As I was checking my hotmail account today, I noticed a link to an MSNBC story about business party etiquette. Being that my grandmother tried for years to indoctrinate me into appropriate public behavior - and most importantly, where the darn fork is supposed to go - and I have never quite gotten the hang of it, I clicked the link hoping for some pointers.
Just a warning... not all of those transfer to the military world...
I think it is safe to say that it is NEVER appropriate to point with your utensils. Well, except if you are trying to do your part when your dinner party is being invaded and the uniforms are manning the ramparts. In such an instance, it is perfectly acceptable not only to point out the bad guys with your fork, but to stick it in their eye if they get too close.
Really, we're all Molly Pitcher at heart. It is my firm hope that should such an event ever pop up in my life, I am firmly seated between Guard Wife and armywifetoddlermom. Trust me, those chicks could wield a fork like no one's business, I'm sure. Sarah might actually be more dangerous though - those knitting needles are much better for close hand-to-hand than a soup spoon or butter knife.
In any case, barring dinner party invasion (and who would WANT to invade for that awful dry chicken and rice plates that always seem to be served? People should be forcefully trying to leave!), it's obvious the utensil pointing thing is just wrong. So is talking with your mouth full.
Talking with your mouth full is a sin that active duty military people never commit. I think it hearkens back to training days, when there was no time to waste during chow with talking. Someone might take your biscuit if your guard goes down one second. As I said, active duty people don't talk while they're eating. They might grunt an answer, but they don't talk. That's why the dinner portion of the formal dinners is always so quiet, with only the sound of forks on plates echoing throughout the room (or, during less formal occasions, the sound of plastic forks on cheap paper plates or trays) and some small murmers of spouses trying to figure out exactly what is on their plate.
If you happen to be a new mil-spouse or girlfriend and were worried that the table silence meant everyone disliked you - take heart! It's always that way, and has nothing to do with how appealing a person you are.
I also found this little tidbit interesting:
NEVER drink too much. You'll lose your tact, sharpness and ability to conduct yourself in a businesslike manner.
I am in no way advocating people drinking too much. I myself, despite numerous attempts to develop a taste for wine, am a teetotaler. Yes, I am always the designated driver - people don't even ask anymore. But honestly, when your "businesslike manner" includes the ability to think that building pyramids with empty cups of grog is high entertainment and wrestling matches in full mess dress and bare feet - you might need something to get you through.
Then I got to the portion of the article that described body language. Wow. Let me break this down for you:
Gesture: Hands on hipsEmotion: Readiness, aggressionMilitary meaning: There is no meaning. They all stand like this all the time. It's the off duty variation of parade rest.
Gesture: Hand to cheekEmotion: Evaluation thinkingMilitary Meaning: I'm pretending to listen and watch your PowerPoint briefing while I actually catch up on some zzz's. This trick is learned in barracks, dorms, and racks the world over.
Gesture: Hands clasped behind head, legs crossedEmotion: Confidence, superiorityMilitary Meaning: The General has finally left the room. Toss me a Bud.
Gesture: Pulling or tugging at earEmotion: IndecisionMilitary Meaning: "Shut up now! Wrong Briefing! Wrong Briefing!"
Gesture: Rubbing the eyeEmotion: Doubt, disbeliefMilitary Meaning: Hasn't slept in two weeks of mid-shifts with a one month old baby at home.
Gesture: Tapping or drumming fingers [rings]Emotion: ImpatienceMilitary Meaning: The West Pointers at the dinner have felt their honor challenged by something.It was really kind of fun to look at the article and then dissect it according to military function actions.Really, though, there is more that is in common (because most of it is just good manners) than not. But we certainly do have our own little etiquette within the etiquette, don't we?I think, though, looking at the social taboo list that we may be in a bit of trouble... With obnoxious cell phone use being taboo, we might have to take everyone off the alert roster and have a mass seizing of "crackberries" before the next Dining Out.