Who created “napkin art” anyway?

As I walked up the carpeted flight of stairs and choked the white enameled handrails, I wondered what in the hell I was putting myself through. Once I was at the top of the stairs, I fiddled with my rings, turning them round and round.

There I was at the officer’s club, searching for my place card on the name tag tree. My slightly clammy hand pinched the folded card which read, “Mrs. Karen Jones,” off the tree. On the back, it stated, “You are seated at Table 5,”—perfect military protocol form.

I wanted to turn right back around, run down the stairs, bolt out of the doors, and sprint back to my hotel room. But I was following orders, as usual, and my body went straight to Table 5, like it was on auto-pilot.

It was my time to shine or be dull. I had been in class for two days already. The course’s purpose was to teach me how to be a proper and successful squadron commander’s wife. This particular event was the pinnacle of my studies on protocol, only one of the many facets covered during the course.

Remembering what I was told in the class, I turned on my brightest smile. The instructions had said, “First and foremost, smile a lot and be your own warm, friendly, helpful, and compassionate self. Be the best supporter of your spouse’s squadron and everyone in it.”

Do I look warm and friendly enough? Lord, I hope so.

There I was at Table 5 representing not only myself, but my husband, and the future of his squadron that he was going to command. Oh, the pressure!

Looking at Table 5, it was beautifully clothed and skirted—just like me. It had all the accouterments signaling a formal luncheon: multiple forks, a napkin forming an artistic “poof,” numerous plates, a large collection of fresh flowers in the middle, and some intimidating women occupying chairs.

This was a luncheon designed to practice creating conversations out of thin air. I needed to perform well, not be inappropriate, and remember to be reverent toward the “senior spouses.” In other words, not piss them off or have them wrinkle their noses at me, like they caught a whiff of a bad odor.

Do I detect a party foul?

As one of the major command centers for the Air Force, the base’s population consisted of loads of the top brass and their spouses. Some of the spouses were at my practice luncheon to help with my exercise in manners. At Table 5, I had a Brigadier General’s wife.

I watched her every move; for that was my plan to pass the muster. I figured that what she did, which fork she used, and how she passed the bread bowl were the most correct. Surely, she had been doing this antiquated song and dance enough times to be the master.

After it was over, my face was fatigued from the excessive smiling. I suppose this practice in the finer things was the spouse’s version of simulating a battle scene, but with fluffier surroundings.

I spy the exit! Time to go!

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