7. Toothpicks and table manners.

The most random thing that reminds me of my father are toothpicks.

He had an obsession with them for as long as I remember.

It escalated on our trip to the USA. Toothpicks were on the table at every meal. My father had a general obsession with his oral health, mine too. He wanted our appearance to be perfect at all costs. It was detrimental that we both looked good after all, I was representing him as his daughter. I took pride in the way I looked but not to his extent.

He continued his toothpick fixation when we returned to London. A little container was placed in the kitchen and dining room to start. Eventually, he began buying more and more. He instructed me to use them too. When I pointed out that they are painful to use (I don’t particularly enjoy prodding my gums with wooden sticks) he took it upon himself to dictate a speech about oral health to me.

Sitting at the dining table after dinner, my father would methodically choose his toothpick and delve into his mouth. It was unsightly and awkward watching him pick out bits of lodged food.

His table manners were generally appalling but he, being a man, was allowed to behave in any way he wanted to. Burping was a regular occurrence  not muted ones, no “pardon me”, just loud, heavy, deep and uncontrollable burps flew out of his mouth. Yawning, his yawning made me shiver. Why would I want to see the entirety of his mouth? And the noise! God, the noise that came with it – like an animal.

Of course, his table manners that he set for me were completely different. I had to make sure I had a mat down under my plate, I had to have a knife with my food even if I had no intention of using one, even if I was having soup. I had to keep tissues near by, I wasn’t to wipe my face with my hand or brush food away with my finger, it had to be with a tissue. I wasn’t to make any unpleasant sounds at the dinner table, burping was inexcusable. If I finished ahead of him, I had to wait till he had finished before I left the table. This eventually stopped as I got older and began eating my dinner locked away in my bedroom while he remained King of the table.

It gave a whole new meaning to “Double standards”.

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