On Friday the MCT portion of SOI-E had a Dining In that we were lucky enough to be able to attend. Ryan and I have been married nearly five years and together over seven and this is the first time we have been able to attend one! Other units had them scheduled and then cancelled over the years so we were looking forward to an evening out together. Plus, I always love a reason to see my husband in his dress blues! Dining Ins are a little less formal than Birthday Balls, so cocktail attire is encouraged, but I did see a mix of dresses for sure. Most women were in cocktail dresses, some were in long formal gowns, and one or two were in very casual dresses. It seemed anything semi dressy was acceptable, but I googled the bejeezus out of it ahead of time to make sure! I rarely have an excuse to wear a little black dress, particularly one as comfortable as the one I did wear, so I was all about the cocktail attire.
We clean up pretty good! I worked half a day and then used the extra hours to work on my hair and make up, always a challenge for me, but I thnk I did ok. The Dining In was held on base and it was a beautiful evening. The last time we were at this pavillion was for our first Ball in Lejeune, and the docks were under construction. A backhoe does not a romantic backdrop make! But three years later it looked really nice. We arrived for the cocktail hour and were early enough to take advantage of the limited open bar... as in we each got one free drink before the free part ended! Works for me! We mingled and I met some more of Ryan's fellow instructors and their spouses, which was nice.
The Dining In is all about rules and ceremony... including lining up and marching in to your seat. Once you are seated, you do not get up until the break otherwise the Vice can make your spouse pay a fine and visit the grog bowl. Other infractions include rudeness, breaking ceremony, uniform infractions, or anything else the Vice and the President deem to be punishable. Needless to say if you have to pee, you hold it! The dinner was nice and once the guys got into the spirit of fining the heck out of one another it was pretty entertaining. The grog bowl is pretty disgusting. The liquid inside almost looked like a bloody mary and was kind of thick with chunks of unidentifiable things floating in it. The poor Marines who had to take shots of it (some only had one, others had as many as five or more) looked pretty green afterwards!
Other traditions, besides staying seated, include the President having to taste the beef (to make sure it is "fit for consumption") as well as the wine. The Marines are usually pretty mean and do something to the food and wine to make it gross (I believe ours covered the beef in super hot sauce but I have heard of it even being covered in cat food before) because the President has to eat it. If he doesn't, no one else is allowed to eat anything! So unless you want a hundred or so hangry people, you stomach a small bite.
After the break (and a huge, mad dash to the bathroom) the fines are closed and you do the traditional toasts and the guest of honor speaks. Ours was a Sgt Major who has been in many years and nearly moved me to tears at one point when he spoke about some of the amazing men he served with and lost... including one of his good friends who was killed in the recent helicopter training accident in Florida a little while back.
Everyone is given a cigar to enjoy for when the smoking lamp is lit. Ryan and I have been smoke free for over eight months now, so we didn't even chance it with a cigar... I was pretty proud of us for sticking to it.
After the toasts and speeches the President dismisses everyone to the bar to join him for a drink (and a cigar) and you are free to mingle or go home. We hung out a little longer and chatted with some people before heading home again.
It was a lovely night and we both had a really nice time. I do have to say, as much as I love dressing up, it was super nice to change in to my sweat pants when we got home. We snuggled on the couch and watched the Simpsons and ate grilled cheese sandwiches.... you can't beat that!