Where has all the chivalry gone? The other day, I was standing in a long hallway of an office building that was packed with people. There were benches lining the wall, but all were full. Each bench was long enough to accommodate three people. On the bench closest to me, a business man in his late forties who sat alone in the middle of the seat with his briefcase lying next to him. His body language and position of the briefcase, made it clear he wanted the seat to himself even though there were many people standing and milling around.
I waited. I stood barely three feet away, constantly casting glances at him. I knew that he could feel my eyes upon him. He did nothing. I kept waiting to see if he would eventually remember his manners and offer me a small corner to sit.
Five minutes later, a colleague passed and the man immediately called him over, inviting him to have a seat next to him. He removes his briefcase, set it down on the floor and scooted over.
I was taken back by his lack of chivalry. Where is the gentlemen that would have said,“Would you like to sit?” and share the bench.
If you look up the definition of chivalry, you will find many references to knighthood. That is where it originated. If a man demonstrated the qualities idealized by knights, which were “bravery, courtesy, honor, and devotion to the weak,” they were acting with chivalry.
An individual did not have to be an actual knight but a “gallant gentleman.” Do you know of any gallant gentlemen who act with courtesy and honor because of who they are and not what they can gain from it? Has a gentleman that immediately opens the door or offers their seat because it’s ingrained in their character code, come across your path lately?
My friend, the Southern Belle, was at a Target parking lot when she asked a man if he wanted her cart after she finished unloading her bags. She described him as mid-twenties, clean cut and wearing khakis. He answered, “No, I’m not going to use a cart.” My friend saw that the cart corral was a ways off, so said, “Well, would you like to do your good deed for the day and take my cart with you?” She was asking him to bring the cart to the destination he was going towards. It was not out of his way.
Remember, that she has a southern lilt to her voice that is so syrupy sweet, it melts even the toughest hearts. The man responded by actually rolling his eyes, mumbling a heavily burdened “fine,” and then taking the cart like a moping adolescent.
Being Southern Belle, she was aghast at his lack of chivalry. “If it had been my husband,” she said, “he not only would have taken the cart but helped to unload it and put the bags in my trunk!”
Is your husband or boyfriend like hers? Consider yourself lucky. The test of true chivalry is when a man performs a courtesy to a complete stranger. It used to be common, held as a societal standard. When did the shift happen in our culture that told men that they no longer have act with honor and courtesy?
Celebrity actress Betty White was quoted in saying, “If you’re walking with your lady on the sidewalk, I still like to see a man walking street-side, to protect the lady from traffic. I grew up with that, and I hate to see something like that get lost. I still like to see that a man opens the door. I like those touches of chivalry that are fast disappearing.”
Is chivalry really fading away to the point that we only come across it sparingly? Could it be lying dormant waiting for a revival? If it’s up to us mamas to raise our boys right, I’m trying to do my part. I enrolled my two oldest sons in an Ettiquette class where they had to hear about nothing but manners for one week.
When they were finished, we celebrated by going out for frozen yogurt. I was the last one to arrive at the table and when I did, they both stood up, and stayed standing until I sat down. My heart was a flutter, my cheeks glowed with pride.
My two gallant gentlemen renewed my faith in chivalry, making me hopeful for a comeback. However, I think it just might take the mothers getting involved to do it! 🙂
Have you come across a chivalrous knight lately?
July 12, 2013