I thus entitle this: Chivalry
I got to the door at the same moment as a large group of guys. There was sort of a communal hesitation; one moved as if to open the door but recoiled and instead waited awkwardly for me to open it myself.
I was waiting outside my Dean's office. There were three seats in the hall - each occupied by one of my male classmates. I stood waiting for 30 minutes; none of them budged.
He was going back to the buffet to get some dessert. I asked if he'd grab me a glass of water. He said I could get it myself. (I don't think this one is actually a case of forgotten chivalry; this guy was just being a jerk.)
I won't try to enumerate how many times things like this have happened to me -- these episodes all took place last week. And methinks chivalry - and common courtesy - are in trouble. Something's up, and I don't think it's just a lack of good breeding. Let me qualify what I'm about to say with this: I know some guys who have impeccable manners, who go out of their way to be thoughtful and gracious -they open doors, stand-up for ladies, and respectfully explain that they enjoy paying for my meal when they ask me out on a date. They make a concerted effort to be courteous. But in my experience, these boys are the exception. And it's my association with them that makes their companions look so shabby. I believe chivalry is still alive, but - as a friend of mine put it - it's on serious life-support. Guys are consistently opting out of courtesy. I often find myself standing up on public transportation for old ladies long before my male counterparts. Every time this, or something like it, happens, something inside me squirms. I've grown up expecting something else from men, so the general lack of thoughtfulness seems wrong. But it's not fair to judge guys for failing to be polite when they don't really know what being polite is. I think that's the crux of the problem.
Guys don't really know what being polite is anymore. Women send very mixed messages - and boys don't get what we're saying. We want to be perceived as strong and independent, and sometimes that desire seems incompatible with our hope that guys will hold. open. the door. Furthermore, it's not just that we as a gender send inconsistent messages -- girls disagree about the role of chivalry. I'm certainly a fan of more traditional notions of charm and politeness, but some of my girl friends are offended by the suggestion that those qualities should be necessary - or even expected. This often results in boys - sometimes boys who have a natural proclivity towards graciousness - deciding against chivalry...
I guess what I'm trying to say is this:
Guys, don't let the female identity crisis cause you to forget what good behavior and nice manners look like. Bad manners are never attractive. Quite the contrary. Especially in our current culture, having good manners immediately sets you apart - and there are few things sexier than a guy with beautiful manners. (If a girl is offended when you're polite, she probably isn't the type of girl you want to hang out with anyway.)
Ladies, regardless of your views on gender roles, be nice! And don't disparage guys for trying to have good manners. I think women are awesome, brilliant, and super capable. Really. (I spent my teenage years going from one women's leadership conference to the next and was thrilled when I got an internship in Nancy Pelosi's office. I think women are the tops!) But guys holding open the door shouldn't offend our quest for equality or trigger feelings of subjugation. They're just trying to be polite - which is something we could all do a better job of. Next time you feel like telling a guy that you don't need him to open the door for you, try instead to remember to open the door for someone else. Chivalry shouldn't be a one way street. It's really about us all being a little more kind and thoughtful.