They say chivalry is dead.
“They” being basically every girl in America today, or at least the ones that I’ve talked to. Whatever happened to opening car doors or pulling out chairs or asking our dads what time to bring us home? Now boys are lazy and crude, they say.
In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. Chivalry is not dead at all, if anything the standards have gone way up for what we expect of men today. I would know, I looked them up.
See, by my junior year in high school I felt totally behind in my love life – which is funny because really no junior in high school should feel secure in that.
Yet it felt like all of my friends were finding their “true loves,” while I was still figuring out what that term even meant. Every boy I had ever dated was a total jerk, according to my friends/relationship informants, and it seemed I didn’t know the first thing about finding a nice guy. So, desperate for my own prince charming and a happy ending, I ran to the Internet for a fast answer and, after reading countless “how-to” articles and Seventeen magazine tips, I finally figured what I was supposed to expect from a true gentleman.
It’s really quite simple: a gentleman will buy you roses or teddy bears or Starbucks or whatever it is you like (somehow he will just know this, it’s really great). He will kiss you on the forehead when you’re sad and wrap his arms around your waist when he greets you, always. He will hold your hand in public and kiss you and be affectionate in front of his friends without being ashamed. He will constantly tell you how beautiful or gorgeous or pretty you are, but he won’t ever use demeaning words like sexy or hot. He will drop anything he’s doing just to come over and cuddle and talk with you. He will text you 24/7 and call you every night and surprise you with chick flick movie tickets and dresses and expensive gifts and unless he does all of this for you he really isn’t worth your time because a guy who cares will treat his girl like a queen.
So, with my newfound information, I went out and made sure to find myself a gentleman to fall in love with.
Of course it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but I made sure to put a lot of thought and energy into finding a guy that was going to treat me well. I completely ignored feelings and attraction and instead formalized the entire idea of love. It didn’t matter how much I liked the kid sitting next to me in math, if he didn’t fit the criteria he wasn’t going to get anywhere with me. I talked to multiple guys for long periods of times, testing out the waters to see if they passed or failed my test and finally, one day, I found my gentleman.
We met in the musical, which in of itself was absolutely adorable to me. He was a year younger than I and at first I questioned whether or not this was okay, but nowhere did it say that a gentleman had to be your age so I let him stay. We started off as best friends and eventually dated for two years and from the very beginning I knew he was the gentleman I had been searching for. It was as though I had pulled him right out of a Nicholas Sparks novel – if I was a bird, he was a bird. He always knew exactly what to say and exactly when to say it. He gave me attention and texted me every hour of every day, always starting them off with a “good morning, beautiful” and ending them with a “sweet dreams, darling.” He learned all of my favorite things and was a pro at surprises and dinner dates. And oh, when we kissed, it was as though nothing else in the world mattered. It was cliché, which was why it was perfect. He was perfect and I was in love.
I was in love. But I was not happy. He was everything I had ever dreamed of and hoped for. He fit my formula for a true gentleman to a T, and every heterosexual girl I knew was jealous of my dream-boat, Justin-Bieber-esque boyfriend. And yet, I was always upset. How could this be?
Perhaps it was because he was controlling. Yes, it was sweet when he chose the fancy restaurant for dinner or when he planned out our entire night, but he also chose when we hung out, which was every day, and who I could talk to, which meant no boys other than him. Or maybe it was because he was jealous and manipulative. He had a way with words that was sweet and charming sometimes and absolutely horrifying other times. He could convince me that I was wrong no matter how right I knew I was. Perhaps I was sad because of the way he pushed me around and got angry and forceful when he was drunk, but, then again, he always had such kind apologies and always made up for it with my favorite kind of chocolate or a brand new giant teddy bear the next day. Maybe I was just jealous because of the way he flirted with every other girl he came into contact with, although why should that matter? He always gave me the most attention. He treated me like a queen…right?
High school me believed that I was just being an overdramatic girl. Present me wishes I could go back and slap that idea out of my head.
I thought that I had found a perfect boyfriend, but, in reality, behind his charismatic traits hid a lot of really scary realities. He was not a gentleman – he was a boy who happened to know exactly how to act the part. At the end of the day, he put on a great show but didn’t genuinely care about anything that actually mattered in the relationship. I should’ve known better, I get that now, but at the time I was surrounded by so many false definitions of love that it was hard to see clearly what I was really getting into.
Looking back at it, I still believe he was a gentleman. He was polite and kind, in a shallow sense, but polite and kind nonetheless. So, no, Chivalry is not at all dead. There are still polite men left in the world.
But for me, chivalry is not what I need to look for in a man ever again.
It’s easy to pull out a chair or open a car door for someone, but when it comes down to it do things like that really matter that much?
Perhaps we should stop heightening the importance of these shallow expectations, and instead push the importance of healthy, loving, real relationships. A true gentleman will show you he cares in whatever way he wants to and in whatever way you are comfortable with. Respect and care do not need to be shown through gifts and pampering (not to say they can’t be), if only there had been some “how-to” article that had told me that instead.