Remember the purpose of chivalry: to be a gentleman in a world of bros.
When did chivalry die? When did I miss the meeting about opening doors for women? Be it car doors, doors at the movie theater and restaurants, when was it decided this was taboo? Sure I pay for dinner, or at least I attempted to when I asked my girlfriend out on our first date. She allowed me to pay, I say “allowed” because that’s exactly what it was, she allowed me to be the gentleman I think I should be, and it was a sign of respect from her. Don’t be confused, though, my sweet Southern Belle is the woman who snags the check from the waiter the instant it gets within ten feet of the table or hijacks them by “going to the ladies room” before it even has a chance to make it when she feels it’s her turn to pay.
I didn’t leave things to chance when we first started talking. It was early in our courting, before the first date. We didn’t live in the same town or the same state, but we’re still thirty minutes from each other. Her schedule as a single mom and mine with odd days off ensured we had to talk for three weeks before our schedules finally met up. In those three weeks, we covered a lot of territory and we both were coming off failed marriages (failed only in the fact they didn’t last forever as we thought they would). She has a daughter; I have two dogs and never had children. I was on the edge of forty and she was six years younger than me. But the amazing part of the beginning was that in the time we had to be apart, we didn’t talk about ex’s, but rather the things we had learned and the things that we now knew to be real deal breakers in a relationship.
For her, it was disrespect. For me, it was being used. I asked her about more children and my choice that led to a vasectomy in 2006. We sorted through our years of marriage to discover how easy it was to not get lost in the dating game. It all led to where I described that my manners are something out of the 40’s or 50’s: “I’ll hold doors open for you, I open car doors and close them when you’re safely and completely inside, and in the winter, I start your car.” I felt weird even saying those things because I don’t see it happen too much anymore. My dad did and continues to do it for my mom after forty-something years together, and that’s how I grew up. It was proper, considerate, and gentlemanly. But in the 21st century, it’s gauche.
I have nothing against, and prefer, strong independent women who have their own agendas for fun, love, friends, and personal time. I have the same standards for myself. In today’s society, however, courtesy has been replaced with the thought that there must be an angle for opening a door or being polite. If I reach the door before you, I’m the guy that holds it open, this doesn’t mean I want you to have my kids or looking for a commitment, I’m just being “nice.” I can’t tell you how many times I stand, holding the door open just to have someone say, “I got it” and wait for me to get out of the way so they can grab the door and hold it as they go inside.
To be fair, there are a couple ways to hold a door open. You have the “butt-dial” where you are holding the door open with your ass pressed against the glass and are making an uncomfortable narrow walkway between your groin and the open door space. You have the “Secret Service” method, where you stand out of the way without making eye contact or conversation because you’re surveying the landscape for snipers. Then you have “The Gentleman,” where you hold the door open out of the way of entering traffic while smiling and looking at the people who enter. More often than not, that is how it’s done at Sunday church. “The Gentleman” method allows for another kind person to take over the job if there are long lines of people coming through, thereby relieving you without allowing the door to close on anyone and make you look inconsiderate.
Let’s be honest. Male chivalry has gone through significant changes in the 21st century, and not all of them are bad. But the problem with so much change in such a short period of time is that, along with other now-defunct social norms, men and women become confused on what is appropriate and what can be seen as domineering or sexist. The simple rule now is to do what feels right, and if you can muster it, do it with a confident (not creepy) smile. But don’t, for the love of everything that is holy, don’t … DO NOT … under any circumstances, refuse give up your hold on the door.
You know what I’m talking about, like two people who get to a stop sign looking to make a turn in front of each other; no one wants to go first, you wave, then they wave, then you both try to go, then laugh at each other and continue the waving each other ahead. It’s amazing there aren’t more of us dead at stop signs. Someone has to take the initiative to go. If you’re holding a door and someone doesn’t like it, give up the hold and let them do it. People may have an attachment to holding open their own doors, you never know, so never insist on holding it. But by no means should you stop doing it. I still do it for my girlfriend, and strangers, men, women, five or ninety-five-year-olds, it doesn’t matter, manners and kindness know no age, sex, size, gender, etc.
Don’t let second-guessing get the better part of you being you, and it doesn’t start or end with doors either; help people, offer a hand getting people’s groceries in their car, push a cart to the cart corral in the parking lot, if you need a cart offer to take the one someone’s pushing to the cart-corral. There doesn’t need to be a huge justification for kindness and chivalry, but don’t let it die, redefine, reassess, and rewrite the rules, but don’t forget their purpose, to be a gentleman in a world of bros.
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