It has been a few years since I jammed my kids into fancy clothes and sent them off to learn some manners, but I began to reminisce as my godchildren are currently suffering that same fate.
While my children did have some fun at cotillion and etiquette classes, I could see no visible signs for years that it had made any impression whatsoever. I felt smug that I had at least tried to civilize my little beasts, but equal despair that they hadn’t slipped right into the country club set and set out on the path to marry well.
Having them marry far above their station has always been my goal for my darling children. For starters, they are, of course, beautiful and perfect children and deserve nothing but the best. Also I have to admit I foolishly fell in love and consequently married below my own social standing and regret it every time I bounce a check. I should have people to handle that.
My children are in their 20s and still show little sign of being the vicious social climbers I had hoped for. In fact, all my efforts seem to have been buried beneath the general lifestyle we adopt here in ever-so laid-back Southern California. It was like a pond ripple versus a burrito-laden, T-shirt and jeans tidal wave.
My hopes briefly rekindled when my son decided to go to college in Boston. The East Coast is the birthplace of tasteful old money and I figured this was finally a sign that some of my efforts at raising an elitist had paid off. Those hopes were firmly and finally dashed when I bought him a gorgeous pair of pleated linen trousers that would have been perfect at a Cape Cod cocktail party. He took one look and flatly refused to wear them, here or there or ever.
He is, in fact, still wearing the same jeans we bought him three years ago with the occasional new/old T-shirt. His big concession to East Coast wardrobe demands has been a heavy sweatshirt for the cold weather. I’m surprised I could get him into closed-toed shoes. He is known, to my great dismay, as the blond California kid. Something tells me he just won’t be invited to those Nantucket soirees any time soon unless they hold an equal opportunity night.
My only victories in all this have come from the mothers of their friends, bless their hearts. When I am actually able to sit my children down at the table for a meal at home, I am still not pleased by their table manners. But for some reason, everything kicks in when they are at someone else’s table. Whew.
When you hear “You’re daughter has the loveliest manners. She used her butter knife and even offered to help with the dishes after dinner,” it is time to rejoice. It is what a mother lives for. Because the real point, for good manners, other than marrying money, is to make your momma proud. Everyone knows that every torn trouser knee, stained shirt, loud burp, open-mouthed chew and rude word you utter from the time you can walk reflects directly back on your long-suffering mother.
And making momma look bad would be at the top of my no-no list. If you must do something stupid, please do it discreetly. Do not shame me in front of the other mothers, or you will find your inheritance hanging by a thread, offspring dear.
Never mind what inheritance.
Jean Gillette is the Community News editor for The Coast News Group. As a journalist, she primarily worked in San Clemente and Los Angeles. She has been with the Coast News for 20 years and lives in La Costa.