I know the proper way to set a table for a dinner party for 20 people. Where each type of spoon, fork, knife, butter dish, salad plate, dinner plate, cake plate, cup, saucer, soup bowl, napkin, wine glass, water glass and you name it goes. We didn’t measure the distance between place settings, like you see on Netflix’s The Crown, but I was taught to see it instinctively. I know how to seat people by military and/or social rank respective to the host and hostess. I can still execute the perfect curtsy.
My mother went to finishing school instead of high school and wished for me to be presented at the Debutante Ball in NYC. That was going to happen the week after never.
I was raised with u-trou, up-and-at-’em, rise and shine, yes sir and yes ma’am, the proper way to stand at attention, the proper way to salute.
A debutante and a soldier.
Actually he wanted me to marry a soldier. Until he decided he wanted me to be one.
When it was time to think about colleges, I asked him if I could go to West Point. My father, my uncle and my grandfather were graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The problem was that in 1971 they didn’t accept women. The real problem was that it would have taken me a million years to be in the physical condition necessary and I’m scared of loud noises. But I thought it was unfair. I remember saying to my dad that “It’s 1971, we could fight this on Constitutional grounds.”
I might as well have said the moon was rolling down our driveway.
He was astounded and furious. “How dare you say that! How dare you think that the United States military would ever let a woman into West Point!!”
Until, that is, July of 1976 when the first women cadets entered West Point and then graduated in the class of 1980. My father said “Why didn’t you go to West Point? You should have tried harder.” Ummmm….Dad, have you met you?
It wasn’t until high school that I learned people were depressed. No one understood me when I asked them if their morale was low.
I took, and passed, the Air Force Officers Qualifying Test my senior year in college then decided not to enlist.
I have never given a large dinner party in my life but man do I know how to do it.
I can handle myself with grace in any social situation.
I am neither a debutante nor a soldier. I could not be either of my parents. Instead, I’m an amalgamation of their dreams and my reality.