Earlier this week, I posted this image on my personal Facebook page. The answer, obviously, is a gentleman walks on the outside. Why? Well, it’s clearly an out-dated reason, but before paved roads, carts and horses and even early automobiles traveling would often kick up dirt and mud and water. Ladies wearing dresses would get muddy if they walked on the outside. (That can still happen.) Also, before indoor plumbing, maids who worked in apartments and homes would often toss the contents of chamber pots from windows. Those contents would typically fall away from the building toward the outside of sidewalks. Again, a gentleman would allow a lady to walk on the inside to avoid the possibility of such a horror.
In my experience, my friends and family who are women have appreciated the little things that I try to do to be chivalrous and gentlemanly, regardless of whether or not the action is outmoded. I was surprised when a number of my platonic female friends (PFFs) on Facebook took exception to this example of gentlemanly behavior as condescending. Other of my PFFs and, frankly, I disagreed. I not only think that behavior that is generally considered gentlemanly is not only polite behavior in a world that seems to be increasingly rude and indecorous, but it also demonstrates the respect I have for the lady in my company.
Here are a few contemporary and, perhaps, old-fashioned behaviors that I think would generally be considered gentlemanly:
1) A gentleman opens a door for a lady.
2) A gentleman has good grooming habits.
3) Regardless of how a couple meets, whether on Tinder or at a local café, a gentleman courts a woman.
4) A gentleman is on-time.
5) A gentleman stands when a lady enters a room.
6) A gentleman doesn’t use his phone (talk, text, surf the web) during dinner.
7) If, in the case of an emergency, like for a single dad whose children are home, a gentleman explains to his partner the situation and asks permission to use his phone.
8) A gentleman gives up his seat.
9) A gentleman helps a lady with her coat.
10) A gentleman makes reservations.
11) In a business environment, a gentleman waits for a lady to extend her hand first before offering a handshake.
12) A gentleman is polite to service staff.
13) A gentleman picks up the tab.
14) A gentleman asks a lady’s opinion.
15) A gentleman pays attention to detail.
16) A gentleman offers sincere compliments.
17) A gentleman does not use profanity in the company of women or children.
18) A gentleman says, “Please” and “Thank you.”
19) A gentleman gives his coat to a lady if she’s cold.
20) A gentleman does not put his elbows on the table.
21) A gentleman is kind to animals.
22) A gentleman keeps his word.
23) A gentleman does not “kiss and tell.”
24) A gentleman never, ever, strikes a woman. Ever.
25) A gentleman defends his lady’s honor.
26) A gentleman picks up a lady at her home.
27) A gentleman walks a lady safely to her door. And, yes . . .
28) A gentleman walks on the street-side of the sidewalk.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’m certainly that some readers will find my list quaint and other may consider the behaviors condescending toward women. Well, I don’t. In a society that seems to be increasingly uncivil, where professional athletes regularly seen on video physically abusing their female partners and politicians photograph and text pictures of their genitals to women as a part of contemporary courtship, I think gentlemanly behavior is more important than ever.
While no one is perfect, I think a man should strive toward gentlemanly behavior. And, if I’m in your company and you find my overtures of respect patronizing, please politely let me know that you’d prefer to open your own car door, pull out your own chair, and go “dutch” for dinner. As a gentleman, I’ll respect that.