Chivalrous Until Death

 As long as I live I will not forget an occurrence in  Chicago about 20 years ago.  Winter was upon Chi-town and everyone was bundled, scarf’d and glove’d up.  It had been snowing lightly all morning.  In the city on business I had just gotten out of a cab and was walking toward the doors of an office building for an appointment.  Even though I was a few minutes late, I stopped to open the door for a 20-something woman.  She was insulted!  WHAT?!?!   

I was shocked.  Immediately the woman I opened the door for went into a 10 second diatribe so well-organized and rehearsed I realized later she had delivered it many times.  The barbs the young woman threw at me were something like “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and don’t need a chauvinistic male like you to open doors for me.  I take it as a personal affront that you think as a woman I am weak and require your assistance.  Take your macho male b@!ls#!t and shove it!”  Then she stormed through the door.  I just stood there dumbfounded while continuing to hold the door for at least a few seconds.  Another guy who heard what she said just looked at me, then her and shook his head.   

I was raised with a sense of old-fashioned traditional values that include saying “please and thank you”, showing respect to elders, letting women and children go first and opening doors for ladies of ALL ages.  The woman I encountered in Chicago was no lady!  To this day I wonder what happened that made her respond the way she did.  Was it she was overweight and physically unattractive and lacked male attention that she reviled any man who reminded her of the lack?  Did she hate men?  I have no idea.  Whatever it was, it is her problem.  Not mine.  I believe chivalrous acts are beautiful trimmings of human experience.  All my life I will continue to practice those respectful acts knowing 99.9% appreciate the gestures.  (I also open doors for men and am usually the last through).

Apparently opening doors for ladies goes back to the days when the women of nobility wore ornate gowns and outfits. In a full formal outfit, a lady could not reach the door if she tried – at least not in a fashionable way that conveyed the grace she was portraying.  Her escort thus opened the door for her.  Women today benefit from a lot that has come about in the last 50 years to shore up inequality they previously suffered under.  Even today there is improvement needed.  I believe today’s women are inherently powerful and capable but also believe chivalry still has its place.  Kindness and respect still matter! 

I was alarmed to find an article in a Great Britain newspaper titled “Men Who Hold Open Doors for Women Are SEXIST Not Chivalrous, Feminists Claim”.  Supposedly researchers from the Society for the Psychology of Women conducted a study among workers of both genders in America and Germany.  Their conclusion was men who open doors for women are guilty of ‘benevolent sexism’.  Also, according to the new study by a group of feminist psychologists referring to a group of men and women as ‘guys’ is a no-no.  (I got corrected once for that back in the mid-80’s in California by a group of four women).  The article goes on to state that women are unaware of it but are unwittingly affected because it helps to create a culture of women being seen as the vulnerable sex who need a man’s help. 

There’s a Bob Seger song that contains the lyrics “Call me a relic, call me what’cha will.  Say I’m old-fashioned.  Say I’m over the hill”.  If those words fit, then so be it.  I believe a real man always opens the door for a woman.  A woman who does not allow a man to open the door for her, or has stopped expecting it, has lost her way. To me being polite to the opposite sex will never go out of style regardless if that woman is a boss, mother, sister, daughter, friend, or stranger. 

Added as a footnote, I do have one pet peeve about the matter of opening doors.  I believe my chivalrous duty is not the public at large. I don’t know how many times I’ve opened a door for a woman then stood there holding the door for a gaggle of complete strangers. Consequently, the woman accompanying me was left standing in the lobby alone, waiting.  I try to be courteous to everyone, but my priority is with the woman I am with.  

This morning I am grateful for the two older women I opened the door for yesterday while out shopping. They smiled at me as if I had given them a momentary priceless gift reflected in their direct eye contact and a “thank you sir” spoken with great sincerity.  And to the woman in line at the registers I let go in front of me, I regret that such kindness came as such a surprise you felt you had to gush your thankfulness.  At the time I was in a hurry but not so much I forgot my manners.  I am glad to have put a little positive energy into your day. It is my honor to open doors for women and I am grateful to those who appreciate it.  Even for those that don’t, it is the gift of respect I give that benefits the giver:  ME! 

Gallantry to women – the sure road to their favor – is nothing but the appearance of extreme devotion to all their wants and wishes, a delight in their satisfaction, and a confidence in yourself as being able to contribute toward it.  William Hazlitt

2 thoughts on “Chivalrous Until Death

  1. When men open doors for me, I am always reminded to be kind and tenderhearted to that man. It also turns me on, primes the pump so to speak. Respect and kindness is beautiful and sexy, so rock on James, be yourself, there are females who love it.

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