I have always been of the mind that in a democracy manners are the only effective weapons against the bowie-knife.
James Russell Lowell
We can find countless articles online praising and criticizing the most evident acts of Chivalry a Gentleman can do towards a lady; holding doors open, opening car doors, and pulling chairs. Those that comment against them, usually do so out of either a lack of manners or simply not understanding why these acts are done. I can’t really blame their ignorance on the topic, because they are not really interested in it. What really surprises me is the lack of understanding by those who profess being Gentlemen. That is why so many of those “Is Chivalry dead” debates end up with the Gentleman thrashed by their counterpart.
If you don’t understand what you are doing and more importantly WHY you are doing it, your actions become simply a pantomime, and imitation, that ends up looking awkward. This is especially true if we don’t have a sense of empathy towards the person in the receiving end of the action. Keep in mind that manners are nothing more than a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use. With that in mind, let’s break down the practicality of some of the more typical actions that can be expected from a Gentleman.
Opening a door for a Lady
Let me start by clarifying, this has nothing to do with a Gentleman thinking women can’t open their own doors. It came from two specific traditions, the overelaborate clothing women used to wear and the role of the Gentleman as a Bodyguard. First off, a woman’s skirt was so wide, they couldn’t even reach the door handle. That is no longer the case, so we don’t need to take this into account any longer. The second is the role of the Bodyguard, of creating a safe environment for women. This is something that still needs to be maintained and even promoted.
A gentleman will open a door first, making sure that the room is safe for her to enter. As she enters, he is able to scan the surroundings to make sure that the area is safe. As he enters after her, the lady is kept from having her back to the door. You might think this seems somewhat paranoid and overly cautious. Just take a few minutes viewing some of the stories of what the ladies have to deal with in a daily basis, and then tell me I am being overly cautious.
Walking a Lady to her door.
Again, as with opening doors, this is all about providing a safe environment for the Lady. Just refer to “Opening a door for a Lady” for a better explanation.
Again, a lady can sit down without assistance. This tradition again came from the elaborate dresses of old. But can we really get rid of it? This actually depends on how the Lady is dressed. If she is wearing anything other than a skirt, yes. But if she is wearing a skirt, the lady will probably try to fold it under her legs so it sets properly as she sits down. Now, how is she going to be able to do this AND pull the chair at once? Gentlemen, doesn’t take much to be decent.
I am tired of clearing this up. Who makes the invite, pays. It’s that simple. It’s not about showing off, or thinking she needs your money, or whatever other nonsense people will say about the topic. You invited them, means you are picking up the check.
What is so complicated?
Helping a lady into and out of a Car
Take a minute and look at your car. Imagine trying to get into it or out of it with a short skirt and heels. Now imagine doing it gracefully. If you drive a low profile sports car or a high truck or SUV, the difficulty level this is even higher. Gentlemen, this is just simple act of consideration towards the Lady.
This is also the reason why you should help a lady when she is walking up and down stairs. Try doing it with 3”+ heels.
Offering a Lady your Jacket
Again, let’s look at women’s fashion when compared to men’s clothing. We typically dress in layers; from the undershirt (optional), the shirt, a vest (optional), and a Jacket. A lady will probably be wearing a lot less. If the weather is somewhat cold, please don’t offer her your jacket. Simply take it off and place it over her shoulders. If you offer, she might probably get self-conscious and refuse, even if she is freezing.
Offering a Lady your seat.
This one, I really can’t believe I have to explain, but here goes. First off, have you taken a look at women’s footwear? It’s a simple act. It’s not like you don’t need the exercise.
I know that most of the comments are based on how the lady is dressed, and you can simply say it’s her problem, that she chose to dress that way. You might think that it was her choice to wear heals, or a strapless dress, or short skirt. Yes, it was her decision. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considerate.
Guys, none of this is obligatory. Nobody is forcing you. If anything, this has become so rare, it’s no longer even expected from you. Just don’t complain that some of us are not as selfish and self-centered.