Eating with chopsticks in the finest of styles does not make your culturally acceptable.
As I sat there socially exhibiting my very best etiquette in a traditional Asian restaurant, chopsticks in one hand while politely holding a small bowl of rice in the other. Atop the rice was a manageable amount of mixed greens and sliced meat. My cup of tea, just having been refilled with jasmine tea, steamed lightly upwards emulsifying the area around the table with its wonderful aroma.
After some 30 years of politely respecting and learning the ways of the community, I was feeling extremely well accepted. The meal, one of my favorite, was at the upper range of my expectations. I was feeling extremely gratified to have learned and yes, being accepted.
One of the many wonderful things I have long admired when eating at this community’s restaurants is the way in which the younger children are always so very well socially integrated into the family meal times. They would converse and be listened to, allowed their mischief and no harsh, over the top, responses of unwarranted discipline from the parents and or family. The children in turn had a freedom that they expressed with their opened smiles at the slightest of smiles from strangers and always it seems had a smile for me.
I was well into my meal when two lovely children arrived just ahead of their family and sat to the table closest to me. There were other tables that they choose to pass but clearly more than ample room at the one they had chosen. We smiled at each other and they giggled and I again felt accepted.
The parents and or guardians arrived not long behind and their eyes met mine. I smiled. They did not. I lowered my eyes in a somewhat, want to be respectful manner and slightly allowed a smile to be shared with the youngest of the two children, a boy, still sharing a wide eyed joyous smile with me. Again I looked up at the parents and this time keeping a more slightly harmless facial expression but without an open smile; As I looked on as they ushered their two children away from the table they had chosen, taking them to the FURTHEST distant table in the corner of the restaurant, their having taken their seats.
As I looked on the youngest of the two children again smiled one final time as he was now placed in the chair with his back to me. And as in before I again returned a smiled in response knowing he would most likely not have known.
And at that moment, sadly, the hundreds of other wonderful experiences I have had on previous occasions over the many decades, was for that single moment, summed up in one statement.
Eating with chopsticks in the finest of styles does not make your culturally acceptable; But in time young children will grow old and they will become themselves culturally diverse.