One of my vivid childhood memories took place on a soccer field. When I was four or so, the soccer leagues were co-ed. In those days there was no method to the madness for us fledgling players. The ball would move and we'd all follow it in a gigantic swarm rivaling biblical locusts, with no organization or strategy to score a goal.
In one game, as we followed the ball after it popped out of the mob, I noticed a little girl trailing behind us and saw that she had fallen down in the mud. I was faced with a choice: follow the ball toward our goal, or turn around and help the girl. No one had stopped to help her up, or acknowledge that she had fallen down. Furthermore, something about the mud all over her (even in her blonde hair), the fact that she was alone and she could have been hurt, compelled me to turn around and check on her.
On the sideline my coach implored me to worry about the girls later. The ball, by now, was way down near our goal. It was just the little girl and I on the other end of the field. I walked back to her and stuck out my hand and helped her out of the mud. I must have embarrassed her because her appreciative look was laced with a bit of defiance. This was my first conflicted moment with chivalry. I learned that she was perfectly capable of picking herself up out of the mud (thank you very much).
These days, I rarely get to be chivalrous. I am desperately trying to be "cool,"-- not too easy or too nice. Plus, I don't think I am well-trained for chivalry. One time, my Southern friend Margaret complimented me for "walking street-side," on our way home from work. She explained that men traditionally walk street side in case a "passing buggy splashes water onto the sidewalk." Chivalry in the South is taken to a whole other level.
I hate those street solicitors who ask me to donate to cause A, B, or C as I try to avoid them on the sidewalk. They punctuate it with a 10-minute spiel. As soon as I see someone with a clipboard, or a branded shirt, I zig-zag out of there. Little did Margaret know that I had gone "street-side" that day to put her in the line of fire of a street solicitor. Hey, when it comes to street solicitors it's every man (and woman) for themselves.
Horses and buggies aside, there are plenty of chances to be chivalrous on dates in NYC:
- Letting a woman on the elevator first
- Pulling out a chair at a restaurant
- Paying the bill
- Walking someone home
- Letting a woman in a cab first after opening the door
But there are reasons that guys avoid chivalry:
Don't Want To Look Too Nice. Guys are trying to find that sweet spot of nice but not too nice, while retaining little mystery. If we go out of our way all the time and wait on a girl hand and foot, we won't look attractive. Chivalry is great, but it's not special if it happens all the time.
Women's Rights. After her man holds the door and picks up her bags one too many times, a woman might be inclined to say: "hey I can do this myself." Doing too much for a woman can come off as condescending.
Don't Raise 'Em Like They Used To. Are younger men on board with chivalry? Because of society's shifting values, chivalry could be dying. You may see less of it in the street these days because there is less focus on educating young men about chivalry.
I practice "part-time chivalry." I'm much more of a gentleman at a fancy event like a wedding than I am when I am tumbling into a diner late night drunk at 4AM. But I wonder if I should be chivalrous the majority of the time.
I remember the warm fuzzy feeling I had when I helped the girl on the soccer field. I felt like I was doing the right thing. Things were much simpler then, but I bet most women want some chivalry in her life. I'm just not sure how much chivalry is optimal.
How much chivalry do you like in a relationship? Are there certain chivalrous acts that you really love, or that turn you off? Is there any charm to a guy that doesn't practice chivalry? Do you see much chivalry out there these days, or do you agree that it's a dying art?
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