I don't remember being taught about manners, exactly. I recall catching serious hell for throwing my pea soup on the walls and blaming it on my little brother, who was a) three and b) asleep at the time, so I knew for a fact that one was not to throw food no matter how much one disliked it.
On the other hand, my grandma's name was Mabel, so when she told me that rhyme about elbows off the table I thought it was just a story from her life.
So maybe my parents really did try to teach me, but I didn't register the lessons unless they were accompanied by a beating. Who knows where the blame lies, but the end result is that I'm still gleaning nifty tidbits to this day - Proper placement of cutlery when setting a table (age 16). Elbows off the table, for real? (age 18) If on a date, either all or none of the people involved may consume garlic (age 21). Napkin on lap (age 25). The fork was not intended for use as a shovel (age 30).
If you've ever been shocked by a revelation in etiquette (as I have), or been dumped due to lousy forking technique (which I can assure you I have not), you'll know the feeling: "How does everyone know about this stuff but me? And why didn't someone mention it before?" Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to the decorum challenged, so if you really want to discern the correct placement of the tin of chunky soup in relation to the spork you can look it up.
I do have to say that during the course of my research on this topic, I noted some obvious gaps in the literature. Because I'm all about public service announcements, I'd like to propose a few items that, IMHO, should really form part of our collective codes of conduct:
- Photogenic is Swahili for you look worse in real life. Do everyone's self-esteem a favour and set the bar high - delete or destroy any photographs that are not eminently flattering to your subjects.
- Bring your own barf bags on the helicopter, so as not to deplete the pilot's supply.
- Wiping up your own pee splatters does not constitute "cleaning the bathroom".
- If you've been getting the milk free for seven years, you should at least take the cow on a nice vacation once in a while.
- If you're going to complain about your significant other in a public forum such as a blog, you should at least do so anonymously and/or under the guise of public service announcements.
- Cows really like the spa.