Like most chubby-cheeked babies, I always wore a bib that my mother tied around my neck while she scooped in the applesauce, and the runny peas, and the lumpy oatmeal.
I was told that I was always dribbling and drooling, and she was constantly wiping the spills off my sleepers, while I exercised my gag reflex.
I guess it came as no surprise that I continued my hillbilly dining habits well into my genteel maturity. There has never been an item of my clothing that has gone unsullied. My drooling and slobbering have been referred to as “legendary” in my family. There doesn’t seem to be a food that hasn’t found its way down my front.
I soak and spray and scrub, and the bad stains just seem to become more stubborn with every washing.
Just this week, I ran out for milk and rewarded my diligence to the dairy state by picking up an ice cream treat. Just as I pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed the hard shell of chocolate and nuts were sliding south. Dang! I tried to flip it over to send the chocolate in the other direction, but it only got looser by the minute and slipped between my legs as I steered the car into the wrong lane.
I should know better - driving and drooling should be illegal. Inattentive eating should be a moving violation.
Over the years, I have had some real tense rides while I tried to eat behind the wheel. There seems to be an anticipated landing zone from my chin to my waist. My sons were never scolded for eating in a sloppy fashion, because I was far too guilty of the same. Like mother, like sons.
I remember an especially egregious moment: while absolutely starving, I tried to chomp into a double cheeseburger when it escaped and headed earthward. Slid right out of the bun, lubricated with catsup and cheese (and grease of course). Plunk. Right on my white blouse, or should I say my formerly white blouse. I looked like an accident victim (and I guess in a sense, I was). There is a law of uncommon gravity where these matters are settled.
I once attended a meeting and sat next to a lovely woman who always made a very fashionable and immaculate appearance. I usually skipped lunching with these people for obvious reasons, but on this day, I had ordered a sub.
The perfectly groomed committee member kind of kept glancing at me. I was wearing a black (always the better bet for me) cowl-neck sweater. In about the middle of the meeting, I took a quick look downward, to be sure I was not marring my appearance with the remainders of the sub sandwich (next to spaghetti, probably the most vile and dangerous of food substances), when I happened to notice a peanut, sitting up front and center in the curve of my cowl collar. Oh my. I continued to take notes furiously while I cooked up a plan to remove the peanut without drawing attention to myself.
I tried adjusting the collar, hoping the peanut would drop down and slide out the bottom of my sweater, but when I wanted the food to fall, it remained stuck in the fold. I finally waited until the fashionista turned her head, and I very swiftly reached up and grabbed the peanut. Just then she turned back, and I think she saw me making the curious peanut rescue. I held it in my hand for a while and then began to think about how I might dispose of it.
I thought of dropping it on the table or even the floor, but those would be too obvious. Finally, with a subtle touch to my lip, I swallowed it. I know for a fact that this fashionable young professional had never walked around with a peanut stuck in her cowl neck. I chewed ever so carefully so as not to reveal the location of the errant peanut. I choked a bit when swallowing, but she did not make an issue of it. The peanut was gone. I wondered how the story would sound in reverse when she shared it with her colleagues later.
“You wouldn’t believe this reporter who came to our meeting with a peanut sitting in her cowl neck! Then she casually picked it out and ate it! Dirty old peanut, which came from who knows where!”
Years later, I still cringe at the thought of it all. You just can’t take me anywhere.