Monday, April 11, 2011

Divorce Etiquette For Every Day Use.

On the bookshelf in the house where I grew up, there was, snugly tucked between Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask), a copy of Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette.

Go ahead and laugh, but as a teenager, I all but memorized Miss Vanderbilt’s 700-page opus. I mastered the proper placement of seafood forks and marrow spoons. I understood that a "real" lady would never deign to use stationery pre-printed with the words “thank” or “you.” I was primed to meet both elected officials and foreign royalty. And should I ever be invited to travel abroad with the family of a boarding school pal, I was poised to prepare, or at least host at a fine restaurant, a dinner party to convey my gratitude.

As it turns out, though, my real life hasn't required a single curtsey.  My most used seafood utensils are my fingers.  I wouldn't know where to procure a pair of everyday white gloves – much less ones (with delicate embroidery and fastened with a single pearl) for formal occasions. And “boarding school pals”? Puh-leeze.

Not that there isn’t a profound need for etiquette in our society. There is. However, I think we need to hone our manners and civility on more practical and useful levels.  The guide for me, for example, might be titled, Divorce Etiquette for Every Day (DEED).

DEED might help me deftly maneuver such tricky situations as, how to refer to the person to whom one once was married? “My ex” can sound harsh and oddly possessive, yet “the kids’ father” might imply children born out of wedlock.

DEED would also provide examples of how to respond to someone (i.e., everyone) who questions the reason for divorce. “We grew apart” doesn't work.  We're not shrubs, we're humans. And yet “Our other option was dueling machetes at high noon” plainly cuts a little too close to the bone.

And what about situational divorce etiquette? How best, for example, to handle a phone call from one’s former spouse, in which he asks if you’ll drive him to the emergency room?  If only I had a copy of the DEED in hand right now. Seriously. Because I'm currently in the emergency room. With the person to whom I was once married.

If I remember correctly (and I trust me, I do) Miss V. doesn't broach this particular topic.

Please. Of course I drove him to the ER. And after a couple of tests, a couple of prescriptions, a couple of hours, and a couple of confused looks from the ER staff, I drove him back to his home. Who wouldn’t?

But now what? Where’s Miss V when I really need her? Do I call tomorrow to check on him? Do I offer to have prescriptions filled? Do I call his family to let them know?

It’s a sticky one, but in the end, I’m guessing I'll do what I always do: cook. This quiche is one that I often make for folks in "times of need."  It's a complete meal that can be eaten hot, at room temperature, or straight from the fridge -- with or without utensils.

No etiquette required. 

Shrimp & Broccoli Quiche
  • One unbaked pie shell (I use Pillsbury's)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled shrimp, well-drained and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly steamed broccoli florets, well-drained and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350.  In medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs together.  Stir in half and half, salt and cayenne pepper and combine well.  Sprinkle half of grated cheese in bottom of pie shell.  Top with broccoli, then shrimp, then remaining cheese.  Pour egg mixture evenly over all.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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