She’s a Lady. [Of Pajamas and Shrimp Forks.]

It all started in-utero.

I’m not kidding-it really did.

My Father and very-pregnant-with-me-Mother were at a pinkies-out cocktail party. Let’s give my Mother the benefit of the doubt and assume she was toasting with apple juice, shall we?

It was an extravagant affair, punctuated by the delicate ringing of crystal, bow-ties and the swish of elegant dresses as women that hadn’t the faintest idea how to wear them milled awkwardly about the room with all of the grace of Nazi Storm troopers.

Ladies by right of nature and little else, these missing links women made such an unfortunate impression on my parents, that they immediately decided that they would raise their daughter [read: me] to be a lady that Emily Post herself would be proud of. One that was well-versed in social etiquette. One that that understood not to apply her makeup with a trowel, how to wear a cocktail dress, walk in heels, and ascertain the crucial difference between shrimp and relish forks.

So you see, I really never had a say in the matter. Some of my earliest memories are of being taught how to sit up straight like a lady, how a lady shakes hands [they made me practice on a door knob], the graceful way in which a lady ought to walk [book on the head? I’m a pro.], how a lady ought to answer the phone [Yes, this is she.], politely decline an invitation [“H-no!” is never an option], eat a burrito [Just. Don’t.]…

And don’t get me started on the “do-nots”. A lady does not shout. A lady does not get a mullet. A lady does not eat anything that ends in “doodle”, “puff” or “whiz”. A lady does not buy underwear at Walmart, take relationship advice from Oprah, or agree to be on a reality show with the words, “Real Housewives”, “Bachelor,” or “Bret Michaels” in the title.

…interestingly, many of these lessons were set to the soothing backdrop of me softly humming the dungeon music from Super Mario for Nintendo. Which I loved to play with my brothers when we were not playing Duck Hunt.

You know, back before I learned that a lady does not shoot ducks. Or anything that’s not a cat.

According to my Father, one of the things a lady most certainly did not do was participate in pajama day at school. Growing up, it was the bane of my existence to be the only jean-clad high schooler in a sea of flannel and sweatshirts.

How. Humiliating.

It was with unabashed delight that I called my Dad on my second day of college. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was seven thirty AM, and my hair looked like it had been purchased at a thrift store, after all of the real hair was gone. Dark circles of leftover mascara left me with a face only a mother could love, and my pink flannel pajama pants trotting their way down the sidewalk left me an outfit a father certainly could not.

Dad picked up the phone, and with eighteen years of ill-suppressed glee, I impishly heralded the news that I was, at long last, wearing my pj’s in public-and there wasn’t a darn thing he could do about it.

Ever level-headed, Dad simply commented on how inspiring it was that I’d finally figured out how to use my cell phone, and hung up.

And my pajamas and I lived happily ever after-shrimp forks and all.


  1. Forks. Glasses. Crystal clings, glass does not. Polish the copper bottoms on Sunday mornings. Polish the silver on Saturday afternoons. No sniffing at the table. Elbows? Gracious.

    While I’m so thankful to have grown up being taught proper manners, it has resulted in an adult woman who is incredibly critical of poor table manners. Or even doors. What’s the deal with doors? Why don’t young people hold doors for their elders? I don’t care male or female. Hold the dang door. It is kind.

    Chairs. I was at a funeral today and watched teenagers bolt for the newly added folding chairs leaving old ladies standing.

    Critical? Yes. Kinda sad.

    Sad mainly because each generation waters down good manners.

  2. Funny post, but great reminder to teach my girls proper manners.

  3. bahahha

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