Sorry about the long, syncopated title, but this is a very serious topic, people! We need to start a world-wide movement because, dammitall, chivalry is dying, one untrained little boy at a time. But I am determined to change this tide of cluelessness—starting with my own seven-year old. And I’m seeing results.
Case in point, last Sunday. A posse of little old white-hairs were just in front of us, exiting the church when my son ran ahead, pushed on that heavy church door with all his sweet little muscles and held it open for them with a beatific smile. He received pats on the head, beaming smiles, and verbal compliments for his efforts. Of course I also reinforced his behavior with a specific script I’ve been consistently using: “Good job, buddy. I appreciate your efforts. You sure know how to be a gentleman!”
Now, let me be clear. I am all for women’s lib. I grew up in a house of equality. My father worked to put my mother through nursing school before it was his turn. And it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how truly feminist our household really was. My father has pretty much always been the cook for my busy PhD, career-focused mother. But…
It wasn’t until I started getting really serious with my last boyfriend (who’s now my DH!), that I also realized just how traditional our household was in many ways. Like never having to worry about anything to do with my car. Always being dropped off at the door. Buying things that came in boxes with a thousand pieces and within a few hours – a day at most – voila! It was magically assembled. Any heavy lifting? Hey, dad…
To this day, my dad is my quiet, supportive, MacGyverish HERO. He’s the guy who drove five hours to surprise me and spend two hours with me on my birthday and then turned around and drove five hours home. I have endless examples of these demonstrations of his love.
My point is, when you go from that to…not that, well, things can get interesting. And not always in a good way.
Let me take you back to 1999. My boyfriend (DH) and I had just decided to start going to church together. Oh, the excitement! I mean, this meant commitment, right? He must really love me!
It was one of those shitty, cloudy, 40-mile-an-hour, gusty Spring days, but hey, we were doing something really grownup together – CHURCH, what a milestone! – so I didn’t even care about the weather. I remember dressing up and spending extra time on my hair. We held hands in the car on the way, exchanging gag-worthy, giddy looks the whole five miles.
When he pulled into the church parking lot and passed by the front doors, I craned my neck to look at all the people entering. But he kept driving. And driving. And driving, until we were in the second to the last row of the parking lot. He put the car in park, turned off the ignition, swiveled to face me with a sweet smile and a twinkle in his eye, and all I could think was…
He expects me to walk across the freaking parking lot in this wind?
He doesn’t love me.
Clearly, he missed the vibes of my inner meltdown because as I sat incredulously waiting in the car, he got out and waited patiently by the tail lights. As the wind tore through his hair and billowed out his sport coat, all I could think was…
He can’t even open my damn door!
Ah yes, the early days of a relationship. The ecstasy. The angst.
After that debacle—which I mutely soldiered through, I tell you!—that boy sure made up for it in other ways. Which is great fodder for another post. Maybe. Someday.
Anyway, from that day on, I began to notice that his lack of gentlemanly behavior was similarly missing in his own father—who is a wonderful man I totally love. So how could I really blame him?
Over the years I’ve tried to stealth coach him without making it seem too obvious because really, who wants someone to open a door for you because you say, “I want you to open doors for me because it makes me feel loved and cared for and that’s what I grew up with”?
But let me tell you, as soon as our son was old enough to independently open doors, the “Chivalry Training” commenced. My big guy has gotten better, though his idea of being a gentleman still often translates to grabbing my hand and pulling me along as he plows through the crowd to make sure I have enough room.
I am learning to appreciate his style. And as I very deliberately coach our son, I think he’s assimilating some new lessons as well.
Ultimately, I am bound and damn determined to raise a sensitive, strong and domestically capable gentleman who will be a PRIZE for any woman. And for those women who may scorn his attempts at chivalry? I’ll tell him to smile and wish them a nice day.
Feminism and Chivalry are NOT mutually exclusive, y’all. Spread the word! Let’s help our boys reclaim this beautiful trait.
Now it’s your turn…am I overreacting? What are your thoughts on Chivalry? Do you see its demise all around you or is it alive and well where you come from?