Mwahahahaha! Please excuse the unrestrained outburst of evil mirth. You see, today I have in my little hands the nonsecret-secret handbook for "Marine Officers and Spouses," so I'm feeling like a little bit of an interloper.
Normally I take pictures on my kitchen table, but this publication demanded a more serious looking background. Behold! The most ancient piece of furniture I could find!
Although this publication looks super serious (and the actual text makes it clear the writer is abundantly full of themselves), it's actually a free publication that was sent to our library today. Since my husband is an NCO (non-commissioned officer), it isn't really clear whether or not I rate one of these. However, we certainly aren't going to check the IDs of any Marine or spouse who picks one up, and at any rate, one of my coworkers is the spouse of an officer, and she said I could take hers. Within these meticulously laid out pages are the secrets to success for all Marine Corps related social occasions. Indeed, the sections about etiquette at dinner parties, or for introducing people, could really apply to similar situations in the civilian world just as easily. Some of our *favorite* parts at work included instructions for eating food.
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"Fruit At a formal dinner, fruit is to be eaten with a knife and fork. ... Cake Cake is eaten with a fork, or a fork and spoon. ... Bacon Bacon is to be eaten with a fork."
After skimming through the chapters, I'm left wondering several things besides the obvious "How do you eat a grape with flatware?" and "How dare they impose any rules on the consumption of bacon?". Primarily there is the problem that with every sentence, I'm visualizing people with clothing and hair that could date no later than the early 1960s. I know that there are periodically important events officers and their spouses attend, which may require a few extra manners, but are any of them still using calling cards that contain only their name? Do you still "call" on someone, and if they are not home, leave "your card" to let them know you stopped by, or do you telephone them first, and make prearranged visits? Does everyone have a monogram properly engraved on their own personal letterhead, or do we order special stationery for special events? If you unintentionally arrive at a party 3-5 minutes early, do you come in and help with last minute preparations, or do drive around the block and arrive at the appointed minute? Do you eat chicken wings with anything other than your fingers? In short, while this book is very clear on what the letter of the law is when it comes to dinner etiquette and other social graces, I wonder to what extent even an officer's wife would find it useful. Perhaps I'm wrong, and within a week every copy we have will be gone, but I rather doubt it.
Perhaps the most important question to be asked is, now that the Marine Corps Association, "The Professional Association for All Marines" has released this profoundly useful guide for officers and their wives, do they intend to publish a more useful publication that could be used by "All Marines" and their wives? Something that answers silly questions like "How the (insert expletive of choice) does TriCare work?" "Should I get a new driver's license?" "How do I build a career when moving every few years?" "What the (insert choice word again) are my taxes going to look like?" and "It's nice that the PX is tax free and all, but why are the clothes so darned expensive in the first place?". At least this book gave me some guidelines for greeting sentries at the gate. Apparently wishing they'll stay dry when it's raining is entirely too friendly. Then again, these are just rules for officers and their spouses. Maybe the beauty of being the wife of an enlisted Marine is that I can still act like a normal person, albeit a frequently clueless one.