chivalry’s slow suffocation

Chivalry is not dead. But it is not well, either.

A few years ago I was at a party with some friends. A few of us girls were talking in a little circle when a few guys walked up. One of the guys had an unopened can of root beer in his hand. One of my friends asked him where he had found it. Rather than tell her, he just held his out and said, “Here, have this one. I’ll go grab another.” She refused and repeated her question. They went back and forth, back and forth, and finally I piped up and said, “Seriously, let the poor guy be a gentleman. Take the soda already.” And this story, I believe, is an example how we women are slowly killing Chivalry.

When I was in high school, I had the most amazing crush on one of my friend’s older brothers. I didn’t share it with anyone, but I’m sure it was quite obvious. I was never (and still am not) one for sharing crushes. In any case, I know it was obvious to him. He was a “college boy” and I was a senior. I just thought he walked on water. And while he was not interested in me, he never failed to be a gentleman. Perhaps it was only because he was living at home, but my guess would be that it was more about how he was raised, that he was always like that.

One night we were hanging out (I think I must’ve been at his house waiting for his brother to get home…his brother with whom I was legitimately friends) and we decided to go get a movie at Blockbuster while we were waiting. This experience was all about the “door opening”. He made sure to open every door. I remember thinking, “This is the type of guy I want to end up with. The type who, regardless of whether or not he’s interested in her, will open doors for any and every girl/woman.

We often have dinner at my grandma’s house. She lives just down the road and, as many of our family friends have migrated to Utah, these dinner parties tend to be quite large and they are always buffet style. The ladies always go first. It’s just the way it is. There’s no question. If a man got in line before any individual woman, that would be the end of it. He would forever be known as “the man who had no manners”.

Well, things are not the same anymore. While Chivalry is alive and well chez my grandmother, I am amazed at how much things have changed just in the last 10 years. I have been guilty of it. I have beat men to doors so that I could open them myself. I have not taken a seat on a crowded bus when it was vacated just for me. I have insisted on sitting in the back seat, even when the front was offered. And on and on. Why do we do this? Why don’t we let men be men and appreciate them for it? Why must we be so independent all the time?

I feel bad for the guys out there. How can they possibly know how to act with all of the mixed signals we send them? This Sunday, after church, we had a “Linger Longer” (for those of you who have no idea what this term means, it’s a meal after church, at church…and at my church, as we are all single, it’s an opportunity to see and be seen). After the blessing on the meal was offered, one of the girls in my ward got up and reminded the guys (in a very polite and lighthearted way) that the ladies should go first. The announcement was as much for the ladies as it was for the men. And even after this, half of us stood around, not wanting to be first, waiting for the guys to get in line.

Why do we have to remind guys to let ladies go first? Why do we have to remind ladies to go first? Why do we have to tell men that it bugs us when, after only a few months of dating, they have stopped opening our doors or carrying our luggage? Why, when we stop at the gas station, are we pumping our own gas…even if we are paying for it?

Honestly, I think a good part of it (like 90%) is our own fault. Perhaps not individually, but collectively. Why would Chivalry want to live in a world where it is under-appreciated?

I love Chivalry. I do not want it to die. Of course I can open my own door, pump my own gas, and carry my own luggage. I am perfectly capable of standing on a bus and I will not starve if I get my food after the men. But that’s not the point. Chivalry allows men to be considerate and show their respect for women (and I personally find Chivalry to be super sexy). Why would we want to crush that? So, here is my plea. The next time a guy/man/boy even, offers to open your door, pump your gas, carry your luggage, give you his seat or insists that you go first, take him up on it and say thank you. I think perhaps, with a little mouth-to-mouth, Chivalry will breathe again.

27 thoughts on “chivalry’s slow suffocation

  1. I agree with you that chivalry is declining because it’s underappreciated by us women (obviously I’m using the collective here, since plenty of us individually love chivalry just the same)..but I also have a bit more to say on that…More than just appreciate chivalry, and certainly more than just expect it, I think we women need to act like ladies in order to be treated like ladies. I don’t mean being coy and sheepish. I just mean be well-mannered and not loud and obnoxious and disgusting. Because let’s face it, that’s kind of the trend right now, for women to be just as vulgar as men typically have been known to be, and it just plain doesn’t make sense to treat somebody who acts that way like a lady (please, ladies, I’m not accusing any of you of being this way, I’m simply saying…) because you wouldn’t treat an idiotic vulgar jerk like a gentleman either, would you??? So, I think, part of it is also that a lot of women don’t “inspire” men to act chivalrously because they simply aren’t being ladies. That’s harsh, but that’s what I see around me all the time, and it’s sad. So in a sense, the decline of chivalry goes hand in hand with the decline of lady-likeness..

  2. Oh, and Jules…I totally hear ya on your comment. So true!Jill – I wonder if part of it is association. Like, I was raised with manners (including chivalry) being a very important part of my life with my grandparents and my siblings and my friends. I guess maybe that’s where the chivalry comes in. And, I think maybe it’s also my way of saying, “Sure, I can do this myself, but I can accept help, as well.” It has taken me a lot of years to get here.Hmm…I also wonder if maybe I expect manners in women and not always in men. Something to think about.

  3. I have loved everyone’s opinions. Especially the one’s to the contrary. I don’t that it ever occurred to me that there are women who really just didn’t care at all. Something to thing about. And, anonymous…is your name Justin? Yes, I did have a little brother who was (and continues to be) very chivalrous. He always carries my luggage up to the guest bedroom. He generally opens doors. He pumps gas. Etc. I’m sure he is a big reason I feel the way I do about this.

  4. This has got to be a record…Not only for the number of comments, but for the length of comments. Chloe must of had a very chivalrous little brother to show her how important chivalry is. ;)And yes chivalrous is a word… look it up.

  5. I think I favor good manners and tend to inadvertently shun chivalry in the name of being independent. I don’t think I’ve ever dated anyone who consistently opened a car door for me, and I never had a problem with that. This is an interesting thing to think about.

  6. i crush chivalry with my bare hands. not on purpose, but i do. i guess it comes with age and independence a little bit? beside the fact that i’m 29 and single and rarely in a relationship, i am just used to doing things for myself. i noticed lucy referred to politeness in her comment. this can describe me as well. i will give up my spot on the elevator if a mother with a stroller and 10 wee children need it. i will hold the door open for the person entering a public venue behind me, man, woman or child, without even thinking. i even say, “thank you” when people do these things for me. i guess i’ve never felt like a man should open doors for me or scoot in my chair under my bum at dinner just because he’s a man and i’m a woman. the idea is a bit arhaic for my taste. i guess i just prefer men to be gentlemen…and there is much more to being a gentleman than chivalry.oh my goodness i’m wordy. please forgive me!

  7. my young women leader growing up made sure she taught her sons to be chivalrous. she would have them open the car door for her getting in and out every time – no questions asked. if they forgot, she’d sit in the car (or outside of it) waiting for them to remember. once, she sat in the car for about a half hour after going to the grocery store with one of her sons when he was looking for her inside and remembered he hadn’t opened her door. he didn’t forget much after that. ha!

  8. So many great comments! It’s so true, too, about manners in general. One of my favorite things about my G-ma’s house is that there are still formalities. Oh, she’s eased up over the years, but not much. We are still expected to wait until everyone is served before we eat (do people even know that that is the proper thing to do in groups less than six?), we get in trouble if our elbows hit the table, etc. I wish the trend was not away from these formalities. Not that I think kids need to always say “Mr.” or Mrs.”, but I just like the respect that manners (and formalities) show. I could definitely improve in both, being gracious in my acceptance of chivalrous acts, and being more polite. Baby steps…baby steps…

  9. I enjoy all sorts of kind attention…seats, doors, help out… until I hear the word “ma’am” and then my fantasy of me being helped out because of my perfectly coiffed hair and flowing organza dress is quickly brought to an end.I just like polite people. I would give up a seat if it looked like someone else needed it. An older gentleman, someone with crutches. And I like to hold doors too if someone is coming with an arm full of something or it’s just timed so that it would seem rude if I let the door fall back on them. But I completely see your point. I’m just as capable, but I certainly could let more men practice the old art of chivalry more often.

  10. I haven’t read the comments to the left…so I don’t know the consensus….except for Robyn…all she says is “Amen”, I’m going to say a bit more.I open doors as much as I every have….which is all the time. For women…for kids, and if it makes sense at the time…for guys too.I can’t help but think of “our local Starbucks”…in regards to the topic of chivalry….as you can imagine, the place is hoppin’ in the morning…but it’s here where everyone (ok, virtually everyone)bends over backwards for those nearby. Whether it’s walking thru the doors….”doctoring” your drink at the crowded “bar” or whatever…I understand your talkin’ chivalry here. What I’m describing is “good manners”. But they obviously go hand in hand.Hoenstly, if I open the door for a woman, I want a “thank you”…in some sincere form please. When that thank you “doesn’t come” I take it personally….can’t put into words …but do I – expecting a “thank you” make me less “chivalrous” ? Maybe..that’s too bad if so. I’m rambling here…enjoy your post per usual

  11. wow- something i do without having thought about it. really good thoughts! now i have to retrain my husband to open doors. 🙂

  12. I like chivalry. But sometimes I don’t know what to do with it because these days, like you said, it’s become unexpected. Although a dude held open a door for me at school today which was super nice and he got an appreciative “Thank you!” from me. Another dude walked me out to my car after our date which was also unexpected, but appreciated. One place where chivalry never existed? China. I went there. Nooooo chivalry. At all. The end.

  13. Excellent thoughts (as always)! I mourn the decline also. It probably has been a combined squashing though like you said. Sigh.

  14. Great post, and I agree with a lot of the comments, but to be a little too revealing: for me, denying the chivalrous acts has become a defense mechanism after almost 20 years of dating–a way of not letting myself get attached to someone.But I do make more of an effort now to let men be chivalrous. Now if I could just find a non-married, straight guy I could practice on…

  15. This is a great post! My mom was such a great example of expecting the right behavior from men, but she has later told me that she had to re-teach my dad after being married for like 10 years.Even when first dating and being married to Linc I was the “I am capable of opening my own door” type. Now we are both getting that the chivalry stuff matters. I LOVE IT. It makes me feel more like a woman and like he is more of MY MAN. Love it. I was crazy before. It totally is super sexy- you are right on there if you ask me.

  16. I agree with you. I enjoy Chivalry, is shows that a guy is at least a little bit thoughtful which is always attractive. I remember once, watching movies with several girl friends at a guy friends’ house and he got up in the middle of the movie and got us blankets. I was so shocked. That shouldn’t be shocking.

  17. I agree – I think it’s our fault sometimes. When my husband and I started dating, I got annoyed if he carried the heavier pack (hiking) or broke trail (backcountry skiing). I felt like I should be an “equal,” should carry my own weight. Then I realized that by doing those things for me, he was showing me that he loved and would protect me…now I welcome it. And hey, my pack is always nice and light!

  18. Oh, Thom Carter, I know I may appear to be feminism personified. While I am independent and will not pretend to not be able to do something just to get a guy’s help and/or attention, I try very hard to accept help and/or chivalrous acts when they are offered.It is a fine line to walk, but I am just that amazing. 😉

  19. I totally agree about not sharing crushes (yes, I’m commenting on one line of your post, rather than the actual body of the post,, which was also excellent). I do not enjoy being mocked or looking ridiculous. Therefore, I do not share my crushes. Because. .. lame.

  20. I couldn’t agree with you more! Feminism is killing chivalry! I am all for equality, but when it comes down to it, a man has his role and a woman hers. What happend to family basics? Why is it so wrong for a woman to want to stay home and take care of her kids while her husband works to provide for them? I love that my husband is respectful enough to open doors and stuff for me! My father is also a very chivalrist (sp) man. I know I am going off on a rant here, but come on ladies! Is is that bad?

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