Back in college, one of my roommates had begun talking to this guy on OkCupid. According to his profile, he was all about HONOR and CHIVALRY. They were actually capitalized like that on his profile. This was a few years ago, before the whole “Nice Guy” trope had fully emerged, but that’s what this guy was. A slightly awkward who was unlucky in love, being “nice” or in this case chivalrous, because that’s what women want, right?
In its original sense, chivalry is a good thing. It’s the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code. But it’s been boiled down in recent years to this idea of “ways to treat a lady”, generally romantically, with the eventual likely end goal of getting in her pants. There’s an old saying, “If a person is nice to you but rude to a waiter, they’re not a nice person.” If you hold the door for me, but not the old couple 5 feet behind us, then you’re not really a nice person. If you’re acting nice for the sole sake that I’m a woman and you’re a man, you’re not nice.
Before the peanut galleries cries out “misandrist feminist” and declares that I deserve jerks who let the door slam on my face, hear me out. No, I don’t like nice guys. But I do like nice people. What’s the difference? Nice people do nice things for anyone, not just people who could potentially reward their kindness with sexual acts. Nice people are considerate, usually, for purely altruistic reasons. Picking up the items a harried mother dropped while trying to get her toddler across the street, holding the door for the person whose arms are full, just generally being honestly nice to the cashier at the supermarket- these are acts of consideration I can get behind.
I’ve had male friends tell me that they don’t know exactly how to act for worry of insulting the girl they’re dating. Because yes, chivalry can feel condescending. I once had a guy dive from five paces behind me to make sure that he got to the door before I did. My hands weren’t full, there was no reason for him to do this other than I was a woman. The actual act of holding a door isn’t insulting, but insisting that you MUST do it because you are the MAN is insulting. If you’re a considerate person, it shouldn’t be encumbered by or contingent upon dating, the person you’re dating should just be one more person you’re considerate to.
That’s another great thing about being a nice person, is that it doesn’t limit who in the relationship is considerate. I, as a woman, am totally allowed to do nice things in return. We can have a considerate-off where you send me a funny meme picture George Takei posted when I’m having a bad day and I’ll bring you soup when you’ve got the flu. You pick up the check when you know I’m tight on money this week and I’ll get lunch when you’ve gone out of your way to hang out with me. It’s almost like we’re considering the needs of the individual and doing nice things for the sake of making the other happy. CRAZY!
But that’s the point. We get caught up in dating rules, that we forget we’re dating individuals. Chivalry has become this trope of the nice guy “I will act like this because women will like it and women will give me sex.” No. Treat each woman, each person, as an individual and consider their needs. And don’t confine consideration to your dating life, treat everyone around you with consideration. That’s called good character. And while I don’t want to stereotype the desires of everyone, having good character is much more likely to attract people (and yes women) to you.