Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be…Unchivalrous

(Don’t act like you didn’t just hear that in Willie Nelson’s nasally voice.)

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…

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!

It’s over.

Ah yes, the early days of a relationship. The ecstasy. The angst.

The training.

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.

Or not.

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.

And then call me so I can jab pins in a voodoo doll. Bitches.

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?

 

Comments

  1. Misty, LOVED your post! I’m fortunate to have a three-year-old son whom I think might carry a natural chivalry gene. He loves helping Grandma carry things from her car, he automatically says “thank-you” even though we’ve never rammed it into his head, and he refuses to take a piece of candy unless his sister can have one too! So, chivalry is not dead, but hopefully on its way back into society with our newest generation :)

    • OMGosh, Heather, what a little honey!! I could just hug him! He’s obviously a caring individual by nature, but you’re clearly also doing something right! It’s hearing things like this that renew my hope for the future… :)

  2. Jerrie Alexander says:

    Misty, You are NOT overreacting. I’m proud of you for teaching your son to be a gentleman. I married one.

  3. marsharwest says:

    Misty, you go girl! I’m lucky to be married to one of the good guys, too. He’s supported me in everything, letting me spread my wings, but never fails to open the car door for me or like your father, Misty, dropping me off close to the door in inclement weather. I think because of that both our daughters married men very like their father in that respect. (One raised by a single mother with support from the men in her family and one from a broken home.) We only have the one grandson, and he’s 3 1/2. Already his dad is teaching him to stick out his hand, say, “I’m Nelson, nice to meet you.” It just melts the heart. My son-in-law attended a private boarding school for most of high school. While I’m a big public school person–even serving on our local urban school district board–I’m pretty certain his wonderful, gracious way of entering and leaving is something he got from there. Plus from his own father a certain charming “hail-fellow-well-met” way with folks. So, I’m with you, Misty, being a feminist doesn’t mean you don’t want you men folk to be gentlemen. Great post.

    • Love that – all of that – Marsha!! Can I come share the holidays with your family? :D Honestly, I think respectful manners (by both men and women) just leaves the world a brighter, happier place. I love your “hail-fellow-well-met” comment. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Those people always have charisma that charms everyone they come into contact with! :)

  4. Great article! Our three sons were taught to always open a door for a lady and they turned out to be very considerate young men (even though two of them are Marines and can kill you with their bare hands). One day our youngest son brought home his new girlfriend for us to meet. I asked the young woman if my son had been opening the doors for her as he had been taught — she said no. Well, the next day my son said, “Thanks a lot dad! After we left the house we went to the mall. When we were leaving I got in the car and then I saw Linda standing by her door — she made me get out of the car and go open the door for her!” Fathers need to teach their sons to be chivalrous, but mothers need to teach their daughters to demand such treatment as well. And yes, even though my wife and I have been married for 33 years I still open the door for her (even when it is raining) and we still hold hands everywhere we go.

    • Awww! That is just so awesome! I *totally* love that you busted your son in front of his girl. LOL. He probably won’t make those “errors in judgment” too often anymore. :)

      And damn good point about the other side of the equation…moms teaching our daughters to expect said treatment! Because that is just as much of a problem, isn’t it? Girls get in bad situations because they too often “settle” for disrespectful treatment. I’m very happy to say that while my husband may not be a paragon of chivalry, he *does* always hold my hand, hug me in public (sometimes for a very long time, to my embarrassment), tell me he loves me, AND makes certain our daughter knows – in no uncertain terms – that she is strong, capable, intelligent, and powerful.

      Your wife and children are lucky to have such a kind and respectful husband and father. Thanks for adding to the dialogue! :)

  5. My sweetie is a traditionalist. He learned from reading my dating blog what I expected as far as behavior. He always opens my car door. One time, he forgot and wondered why I was sitting in the car. There is a reason we wear heels and fix our hair, and it isn’t to hike across a windy parking lot. LOL

    He also doesn’t allow me to see the bill when we go out to eat. He’s probably afraid I will break it down and tell him the actual price of everything. ( Yes, I do that.)

    Thank you for working with your son. :) Your future daughter-in-law will thank you.

    • LOL! I love your no-nonsense attitude about it, Morgan!

      “There is a reason we wear heels and fix our hair, and it isn’t to hike across a windy parking lot.” –I’m going to commit this to memory and whip it out the next time I need it! LOL

  6. Josie Matthews says:

    Misty, Great great post! I have two sons (19 and 16) and both currently have girlfriends. I’ve spent hours and hours working with my guys to teach them not only chivalry but general respect and social skills toward all people…and sometimes it just doesnt work! My oldest is extremely shy…to get him to look people in the eye and say hello was a major project…Im happy to say that today…he is one of the nicest kids in town. But I had to TEACH him. So many kids I work with at my job are not getting this teaching at home…girls and boys. Its become a society of ‘entitlement’ Im afraid. Kids think its all about them which leads to doing few nice things for others, and I hate to say…these kids are the majority. Im lucky to get to work with children every day and pick up in the training where the parents fall short. Kids WANT to learn…they are usually very receptive to guidance. ANd way to go ‘All Seasons Cyclist’!!! Teaching our daughters is JUST as importanct as teaching our boys…Its always a two way street!!
    Oh…and on the hubby front…My man was MUCH more chivalrous 21 years ago when we first met. He’s getting old and lazy and a little too complacent with our relationship…I guess Ill need to shake him up a bit! Morgan!!! Where’s that pole??? Mary R!!! Handcuffs??? Anna!!!! Makeover????

    Ok Mist…you’re right…I DO enjoy a hefty wordcount….:)

    • Ha! He may have slacked a little on the gentlemanly behaviors, but he’s as sexually creative as ever! LOL

      I have always admired your dedication to the kids. They are sooo lucky to have you. I would love to be a fly on the wall watching you interact with them. :)

    • Josie my sweet thing my wife told me that I was getting old and lazy and very complacent in our relationship and I took great exception to it. First of all we have been married for 21 wonderful years with the usual ups and downs. We have 2 teenage boys who are very similar to yours. I bring her coffee in bed every morning from day 1, I help with laundry both doing and folding, I clean up kitchen after dinner every night with both boys because that’s how I was taught. I even grocery shop every now and then because I like to alleviate some of the everyday pressures on “MY QUEEN”. I took offense when she told me that I was getting lazy and complacent. Now I’m not the whisper me sweet nothing kinda guy but I do think there is plenty of fuel in this almost 50 year old tank to keep the flame lit. By the way, I wonder if your kids inherited your hubby’s DNA. Just sayinnnn

      • …………..BOOOOOM!……………..

        I do believe you’ve been dressed down, MIZ MATTHEWS! He might be gettin’ out the whips tonight!

        Thank you for gracing us with your fine ass, um, presence here today, “Markus D”! We do hope you join us again soon to keep your lil’ woman honest!!! :D

      • Josie Matthews says:

        Oh ‘Markus D’ My sweet thang….you are SOOO getting spanked when you get home!
        Yes…I do get coffee in bed, groceries and dish services…but lets admit it sweetie…a girl does like a little whisper sweet nothings in her ear once in a while! (and that doesnt mean…honey, pass the remote.) Does this outburst have anything to do with my new screen saver? (Misty…its the hot older guy you posted last week on facebook!!!) Now sweetie…he is nothing but the hero in my next book. You are the hottest man on earth and the only guy for me…Now if you really wanna show these guys how chivalrous you are you’ll stop by the wine store and pick me up a bottle cause Im all out! And don’t forget to mention…you were taught all these chivalrous activities by ME! Your mom spoiled you rotten!!! Now get that fuel tank all hummed up. I’ll be home in 2!
        Love, J

  7. I’ve never made my man open a car door for me. Seems a little too much. But he does open building doors for me, unless they push in, then I hold it for him. I started teaching my son table manners when he was old enough to hold a knife and fork. There were also cooking and cleaning lessons. He can’t stand a messy kitchen! I did my work well. My goal was not so much to make him a prize, but to make him independent. Sort of reverse equality.

    • Hey Joan, Thanks for stopping by! That’s awesome that your son not only received, but clearly absorbed those lessons. That’s my plan with my little guy as well. In my way of thinking, chivalry is not about “making” anyone do anything – it’s more like a conscious effort on the part of the man to show a woman he cares and/or respects her. I guess some women may have the diva attitudes and expect to be “served,” but that’s honestly not how I view it. I try to demonstrate to my husband in many verbal and nonverbal ways how much I care for and respect him. It’s definitely a two way street. I appreciate your thoughts. :)

  8. Good for you, Misty! Chivalry is important and I’m glad you’re training your son early. Sometimes husbands need to be trained, too. *cough, mine did, cough*

  9. bellwriter says:

    Oh, Misty, what a great post. I feel so strongly about this– might be the reason we write romance– creating heros the way we want them to be. My son is 25 and the most chivalrous man on the planet next to my husband. My husband, when I tell him I’m going to the store, asks, do you want me to drive you? In bad weather he drops me at the door even though I say, Honey, I can walk. He never uses bad language around me and speaks to me as he would a lady. After almost 30 years of marriage, I find that the ultimate compliment.

    But you see, I’ve always conducted myself as a lady around my husband and my son. That behavior is learned. If a woman/girl gets down in the gutter, changes are that’s how boys/men will see her.

    It may seem old-fashioned but behavior is everything. Crudeness doesn’t just fall off the apple tree, it’s learned. I wrote a post something along this line…Are you Passionate, or Are You a Bully. There’s a lot of followers in this world. One chilvarous leader sets an amazing example.

    Great post!

    • You are so blessed, and the reverse is also true for your men! What an articulate, insightful response from a lady with class! You’re totally right about a woman’s behavior influencing how *anyone* will see her. Great addition to the dialogue!

  10. Misty, you are a great Mom. Your son is very lucky!

  11. Both of my sons went to cotillion where they learned to squire a girl on their arm, pull out her chair, wait for her to be seated, held her gloves while she had a snack, held our their hand to ask her do dance, and many other lessons in chivalry. My boys routinely hold doors for people & the people are always thankful and surprised. Surprised! And it makes me sad that more young men aren’t learning to be polite & respectful. It’s a dying art.

  12. Love this! Preach it girl! :)

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