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A cheer for chivalry

Published March 03. 2012 09:01AM

I love men. Men of a certain age, that is.

Forgive me for stereotyping. I know no stereotype holds true for everyone.

But I believe guys who grew up in the 40s and 50s have maintained manners that are charming.

When I went to buy pool chemicals, a gentleman rushed ahead of me and said, "Let me get the door for you." When I got home, lugging the jug of chemicals, my new friend, Corry said, "Let me carry that for you."

Ahhh. Chivalry. I love it. Always have, always will.

Coincidentally, Sunday's newspaper had an article with the headline "Chivalry is dead Who's to blame?" The first paragraph is a good summary:

"We live in a day and age in which chivalry has become an antiquated term, no longer relevant in our vocabulary of text messages and tweets. Our kids don't know what it means, and, quite frankly, most of us have forgotten what it means as well," the writer stated.

The article went on to list seven chivalrous standards that are becoming extinct among men:

1. Holding a door open for a woman.

2. Walking on the street-side of a sidewalk and letting the woman walk on the inside.

3. Asking a woman on a date, arranging all the details, and offering to pay.

4. Bringing a woman flowers.

5. Offering a woman your jacket when she's cold.

6. Standing up when a woman leaves the table.

7. Walking a woman to her door at the end of a night out.

I especially like the first and last standard of chivalry.

But according to the article, women today are skeptical of any man who behaves like that. In fact, some women hate it.

Chivalry died, experts say, because of two reasons: First and foremost, men aren't often taught to behave like that anymore. Secondly, women are so eager for equal status in society that they don't want a man to do anything for them.

Many women question why a man should open a door for them when they can do it themselves. Many women, especially younger women, don't want what they call "preferential treatment."

I was talking with two young women about dating and they were pooh-poohing the dating practices of the dinosaur age in which I was raised.

"Your generation thought a man should pay for everything on a date. My generation believes a woman should always pay her own way," said one of the young ladies.

She also said she feels "insulted" when a man "treats her like an invalid" by rushing to open a door for her.

Somehow, I don't wonder why she doesn't have many dates.

She may think my generation is antiquated in attitude but I think her generation is misguided.

When it comes to chivalry, both practicing it and appreciating it, there's a true generation gap.

Often, I can see this in everyday life.

When my husband is not around and I struggle to put my kayak on the roof of my car by myself, the thirty-something young man who lives nearby will watch me struggle. But he never offers to help.

On the other hand, one 78-year-old neighbor and my next-door fifty-something neighbor never fail to lend a hand.

In fact, the last time I tried to lift a kayak in my driveway, a perfect stranger who was walking by with his wife rushed to help me. I thanked him and told him how much I love his chivalrous generation. It was a small social interaction that made both of us happy.

I believe my husband is a shining example of chivalry at its best. He doesn't save his wonderful manners for strangers.

Every single time we get in the car, he walks around to open my door before he gets in. When it's raining, I tell him to run to the car and not worry about getting me in there first. He won't hear of that. Wind, rain or lightening storm, David minds his manners. It's the way he was raised.

So, let's raise a cheer for all those gentlemen of any age who believe that chivalry is not dead at least not as far as they are concerned.

And if you're one of those women who feel insulted if anyone thinks she needs a man to help her, don't bother sending letters of protest.

I agree with the conclusion of that newspaper writer who claims chivalry is dead.

"We have to get back to reminding our sons of the mannerisms of a true gentleman," she wrote, "and to reminding our daughters to accept the generosity of it. A man should be polite and respectful to a woman, and she should be able to accept that with appreciation and grace."

The key word, I believe, is appreciate.

If you have a well-mannered man in your midst, be sure to let him know his actions are appreciated.

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