A Guide To Being A Southern Gentleman

4. The Use of Violence – the Southern Gentleman should never be looking to start a fight. He should never be the one trash talking. Because here’s the thing: the Southern Gentleman developed out of a Culture of Honor – his manners have historically functioned as a buffer against accidentally provoking bloody confrontation—and that culture is alive and well in the South today. Someone bumps into you on a crowded street in New York and calls you an asshole, most northerners seem content to just call him a jerk-off and continue on with their day; in New Orleans this prompts a life-threatening conflict in which neither side will step down until someone’s been harmed. (Coincidentally, most people in New Orleans are super saccharine-sweet and lovely.)

Anyway, the modern Southern Gentleman tries to put himself above the violence of his Culture of Honor roots; however, he recognizes there are situations that might require him to get physical, and so it’s important he know how to handle himself in a fight. The primary causes of violence for a Southern Gentleman, so far as I’ve seen, are:

  • Self Defense – if you’re going to go down, you want to go down swinging.
  • Loyalty – Right or wrong, you are there for your friends. If your buddy is becoming belligerent with somebody, you should be the first one in his face, talking him down, defusing the situation as much as you can until the moment somebody takes a swing, and then you do whatever you have to to keep your friends safe, to live and talk it over tomorrow.
  • Love – be it familial or romantic, there’s something primal to the defense of someone you love. Reptilian. Your mind shuts off, and it seems so suddenly absurd that this creature should be allowed to speak untruths from a height reserved for decent human beings. If only there was some visual representation — like, say, you standing atop them — that could clarify the confusion they’ve caused by running their mouth in front of all these nice people. It’s a sign of immaturity to raise a hand to someone calling you names, but when it comes to your lady, certain behavior needs to be curbed, negative reinforcement employed on any dog that would dare.

5. Be Willing (and Able) to Cook – Look, I’m not saying you have to whip up some pastry on the reg, but be able to cook for yourself. Again, it’s a matter of proficiency; a grown man who is unable to cook for himself is about as pathetic as a grown man willing to cook for his partner is sweet. Which is to say, a ton. Figure it out.

6. Know Your Bible – Now I know what you’re thinking, Sorry Jack ‘Footsoldier of the Neofascist Capitalist Regressive Bourgeoisie Arch-Conservative Agenda’ Cazir, that’s one trap of the Judeo-Christian Patriarchy that we’re not going to follow you into! And thank you straight away for using my full name. But like it or not, the Bible is relevant. Huge parts of the country believe its veracity over that of scientific data, and while relatively fewer people of our generation seem to be openly Christian, the demographic is much larger when it comes to our parents and grandparents. To that generation, knowing the difference between Daniel and Elijah reflects admirably upon your character, and whether you believe or not, being able to make someone identify with you from a single well-placed Bible reference certainly has value. Think of the noble families of the Renaissance, when knowledge of the ancient Greeks and their mythology was an essential part of any man’s education. It’s part of being well-rounded. Actually…

7. Be Well-Rounded – believe the ideal of a Renaissance Man is something to be aspired to. You’re never going to be Da Vinci, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be constantly pushing at the borders of your comfort zone. Watch a documentary about something new. Read a section of the paper you normally skip. Try new music, even stuff you’re sure you’ll hate. Always be up to try new foods. You have access to more information than any generation before you: embrace it! Learn from it; the worst-case scenario is you walk away a slightly more interesting person.

8. Be Good with Kids – the modern Southern Gentleman has an eye toward family – whether that family contains two dads, two moms, an adopted Darfur war orphan, a commune of astrally-projected monks, whatever – and so he should probably enjoy kids almost as much as they enjoy him. He shouldn’t become suddenly awkward and stiff, like some guys do, because he probably isn’t terrified by the prospect of one day becoming a dad; ‘responsibility’ to him is more than this painful thing wedged between Call of Duty sessions.

9. Don’t Kiss and Tell – Just avoid gossip altogether. The maxim of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say…’ applies here. You don’t have to be all sunshine and roses all the time, but if people are talking about a person who is not present, you should, at the minimum, listen but not speak. If you have a problem with someone, the way to address it is by going to that person directly. Also, I know it seems crazy but the people you’ve been fortunate enough to have relationships with continue to be human beings even after you’ve stopped dating them – try to hold back your criticism and focus only on the positives when discussing them publically. Let the other guys go on about how “what’s her name” was “takin’ that cock,” you’re gonna go ahead and maintain some semblance of dignity toward the people around you. Of course, this will probably make you slightly less interesting when the subject of gossip comes up, but it also communicates to your friends and lovers that you won’t be joining in when it’s their turn to be gossiped about, which is the sort of thing that builds trust. Which you want, because…

10. You are a Man of Your Word – The Southern Gentleman is not flakey. He is not late. He does not say ‘oh yeah sorry that just slipped my mind.’ You can count on him and you can trust him. Do you have any idea how rare a combination that is?

11. Be Able to Dress Yourself – James Bond wouldn’t have been nearly as cool if he’d had a terrible sense of style. It’s down to proficiency, again: you want to be in charge of all facets of your life. You should have clothes that fit. Appropriate attire for whatever situations you might face. At least one well-tailored suit. Be able to tie your own tie and know how to reliably pair articles of clothing without coming out looking like a clown. You should know how to keep yourself groomed and hygienic, how to select and appropriately wear cologne, if that’s your thing. This all sounds like it should be common sense, but I bet you run out of fingers and toes counting the number of guys you see that have no idea. People should look at you and see confidence. Your partner should look at you and feel pride. (Logically speaking, not every person who can pull off seersucker is a Southern Gentleman, but all Southern Gentlemen can pull off seersucker.)

12. Just Dance – Gonna be okay, da-da-doo-doo-mmm, just dance. You know who the lamest person in the world is? The guy who says he doesn’t dance and instead leans into the wall of the bar, hoping he looks cool, while his girlfriend dances alone (because God forbid she dance with anyone else). That guy is terrible. Don’t be that guy. Every Southern Gentleman I know dances; not every Southern Gentleman I know is a good dancer. But it doesn’t matter because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about being comfortable enough in your own skin to just go for it, to have fun, to put aside all the other nonsense and just enjoy life with your partner, whoever that might be at that moment.

Look, I realize this might seem at first glance to be a lot. But really, it all boils down to a few simple ideas. Be trustworthy. Be kind. Be proficient. Be brave. Be mature. That’s all. I know guys who make it look effortless, and both them and the people around them are better off for it. I mean, come on, fellas, we’ve slacked off for a while now and the sexual demographics have allowed us to get away with it, but enough is enough. We have a reputation to maintain. It’s time to man the f-ck up. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Jennifer

About the author

Jack Cazir

More From Thought Catalog