Be chivalrous without being chauvinist

Don’t believe what you hear about this being an age of equality where women don’t want to be treated any differently than men. No matter how successful a woman may become at work, no matter how professional she may be, all woman want to be treated like a lady, at least in their personal lives. Doing this is not all that terribly difficult, in fact, because the bar has been set so low by all the jerks out there who don’t know how to treat a lady properly, it is remarkably easy to stand out as a true gentleman. We’ll start with the basics:

1. Hold the door for her. This is as easy as it gets. Don’t make a big deal out of it and don’t shove her out of the way as you race to get to the door, but as you get within, say, 50 feet or so of the door, just start slowly positioning yourself so that when you do get to the door you’ll already be in a position to hold it open. When you do open the door, don’t say anything stupid like, “After you my dear.” Just hold the door open, place your hand on her back as she walks by you, and then follow her inside. If there are people behind her, feel free to hold the door for them too, it’ll just make you feel classier. Note: If there’s a long line of people that you are now stuck holding the door for, look for either the sucker in the group or the gentleman and pawn the door off on them.

2. Always give her the best seat and wait until she’s seated before sitting down. This is another easy one. When the waiter takes you to the table make sure she’s walking ahead of you that way she can pick whichever seat she wants. Perhaps she likes having her back to the rest of the room or maybe she wants to sit so she can see the entire restaurant, either way, save yourself the trouble of figuring it out by letting her go first. Finally, don’t sit down until she’s comfortable. Don’t awkwardly linger by your chair while she gets situated, just give it a few seconds before plopping your ass down. I know your feet are tired but guess what, she’s wearing high heels so show your appreciation for the pain she’s putting herself through by letting her sit down first.

3. Stand up when she leaves the table. This is a little tricky. Old fashion style will tell you that every time a woman stands up at a table all the men need to stand up as well, both when she leaves and returns to the table. Personally, I think this is a bit overkill because I guarantee that unless you’re at a formal fraternity ball you’ll be the only person in the room doing this, which could have the reverse effect of making your wife feel uncomfortable. I recommend that you preserve the spirit of this action by putting down your fork, stop eating or drinking, slightly push back your chair as she gets up and make a slight standing motion. This will get you points by showing that you are acknowledging her getting up without the undue embarrassment of garnering the entire room’s attention. Same goes for when she comes back. On the other hand, if your wife has a taste for old fashion style and enjoys being the center of attention, feel free to stand, just make sure you commit yourself, otherwise you’ll look like a kid wearing his father’s tuxedo at a fraternity formal.

4. Opening and closing the car door. This is another bit of a throw back to an age where men did the driving and woman yelled at them for not stopping to ask directions. (It actually originates from the age of horses and carriages where the woman needed a hand climbing up on the horse or getting into the carriage) This obviously is no longer the case as women now drive just as much as men and men now have GPS to ignore instead of their wives. (And car doors are much lower to the ground) I recommend you only open and close the car door if you are going out to a nice dinner and are dressed up. Old fashion customs go great with elegant dresses; they are less appropriate for jeans and a low cut top. If you do decide to open the door for her, be cool about it. Take your time walking around the front of the car, hold out your hand to help her out of the car (more symbolic than necessary) and then gently close the door behind her. Same goes with opening the car door. Open it while standing to the side, offer your hand to help her in, and gently close the door, making sure to check that her dress is FULLY IN the car. Nothing ruins an evening faster than catching her brand new dress in the car door. As with the standing up custom at restaurants, if you’re going to commit to this one, commit to it! Act like you do this all the time and you’ll come off looking suave and debonair. Act like you do this once a year and you’ll look like you’re playing dress up.

These are just a few of the different types of chivalrous customs that used to be standard practice but that are now relatively rare. There are plenty of other customs out there but the trick to all of them is to be subtle! A little goes a long way and if you put too much effort into any of these you’ll end up looking out of place and awkward, which is far worse than doing nothing at all. Just think ahead, be smooth, and you’ll end up looking like a gallant gentleman who knows how to treat his wife like a lady.

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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