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Chivalry Is Dead. Excuse Me While I Dance on Its Grave.

June 19, 2013

When my friend from Baltimore visited last January, he spent the first few days of his visit bolting ahead of me in public places, racing me so that he could hold the door open. Instead of the coquettish thanks such action might have garnered from someone else, I always frowned and asked, “What the hell are you doing?”

It turns out his previous girlfriend had broken up with him in part because she felt he wasn’t chivalrous enough. She had been raised with good, old-fashioned family values (whatever that vague definition encompasses) and wanted to be treated like a lady.

She expected her man to act as if he belonged at King Arthur’s Round Table (general fictiveness of said table notwithstanding) and do things like open doors for her, pull chairs out, give her his jacket when it was cold even if she should have known enough to bring her own damn coat in the middle of Midwestern winter, etc. And since he hadn’t managed to pull that off for her, he was testing this supposedly attractive routine on the only guinea pig he happened to know in Denver.

I frowned some more as I plopped down in a seat I’d pulled out myself and reached for one of the toothpicks on the dinner table so I could work a nagging piece of greenery out of my molars. One can’t enjoy a new meal with remnants of the old one still around. “Well, I’m not her,” was what I finally said, after making enough headway on the vegetation to thoroughly delight the waitress.

It’s not that I mind, as a general principle, when someone who is slightly ahead of me getting into a building continues to hold the door until I reach it. In fact, I’d be a bit offended if they did see me coming and slammed the door in my face. But I’d apply that principle to anyone, male or female, just as I would hold the door myself for anyone, male or female, entering the building a short distance behind me.

Hell, in my job as a ski instructor at an upscale resort, I routinely rush ahead of my (again, both male and female) guests in order to hold doors for them. It’s an unspoken requirement in my job description that I am to kiss ass as much as possible, and my guests, male and female, appreciate getting their money’s worth of brown-nosing.

But it unsettles me when a man holds a door open for me just because he’s a man and I’m a woman. Same with men pulling out my chair, unfolding my napkin, or standing up when I get up to go to the bathroom–heaven help him if he does the last one, because Type I diabetes has enough of an effect on the bladder sometimes that he could be unwittingly signing himself up for an impromptu aerobics class.

And it’s not so much the acts themselves that grate on me, although I can’t help but be annoyed that a guy might think I’m such a delicate flower that having to pick up a napkin would send me into hysterical paroxysms leading to a dainty faint.

It’s what they apparently represent in the eye of the actor. A man who believes women should be cared for and treated “respectfully” (need for quotation marks hopefully obvious as the rant continues) tends to also believe that the relationship between women and men is inherently unequal. That women shouldn’t do certain things, especially those involving the potential for sweat, because that’s not their place. That women, by extension, should be at home eating bon-bons and occasionally snapping at the housekeeper and nanny all day because the working world is no place for an otherwise delicate constitution.

To paraphrase Dave Barry, I realize I am generalizing here. But as is often the case, I don’t actually give a fuck (guess which part wasn’t a direct quote?). And I think there are enough examples on the internet to bear fruit, although I add my usual disclaimer that anecdotes, even collected in large quantities and humorously presented, do not constitute a data set.

But if you go to the Google archive for the sadly defunct Nice Guys of OKC, you’ll find a suspicious number of “gentlemen” who complain about being friend-zoned, plead that they and they alone know how to treat a woman like a lady, and also disproportionately answer “Yes” to questions like, “Do you believe men should be the heads of their households?” and, “Do women have an obligation to shave their legs?”

But what’s a few cuts and scrapes with a razor as well as the loss of your career when you could be with a winner like this?

Am I the only one who thought of Phil Collins' "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven"? "How many times can I say I'm sorry/ Oh yes, I'm sorry!"

Am I the only one who thought of Phil Collins’ “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven”? “How many times can I say I’m sorry/ Oh yes, I’m sorry!”

I’m sorry too, dude. I’m sorry you’ve let your sense of entitlement get so out of control. I’m sorry you don’t realize that graciously allowing a woman to puke in your car after you’ve opened the passenger door for her doesn’t make up for a personality so sour I can smell it over the internet. I’m sorry you don’t realize that this is America, goldurnit, and that a lot of women here have the can-do attitude that comes from having no nobility and, therefore, no actual ladies to emulate.

And I’m sorry (oh, fuck that. I’m actually not sorry, and unlike your sorry excuse for a profile, I’m not going to apologize for that) that your attitude wouldn’t even work across the Pond these days. Remember Margaret Thatcher? Lady Margaret Thatcher? The woman who, raise your eyebrows however high you want at her politics because I sure do, wasn’t called the Iron Lady for nothing?

Yeah. I’m NOT sorry about all the real women who don’t need your manly opposable thumbs to operate a door handle. I’m NOT sorry that I’m capable of making my own money and then spending it however I want. I’m also NOT sorry about how hairy my legs are. Saves me money on sunscreen.

So you go right on ahead and keep standing up for me every time I use the bathroom, Nice Guys (TM) of the world. Maybe getting those leg muscles in action again will mean you can almost keep up with me on the slopes this winter.

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30 Comments
  1. Chivalry or whatever its modern equivalent is definitely has its time and place. Its one thing to be polite and another to go out of your way to be polite. Being “chivalrous” *all* the time is what makes girls lazy and entitled.

    Also – who the eff doesn’t get mad at someone for puking in their car unless you’re taking them to the doctor for like H1N1? More importantly – if someone is throwing up in your car they’re not going home with anyone else unless you move them or they’re abducted.

    • Maybe it’s just me, but I’d still be peeved at my poor swine-flu-stricken friend who didn’t at least make an effort to roll down the window! I also think this guy’s worldview is so generally off-kilter that it affected whatever logical skills he might have had–how the hell would someone that drunk be able to go anywhere else consensually?!

      • Haha yeah okay I’m right there with you. If they didn’t even make an attempt for the window I’d be a little peeved. I’d at least reserve my comments until the flu isn’t punishing them. Its shocking how many guys’ views are off-kilter. This is the vast majority of the reason, I think, I identify with your blog so well. And really, she’s going no where fast in more than just the drunk sense of that statement.

      • Well, I will certainly continue to expose the off-kilter views as much as possible. Not to say that mine are entirely on-kilter all of the time, but I at least try to be upfront about that. And yeah, you can’t help but feel sorry and more than a little creeped out on behalf of that poor woman.

  2. I understand some women feel as you do, personally I completely appreciate that my husband opens doors for me and offers a hand down stairs because I have heels on and sometimes goes to pull the chair out for me if the host/server isn’t doing it. It’s one of the things that I love about him. He is a bit old school and he doesn’t do it because he feels he has to, it’s because he does respect me and knows I can hold my own and work hard but can still be treated like a lady when the work clothes come off.

    I am certainly not lazy or entitled. I have worked very hard since I was 18 (except for 2012 where I took a year off to focus on some health issues that working so hard brought on) and if there’s something I want to spend money on I don’t hesitate because I have earned that paycheck. I go to the gym and every now and then when I find myself in front I hold the door open for him and sometimes I plan a date and pay for it.

    What I find a shame is that when these guys take you out for dinner and are put down, degraded or shunned for their opening a door for you they often stop doing such things thinking it’s wrong when truly it isn’t wrong, it’s just wrong for that specific woman they wrongly bought dinner for.

    • I get the feeling you and I have differing ideas of what “respect” connotes. It’s fine if a guy I don’t know that well holds the door or pulls out my chair once to be polite, as long as he stops doing it when I explain that I don’t appreciate it. My major issue with the usual attitude of modern-day chivalry is that the men in my acquaintance who embrace notions of chivalry would usually continue opening doors and pulling out chairs even after I’d voiced my objections, because what the hell do some weak-brained woman’s opinions matter?

      As with everything else where neither person is a waste of oxygen, however, this seems to be a matter of preference and communication. If you consider chivalrous behaviors romantic, tell the guy that, and hopefully he’ll accommodate. If not, tell him that too, and hopefully he’ll be equally accommodating.

      • I understand your point. My last comment above basically agreed with what you just said. The man who enjoys chivalry should seek out and date a woman who appreciates it. Not continue dating one who doesn’t and if a woman expects chivalry and isn’t getting it from her partner, she should move on and find someone who meets her needs.

      • That’s what I get for reading my comments page before having my first cup of coffee! :p It’s definitely good to find someone with whom you’re compatible, and if there’s a problem they can and are willing to fix, more’s the better. You’ve definitely got to be willing to bring it up, though. Since my poor friend didn’t learn about his apparently ungentlemanly behavior until he was being dumped, he didn’t have enough to do anything about it–which is a shame, because as he demonstrated for me, he’s clearly capable of putting out the extra effort!

  3. manners are always good # 13 years of waitressing in posh restaurants taught me extremely good manners, in 4 european countries and in 5 languages – ms. ddupre315, ntna never mentioned being ‘taken’ out for dinner – it sounded to me as though, as friends, and with him being the guest in her town -they went out to dinner together – do you use the expression ‘ going dutch’ for sharing the bill? sorry, i have no idea about usa life, but it’s very normal to share the bill in the uk, or if the invitation clearly means one person is paying, it’s not loaded. having a napkin shaken out for a woman or having wine offered to taste to the man when the waiter may have no idea who the host or the connoisseur is are all beneath us in the 21st centuryand potentially embarrassing. if a person or a couple of ppl have worked out their own courtship of manners, fine. for the rest of us, eating together is not always a precursor to sex, courtship or flirtation. I urge you to read a page or two of http://www.everydaysexism.com

    • Ddd, you got it right on the money. This guy and I are good friends, and we split the bill right down the middle every time. He was shaken up by his ex-girlfriend’s (ill-timed, since she laid this on him as she was breaking up with him, like he was supposed to read minds or something) accusations, and apparently figured to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach even with someone who was just a friend. And yes, we do use the phrase “going Dutch” here!

      I just discovered Everyday Sexism. The stories depress me no end, but I’m glad they’re out there combatting men who sniff and say that sexism was invented by feminazis trying to oppress men or whatever bullshit they’re coming up with these days.

  4. Chivalry may be dead but their is harm in reviving it. You are entitled to be treated right by this guy. However, he should have given you a space to work on. He could have respected your desire to be independent. You need a man who is sensitive to your needs and desires. (Call me maybe)

  5. oh, no! My dear ntna, it appears you’re being trolled by peeps with exceedingly bad syntax.
    check out http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201306191919-0022842
    massive treading on twitter yesterday, about ‘above the game’, a nice little rape ‘how to’ guide – just know you’re going to love it 🙂 dddx

    • UGH I FOUND THAT YESTERDAY. I wept. I wept because I had no alcohol in the house with which to dull the pain. Then I wept further, because I wanted to write a post deconstructing everything that was wrong with it, but I couldn’t quite articulate what was wrong with it besides EVERYTHING. And my family wonders why I don’t date…

      • do you tweet?can’t find u, but if u do, follow me + i’ll follow u right back, so i can dm u

      • I had a Twitter account something like a year or two ago, but I might have deactivated it! I’ll get back to you on that when I make up a new one. 🙂

      • cool, look forward to then, then 😉
        meanwhile, gr8 photo in this (good) article

      • Haha, my Print Screen skills came in handy! I borrowed that from the Nice Guys of OKC archive. 🙂

      • hey, check this out
        http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/we-were-wrong

        should bloody well think so….

      • I’m glad they admitted it publicly. That takes courage, although I’m upset that the project continued and got funding for its entire length. Nauseating, but at the same time, it’s a guide to the sorts of douchebags as douche-y behavior that serve as a good heads-up to women about what to avoid.

      • dear you – have a gmauled account as well, same monikaaa….would love to send you links…reallly inspiring slam poetry + stuff. ddd x

  6. I enjoy chivalry — not the nonsense of running ahead of me and irksome things like that, but I do enjoy and appreciate this about my husband.

    • I think it is a matter of personal preference. My inspiration for writing this was that the guys in my experience who are really, deeply into behaving like a gentleman and treating women like ladies often have, shall we say, old-fashioned notions about gender roles and a woman’s place in the world.

  7. Don’t worry, I doubt anyone will want to open a door for you with your ungrateful nasty demeanor. You’re really gonna write a whole article bitching about how someone opens a door for you.

    Maybe in another 100 years after stupids like you convince everyone to stop being chivalrous, and doors are getting slammed in your face instead, you will finally appreciate it for what it was.

    Douche bag

    • Meh. I’d try and feed the troll a proper meal, but it’s obvious from your scathingly collegiate use of the word of “stupid” as an insult, not to mention clear confusion as to whether that word is an adjective or a noun, that your reading comprehension isn’t very far above Clifford the Big Red Dog (see also: you apparently missing the entire point of this post). I wish you all the best in life, as I’m not sure how one would get along while being functionally illiterate these days!

  8. elleyac permalink

    This has pretty much summed up my attitude towards chivalry that I couldn’t find words to voice myself! Thank you! Thank you for reiterating, even to me, why my opinion on this matter isn’t silly and petty.

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