A young girl's guide to acting refined
  Janna Klostermann

Give them the hostess gift,
thank them for having you,
offer to say grace, and
don’t forget to help with the dishes,

my small-town, big-heart, Presbyterian
mother advises before dropping me off
at my friend Rachel’s house for dinner.
Armed with a wad of pleasantries,
I am standing on Rachel’s front porch,
clutching a mediocre hostess gift:
          a 50-pack of napkins,
          a box of crackers, and
          a jar of homemade red pepper jelly.
Buzzing the doorbell and
brushing my shoes on the Welcome Friend mat,
I overhear Rachel’s stepdad telling
Rachel’s Mom she is a lazy, lousy piece of shit.
She’d be flat on her ass without him, he yells.
As soon as the words leave his mouth,
I realize, without a friggin’ doubt, that
my little wee hostess gift makes it look
like I’m flaunting my privileges,
like I have things a little too good at home, and
like I wouldn’t know oppression if it hit me in the arse.
Pining to stand in solidarity with Rachel,
and with unrefined men and women around the world,
I decide, impulsively and irreverently, to do the right thing,
to let up on the etiquette, and
to huck that hostess gift as far as humanly possible.
Putting my weight into it, I launch:
          the 50-pack of napkins,
          the box of crackers, and
          the jar of homemade red pepper jelly
like the second coming of Christ depends on it.
Then, just as the front door swings open
and just as the jar of homemade red pepper jelly
shatters against the windshield of Rachel’s stepdad’s
Chevy Silverado, my old manners inadvertently flare up.
Oh, Rachel, hello! Thank you oh so much for having me.
I am oh so, oh so, delighted to be here.

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