Where Are The Gentlemen?

Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth.
~Charles Kingsley

I was shopping recently and overheard a conversation between two twenty-something men talking about their wives/girlfriends (They never referenced them as such so I have no idea which they were). Without being wordy, they proceeded to carry on about one of the men’s girls who had asked him to pick up a few things in the store. The language that followed both shocked and saddened me. They called this woman several names including the female dog moniker, a slang for a woman’s biological body part, and a lewd reference to her sexual prowess which I’m certain wasn’t true. These three names were used in succession to emphasize the man’s apparent disgust with her at the moment and his friend, who was laughing, sealed the deal with a fist bump and essentially said “That’s what I’m talking about!”…Really?

Compounding this stupid talk, these men were in a grocery store surrounded by women and children…For the little boys, they see this type of activity and wonder if this is the norm. For the little girls, they wonder if this is the norm for how they will be treated as they get older. The more they are exposed to this type of idiocy both sexes will continue to feel as though this is what’s expected in the future. Women will drift from one relationship to the other because men like this never really commit to a woman. They just use them for a season and discard them. And men who see this behavior as normal grow up to be self-centered, arrogant jerks. There’s no other way to put it.

When I was a young teen (and for several years later until I married) my maternal grandmother asked to spend time with me. She never learned to drive so we spent a lot of time on the buses in the St. Louis area riding from her modest home to diners, malls, and movie theaters on “dates”. At first, I was resistant to go on these little excursions afraid that I would be seen by my friends. But since my grandmother liked South St. Louis county so much, I figured I was safe and went along to make her happy. Looking back now, they were some of the best times I had with her and now that she’s gone (she died in 2006) I look on them fondly.  The reason they stood out for me is that she taught and confirmed for me some things I had seen in my own father. She gave me “lessons” on how to treat a lady. A “Gentlemen’s Code” if you will. By the time I was my son’s age (17 as of this writing), I had her lessons well learned and when we went on our “dates”, I was expected to treat her a certain way and when I forgot my manners, a loving “thump” on the back of my head reinforced her teaching!

The “code” that she taught me became so embedded in my actions that I naturally acted the same way when I began dating girls in high school. My wife tells me now that at first, she thought it was odd how quickly I moved to open a door for her, or why I stood up when she returned to a restaurant table from the restroom and made sure she was seated before taking my seat. She had never been treated this way by the guys she had dated prior to me. When we finally started getting serious as a couple, she asked me about my actions and I shared with her the story of my grandma and our “dates”. She kissed me on the cheek one memorable night at the St. Clair Square mall (Fairview Heights, Illinois) and told me I had better keep going on those dates and respect my grandma and how she wanted me to pass those lessons along to our future children (Future children???? Guess I knew then that she DID like me finally!)

Why are these small actions not a part of our culture anymore? I know some point to the women’s rights movement and certainly the actions of some hyper feminists (a very SMALL group) have sought to take away the “manly” side of manhood. I’ve never thought of my wife as less than equal with me but I still feel that as a man, there should be certain expectations of how I should treat a lady and how ladies should have a certain level of expectation of how their men should treat them! My son has been given all of my grandma’s lessons and recently as I watched him walk with a young lady back to his car, I noted how he walked on the traffic side of the sidewalk instinctively while he gave her and the child she was holding the lion’s share of the rest of the walk on the non-traffic side (VERY important in my grandma’s book!) I’ve also taught these things to my girls and given them some higher expectations also…

But that’s another post!

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Where Are The Gentlemen?

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