather knaw, off of the hanging course.
I literally thought I would just faint, but instead, I was suddenly distracted by my son when he saw the look on my face. Clearly he was afraid that my own reaction may be seen by the offender. As a professional etiquette consultant, and having been “reared in the south”, it should come as no surprise that my son has been taught proper table manners since he could pick up a 4” miniature fork from his high chair tray. I highly encourage all parents to begin at this early age, lest they have a “meat stabber” in their future. 0503-12
I rarely notice other eaters’ indelicate manner of eating when dining at a restaurant but 2 weeks ago I had the opportunity to get an eyeful when an older teenaged boy and his friends were unescapably in my line of vision. Oldest teen male proceeded to pick his nose and wipe it absently and then pick up food with those same fingers all through his meal. It was like being forced to watch a horror movie. Over and over again his fingers probed his nose and over and over again he ate with those same fingers.
But I disagree that raising children to be mannerly will automatically guarantee that they will behave like gentlemen or ladies when they are older and out from under parental supervision. All of my children were taught repeatedly to not put their elbows on the table while dining and but one of them, now aged 23, the many lessons haven’t stuck. I’m sure in the proper context this adult child of mine knows the right thing to do but often chooses not to in less formal situations. Once kids reach adulthood, they are their own masters and they choose the path they wish to take. Declaring, “I did not raise you to be a Barbarian!,” can be a humorous reminder but one has to be careful that it does not mutate into manipulation to avoid the embarrassment that one’s own kid can be quite uncouth sometimes. I swear, I think some of my kids purposely do things like belch at the table just to see if they can get a rise from me or their father and of course they usually do get rewarded with an exaggerated roll of the eyes or dramatic sigh of resignation with whispered, “Barbarians”, under the breath.