When I was a young girl, I got scolded at in the middle of a public sidewalk by my older brother because I kept walking off course and somehow kept making my way to the road side of the street. “Get on the right side of me!” He growled through gritted teeth. People around us heard and I quickly shuffled my embarrassment into position. I didn’t understand the reason. But I was most focused on me turning off my red embarrassment so I waited until we made it home to ask him why the rule. My brother explained that it is proper etiquette for a man to walk on the side of traffic when he’s with a woman or a child or a more vulnerable person in case something were to happen, the stronger bodied male would have the opportunity to protect them. I immediately pictured a really bad accident and my brother using his 6’2 frame to help shield my survival. So the upset I felt earlier quickly turned into affection.
When I was in high school, I was nervously walking through the halls with a pretty cute boy. I was so consumed in my own thoughts and worries of being near someone that I liked and liked me back. Things like how to not say dumb things or make a goofy face that would turn him off and the difficult task of walking straight. After we walked through the third set of double doors he said to me, “You’re not used to being around guys, are you?” If the nervous sweat I was trying to fight off had sold me out, then that was proof enough. “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Because I’ve noticed that every time we walk through any of the doors in the halls, you never wait for me to open the door for you.” He replied. I was stumped. This was definitely something I wasn’t expecting to give my inexperience away. “You’re supposed to wait, you know. Let me, the guy, get the door for you.” he said with a soft glare. At that moment, I felt somewhere in between stupid and overwhelmed. Stupid because I was caught in what he assumed was a female etiquette I should’ve been well aware of. Overwhelmed, because, other than my father and a few acts from my older brothers, I had never had anyone show me this type of respect before. This included the guy I was actually dating at the time. After I readjusted my confused face, it took all I had within to sincerely smile and thank him for the lesson and the gesture. We kept walking and talking and when I made the mistake once more, he just laughed with me as I drove my body back for a do-over. I’m sure he never realized that that simple gesture made a difference in the way I would forever seek gentleman like qualities.
Throughout the years, I’ve paid attention to the men I come across to see if they ever showcase these simple types of etiquette. It’s actually the very first things I notice when I see a couple walking down the street; whether the guy is walking with her on the side of traffic. It is an especially important trait I seek in any of the guys my friends are dating. I can’t help but dismiss them when they don’t showcase any type of chivalry to my well deserving girlfriends. So, if you know for a fact that I never gave the OK in any relationship to you with any of my friends, now you know why. Hollywood doesn’t help either. Every time I see this happen on screen, I can’t help but roll my eyes. I know that the positioning is for lighting purposes and the magic to impart the picture perfect story, but it’s still a violation to the rule and I am not having it.
There are so many components that compose complete and proper gentlemen etiquette that I am light years away from learning about in its entirety. I think it would actually take a Time Machine to take me back to the Edwardian years to be able to get a full scope. But there are some very easy one’s every man should know. Things like holding the door for a lady, walking on the side of traffic, offering his coat if it’s chilly outside, paying for dinner on the first date and walking her to her door or car, especially at a late hour of the day, just to name a basic few.
In an effort to figure out whether the notion that chivalry might be dead, I decided to try my own little experiment. I work in a nice office building and I come across different men of various ages and nationalities and different business interests. I get to see them as we make our ways to our respective offices throughout the day and on our rides up and down the building elevators. All I was seeking was for men to just prove the second mentioned gentlemen like quality of simply holding a door.
I am not a very inviting type of personality. I envy some of my friends for the effortless way that they somehow easily attract just about anyone for pleasantries. I decided to suck it up and go out of my way to come off a little sunnier and make myself available to receive these gestures from men. Knowing that a more presentable woman is better respected, I even put in extra effort that week and took the time to dress up a little more for work and just look a little more lady-like.
Needless to say, I was disappointed day in and day out. Very few men actually held the door for me and half of the ones that did seemed to be bothered by the notion of having to do so. As I deliberately slowed to give them the opportunity to open or hold the door for me, I felt from some of them the same glares that they would give the little old lady in the Station Wagon holding up traffic during rush hour on the 405 Fwy. In gratitude, to the few that complied, I would seek their eyes to give them a thankful smile, but they all quickly went back to glaring at the floor or shuffling through their cell phones. I don’t know if they were being put off by something I reflected, but I dabbed deodorant and freshened myself up throughout the day just in case, and it was still all the same. Sigh. Maybe I was expecting too much.
It might be feminism or living in 21st Century the reason chivalry has taken a big hit. I understand it is all too confusing to both men and women. As we ladies have worked hard to gain our respect and appreciation for our contributions to society, I think that in that process we have also put out a strong message that we can do absolutely everything on our own. I mean, it’s true that we can open our own doors, but I still think any woman, regardless of their stance as a strong feminist or an independent woman can appreciate some form of chivalry. Please take note, gentlemen. And I’m not knocking the guys out there for not knowing the basics, either. Somewhere down the line, our forefathers, for whatever reason, found these lessons unnecessary and stopped teaching these things to their boys and as such, the art form seems to be going by the waste side of the slammed door in front of the lady’s face.
Whether it’s holding the elevator door for the lady or the guy footing the bill on the first date, you Guys have no idea how much of a destressing relief it is to feel appreciated through those small gestures. Men, we love it when YOU initiate the conversation and make genuine eye contact. It makes us feel that whatever it is we have to say truly matters. Even if it’s just us discussing the simple perils of a busy work day. We appreciate you listening. I still find it adorable to watch old movies and find the lead actor kiss the hand of the beautiful lady on the screen and then daydream of it happening to me someday. I know this is an antiquated act, and the closest I’ll probably ever get to something like this was when this sweet man once greeted me and held my extended hand in his palms for an extra second with such delicacy while really looking into my eyes to telling me that he was truly honored to meet me. I still get goosebumps at the memory.
So Gentlemen, don’t let these sweet gestures go the way the PokemonGo Game has so soon been booted out and forgotten. Next time you catch me in the elevator or happen to take a walk with me, make note of the above and you’ll know that you are feeding my glimmer of hope that the heart of chivalry is still beating.