Being, Lovelife
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Chivarly: Is it dead, or just different?

A lady shouldn't have to light her own cigarette. Photo c/o BingImages.

On the plane earlier this year I was in tears.  I was having a very emotional moment while working on a post and the tears just kept streaming down my face.  Luckily, I wasn’t gasping, sniffling, nor gulping, but wiping my cheeks and eyes from the constant stream that was running down my face, as bad as a water faucet, just saltier.

I was thankful that my neighboring seat was empty and that I was surrounded  by men otherwise.  Not one of them would dare ask me if I was okay, which I guess I preferred.  If this were forty years ago, I thought, would one of them have offered me a handkerchief?  Would a mid century gentleman have called a flight attendant to check on me?

On the shuttle to work each morning there are more and more employees and less and less seats available.  This private shuttle, full of well educated and professionally creative types, is stuffed to the seams with iPod listening, messenger bag carrying men.  The guy who decides to move his bag out of the way with the deep ‘hassled’ exhale is the rule.  The  man who quietly clears the seat next to him for me without being asked sans attitude (but sans the acknowledgment of eye contact  either) is the exception.   Is chivalry dead?

I remember being amused by a young guy a while back who waved his hand in front of the door opening motion sensor at a store and smiled so brightly at me, saying, “There you go, miss,” so proud of himself that his mama raised him right.  Naturally I thanked him.  Perhaps chivalry is just different.

Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life?  I acknowledge that the rules have changed, so much so that boys grow up clueless that there used to be more to being a gentleman than a cloth napkin on your lap at the table.  Years ago a man was supposed to go down the stairs ahead of a lady or up the stairs behind her in case she slips or falls.  You most certainly opened the passenger seat door for her to get in and ran around from the driver’s seat to let her out, hopefully with an umbrella if it is raining versus shouting to her, “Watch out for puddles!” as he pulls over to drop her off at the curb post-date.  I am definitely not of an entirely different generation (yet) but I did grow up for a large part of my life in a society and culture where the guys I knew carried my books for me while walking down the hall in college, or helping lug my bag to the car.  They would arrive to pick me up and sit with my mother or father for even just five minutes before I came down from my room to go out to dinner, whether it was a romantic date or a platonic hang out.  A friend of mine once exclaimed that she loved my boyfriend at the time because when crossing the street together he walked “on the danger side” switching over so that he was in the way of on coming traffic, as a gesture to protect and guide us ladies.  I see pedestrian couples every day touring downtown stuck on opposite sides of the street with the guys yelling from across the way, “What happened?” and the women shrieking back, “You ran ahead of me on a yellow light!”

I own the fact that I am pretty old fashioned in this regard.  I imagine you either smirking while reading this or researching when on earth I was born.

“Now, who wants to get me a piece of cake?”  Good old Scarlett.

Is chivalry dead or just different?  My husband is of that same society and culture, but after years living in America by the time we got together over a decade ago, he couldn’t understand my dismay when he expected me to help him move a sofa up the stairs to his new apartment or carry a heavy basket of dirty clothes down the street to the laundro-mat. (dead)  Nowadays when he leaves for work ahead of me, I am delighted by the chivalry exhibited from sending the elevator back up to our floor so I needn’t wait for it. (different) Out in the freezing cold around the campfire, instead of coming to me with a cup of tea and a blanket he said, “Hmmm you should grab your heavier jacket in the tent.  Wanna use my headlamp?  You might fall in the dark.” (dead again)

It’s really just something I wonder about, and what I realize I need to get used to.  I have accepted that the ways of the world are markedly different from the ways they were when my mother was growing up, but like her, I do hold on to the niceties.  I am a lady after all, and still enjoy being treated as such.  A bag lady, but still a lady.


  1. Good for you for saying this. Agreed. And guess what? Us old ladies have blogs so we can publicly scold our husbands for being dim witted un-chivalrous ding dong. I did just recently and let me tell you, he never said he read it but I noticed a boost in his helpfulness. He also always makes sure to get my son to thank me and offer his assistance which will help the next generation of girls a little bit. I'll make sure his manners are in order. Or else.
    Love to you,

  2. It's a real responsibility to raise a gentleman nowadays. I like your style, Shalagh! Your son (and his future girlfriends) will thank you!

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