In search of the perfect Gentleman…

Picture the scene…I’ve just stepped off the plane after a long haul flight and I’m absolutely shattered. I’ve got a suitcase that weighs 25kg and 2 large hand luggage bags to transport across London on my own. Now you might be thinking – “Well, you should have packed lighter,” but it simply wasn’t an option.
Thanksgiving Sales + New York + Me = Dangerous.
At times like this, I really wish I was built more like a Russian female bodybuilder. Pass me a protein shake and call me Olga…

To say that my journey was a struggle, is a massive understatement. I loaded myself up like a Cart Horse whilst at the same time delicately attempting to balance a box of glass baubles so they didn’t smash. Before you ask, they seemed like a great festive purchase at the time.
So, it took me over two hours to travel across London, and it was ‘situation:panic stations’ when I discovered that there were no lifts at Paddington. Panting and whimpering like an injured dog, I dragged my bags up the stairs whilst practising the art of bauble-balancing. I was hoping for some assistance, but to my absolute horror, not one man stopped to help me. Instead, every single guy that crossed my path either gleefully ran past me or STARED from a distance. Can you believe that every man watched me struggle rather than offering to help? Whatever happened to the days where a man would see a damsel in distress and rush to her rescue? The protection of a woman used to be something that was instinctive for a man. Sadly, not anymore.

So here we arrive at the age-old debate…is chivalry dead?

What is chivalry?
Chivalry is a term that originates from medieval times, when it was the role of the gallant knight to court his fair maiden and keep her out of danger. In the age of knighthood, it was expected that a man should be brave, strong, respectful and courteous towards women. Customs changed over time, however at the turn of the 20th Century, men were still expected to act chivalrously towards women.

Chivalrous duties were thought to include:
– Changing positions on a path so that the man always walks by the roadside, in order to keep a woman out of danger.
– Opening doors before a woman and believing in the notion of ‘ladies first.’
– Assisting a woman with her coat.
– Kissing a woman’s hand when greeting her.
– Always treating a woman to dinner and never letting her pay.
– Pulling a woman’s chair out and tucking it in when she sits down to dinner.
– Offering a woman your arm to hold on to when walking together.
– Standing up when a woman enters the room/leaves the table.
– Offering a woman your coat when she is cold.
– Offering a woman your seat when she is standing.
– Placing your coat over a puddle in front of the woman you are walking with.
– Watching your language in front of women.
– Always offering to carry heavy items.
– Surprising a woman with gifts and love notes.
– Attempting to woo a woman to win her heart.

Nowadays, the true gentleman seems to be an endangered species. Girls, have you ever been on a crowded train where a guy has pushed past you to get to a spare seat? It seems that some men would rather knock a woman over to get to a seat rather than offering it to her. How about when a guy ‘in a rush’ lets the door close in your face rather than holding it open for you? Or perhaps you’ve had a similar experience to me where a guy has failed to help you with heavy luggage?

Sadly, a lot of men feel that it is completely unnecessary to respect women these days. Rather than courting a girl, many guys just treat women as sex objects, and think that a text message and the offer of a vodka and coke is a suitable way to woo. What happened to romance? The act of sending flowers is rarely a spontaneous romantic gesture anymore. Aside from birthdays and Valentine’s Day, a man will often only decide to send flowers as a means of ‘getting out of the dog house.’ There was once a time when a man would do anything he could to please a woman. So the question is, why have things changed and why won’t most men make the effort anymore?

A Generation problem?
The first reason I can think of is simply to do with this generation. Perhaps chivalry is something that is no longer being taught to us by older generations as men assume they don’t need to make as much effort anymore. There are some exceptions though, and if you’re the type of guy who learnt from an early age that women should be treated with the utmost respect, then I applaud you. To me, this shows that you’ve got parents who gave you a very good upbringing. Girls, one thing that I’ve learnt from past relationships is this- you can tell everything about a man by how he treats his Mother. Often, the respect, love and support he shows for her will be identical to how he treats you.

Has feminism killed chivalry?
A lot of men admit that chivalry is dead, yet they blame women for being the one’s who killed it. I understand and sympathise with men feeling like they can’t win because of some women out there who are visibly offended by the offer of a man’s help and see chivalrous behaviour as an insult. Who knew that offering to carry someone’s bag could be such a loaded issue? Certain women have felt the need to assert their independence to such a degree that it puts a big question mark over the role of the modern man.

I do respect that times have changed and we no longer want to be treated as the weaker sex. However, I don’t believe that a guy holding a door open for me makes me weaker, in fact, it is quite the opposite. I feel respected when a guy opens the door for me, and I can’t understand girls who would be offended by this. Radical feminists may believe in the notion that women can take care of themselves, but that’s simply not desirable. When freezing cold, am I supposed to refuse a coat from a man to show I am equal? Definitely not. Why should we discourage a man showing kindness and respect to us?

This isn’t me being anti-feminist, I’m just saying that myself and many other women DO appreciate it when men treat us courteously. Of course I support ideas of feminism and the notions that every one is equal, however, it seems that with the progression of women’s right, the gentleman has become more of an endangered species.

On the other side of the coin though, a guy shouldn’t use the excuse of equal rights to try a little less. Some men fall back on the notion that women want to be treated as equals, so they are ‘getting what they asked for’ by a man not making the effort/putting them on a pedestal.

So where’s the balance?
Ok, I admit it’s unrealistic to expect a guy to chuck his best Armani jacket over the puddle in front of me. However, I think it’s good to still have belief in the old fashioned ways of romance and to expect a man to be a gentleman. If a guy is interested in you, you should get special treatment from him.

I think a man is a gentleman if he…

1) Offers to help me if I’m carrying something heavy.
2) Offers me his coat if I’m cold.
3) Opens the door for me.
4) Offers to pay on a date.
5) Always checks I get home safe.
6) Surprises me with romantic gestures.

What do women want?
To sum it up – every woman wants to be treated like a princess and wants to feel special to a man. I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t love the idea of chivalry and I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the top qualities a man should have. Of course, women and men should have equal opportunities in life, however I have no qualms about holding my hands up and saying that in terms of physical strength, I’m weaker than a lot of men, so would appreciate the help sometimes. Ask any woman and she would say that she loves the idea of a big strong man helping her with something – it makes us feel feminine, and most of us really like the idea of feeling feminine. Women still love the feeling of being protected by a man and the security he can give her. I don’t think chivalry is dead, I just think it’s hard to find, which in a way, is a nice surprise for us girls when we do meet a true gentleman.

So, as a closing statement, I’d like to let men out there know that I’m a woman who loves men and has great admiration for the fact that they are strong, masculine and can protect and help women. Please do not hesitate to do so more often, even if there is some rude woman out there who ignorantly declines your offer. Not everyone knows how to be a true man – so if you do, show it.

© 2010 Alicia Drewnicki