It’s been said that chivalry – which I define as the quality of men being polite and respectful toward women – isn’t dead, just underemployed. Nowadays, the average man never learns the fine art of being polite and respectful toward anyone, equating it with subservience or a diminishing of his “street cred.” And the average woman, while she may appreciate an occasional polite deed or gesture, is sometimes embarrassed by the attention in what is supposed to be a gender-neutral world.
It’s tough for a man to know what today is proper and acceptable behavior toward women; after all, gestures that might have been acceptable in the 40’s or 50’s or even the 80’s and 90’s may be frowned upon by the lady of today.
I would call your attention to this interesting, somewhat tongue-in-cheek article by Lauren Bans which offers a guide to what’s acceptable and what’s not in the not-so-chivalrous 21st century. Here are a few of her takes on some of the old and new rules of chivalry … with my commentary, of course …
Old Rule: Always hold the door.
New Rule: Almost always hold the door.
A lady usually won’t mind if you open a door for her as a matter of common courtesy. After all, men sometimes open and hold doors for each other. Ms Bans recommends, though, that you not race ahead to open the door, or muscle the lady out of the way to get there first … if you’re in the right position, go ahead and do it, otherwise let her go ahead and open it herself (and, perhaps, hold it for you). Don’t use it as an excuse to ogle her backside. And regardless of who opens the door, don’t slam it in the face of the person coming up behind you.
Old Rule: The man always pays.
New Rule: If she asks, she pays.
Many ladies today are creeped out by a man who always wants to pay for everything, possibly because they feel that he’s expecting subsequent horizontal repayment. If you invited the lady out, you should pay. If she extended the invitation, let her pay. Or agree in advance to go Dutch. But if one of you is footing the bill, it’s bad form for the other to order the most expensive item on the menu.
Old Rule: Order for her.
New Rule: Never order for her.
Most of the ladies you’re likely to date can read the menu, and they’re more than capable of ordering for themselves. Let them do it. If the menu is in a foreign language, let whoever speaks the language place the order*.
Old Rule: Put your phone away.
New Rule: Put your phone away.
Unless you’re a doctor, volunteer fireman, or police officer on duty and expected to be available at a moment’s notice, turn the phone off and leave it in the car. The lady deserves your undivided attention.
Old Rule: Stand up when a lady enters the room.
New Rule: Don't get up.
This is one in which I differ from Ms Bans – I think it’s perfectly all right to stand up when a lady approaches and you are sitting down. It shows respect. And I also think it's okay to offer a seat to a lady, particularly if she's older than you are.**
New Rule: Do not punch people to defend her honor.
Aside from any other considerations, nowadays you never know when the person who’s bothering your date might be a gun enthusiast anxious to prove his manhood and celebrate his Second Amendment rights by packing iron in inappropriate locations. And as Ms Bans notes, most women are more than capable of getting rid of unwanted admirers on their own.
Chivalry. It's not meant to demean or embarrass anyone ... it's meant to show respect. Try it ... you may like it. Ladies, weigh in ... what sorts of well-intended but perhaps unwanted chivalrous behavior do you like or not like? Why?
Have a good day. Remember the Golden Rule***. More thoughts tomorrow.
* It will keep you from embarrassing yourself by accidentally ordering something unexpectedly disgusting. If neither of you can read the menu and it does not feature pictures of the entrees, consider patronizing another establishment.
** A few years ago, I was on a Metro train in Washington when a young woman stood up to offer me her seat. It was a very nice gesture, but it made me feel older and more decrepit than usual.
*** Not the DC version - "Whoever has the gold, makes the rules."