A Guide To Being A Southern Gentleman

Just on the off chance you haven’t already been linked and re-linked ad nauseam, it’s worth noting that this month’s edition of The Atlantic contains a particularly insightful article by Kate Bolick on the extent to which the modern woman’s professional advancement has shifted certain realities of the dating world. The piece spawned plenty of responses – my favorite being an equally insightful piece from fellow Thought Catalog contributor Karyn Spencer – and in the discussions that followed men, in general, have taken a beating.

The article’s premise is that with relatively fewer men pushing into the upper echelons of academic and professional advancement, those women with fulfilling careers – and, ultimately, lives – are confronted with a “shrinking pool of like-minded marriage prospects.” In her response, Karyn explains the guy they’re all looking for, as well as the problem:

a rare “real man”: a mature, financially secure, professionally successful, well-rounded dude who comes with a variety of interests, a great group of friends, and clean underwear, is surrounded by hordes of available women to choose from, and therefore is in no rush to choose just one.

And so they don’t. Successful men recognize their scarcity and exploit it, playing the field with the sort of joie de vivre you might expect from a UNC fraternity brother, leaving their female counterparts in the unenviable position of having to tolerate their behavior or else significantly lower their expectations.

To be sure, there’s never been a better time to be a deadbeat dude. They are finding it easier than ever to date upward, to latch onto lonely sugarmamas, to fall into a relationship despite themselves. The recent recession has done a great job of disguising the deadbeats — making them at first glance indistinguishable from the ambitious, driven young men merely fighting off the symptoms of economic collapse – and so the women who haven’t given up altogether often won’t know what kind of guy they’ve got until they’ve wrinkled their ‘first date dress’ and wasted a night.

So it’s not surprising to find opportunists like the one in Karyn’s story who, after inviting her to dinner, “took [her] card, put it in the check folder, and handed it to the waitress” without a second thought. It is, however, worrying, and for men, as well. Look, I’m not the most affluent guy in the world or anything, but he invited her. When you say you’re going to take a girl out you take her out. It’s an integrity thing, and integrity is exactly the sort of thing us guys used to pride ourselves on.

That’s the problem with all this: deadbeat guys are preying on the fact that quality women aren’t actually spoiled for choice, and their gains are coming at the expense of the reputation of men in general – every free dinner they score further reinforces the idea that all that’s left in this wasteland of sexual imbalance are playboys and deadbeats. It turns women jaded and suspicious and makes it more difficult than ever for those mythical “real men” and “good guys” to break through when every action or inaction is seen through a lens of “well which sort of asshole is this guy?”

We cannot wait this out. The playboys will keep playing and the losers will always be losers, but the reputation of men – of those millions of decent men situated somewhere between the two extremes – needs to be defended. There needs to be a signifier: something which immediately distinguishes a man in the eyes of the women he dates as being above the losers but intolerant of the douchebags. We need to take back our reputations. I’m writing this because I believe I have the answer, and it comes from the greatest source of wisdom in our whole wide world: the Deep South.

See, there’s a proverb that says it don’t cost a nickel to be polite, and I figure it rings truer now than ever. Given how few people seem to be investing in human decency these days, the returns on it have been great. It’s easy as hell to get into, too. And (here’s the kicker) it’s historically attractive as practiced by the classic Southern Gentleman archetype; I mean, how else to explain the continued existence of Team Bill when it’s clear how much better Eric Northman is for Sookie, how the entire time Eric’s been consistent and genuine (not to mention a total babe) and never lied to Sookie about who he is – something Bill could never say, given his interest in Sookie was purely professional at first, and had he not all but forced her to consume his blood she may not have ever developed those feelings in the first place, feelings that, I’ll remind you, he manipulated at every opportunity while forwarding every aspect of their personal lives to the Queen, his double life stymied only by – big surprise, right? – Eric who was consistently willing to put his life on the line for Sookie and never gave up on her and

Hold up, what was I saying?

Oh, yeah: bring back the Southern Gentleman. He is free from the obnoxious faults women are all but forcing themselves to tolerate, leading his life instead by the sort of hypermasculine code which appeals to the part of every man that wishes he were just a little bit more like Ernest Hemingway. No longer linked to the egregious abuse of human rights, the post-Preston Brooks Southern Gentleman should be welcomed by every man, woman, and child in America. These folks are compassionate and kind, honest and engaging, entertaining, hardworking and possessing of an integrity given value by the quality of life they unapologetically pursue. And how do I know this?

First of all, I am Southern through and through. The first time I ever went west of the Mississippi was three months ago, and until last month had never bothered to venture into the godless lands above the Mason-Dixon. I am Sarasota to Savannah; Chattanooga to Charleston; blackjack in Biloxi and barbecue in Birmingham; when cut I bleed sweet tea and sausage grease, which makes me as authentic as I am unhealthy. Secondly, in my life I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with a number of modern day Southern Gentlemen – some living the life merely by heritage and habit, others doing so quite purposefully – and it’s interesting to note that the common denominator among them is that they are almost unanimously married. And seemingly happy. They handled the proposal, of course, but it seems like the women in their lives made sure to lock it down real quick.

So when I say we could all benefit from the resurgence of the Southern Gentleman, I do so having already observed its success in the field. Like Jane Goodall, I’ve spent years living alongside these noble creatures, and only now—compelled by these dire circumstances—am I prepared to present to you, the Thought Catalog reader, my findings, with the hope that men might defend their reputation and, God willing, continue the deception that women have any real need for us whatsoever, anymore. So, without further adieu:

The 2011 Guide to the Southern Gentleman

1. Have a Job – Right away, I’m dispelling the notion that this is all just one big personal ad for how great Jack Cazir is. I am horribly unemployed, yet it is absolutely essential that the Southern Gentleman have a job, or else be financially independent. It’s a matter of autonomy and consistency. The Southern Gentleman seeks total responsibility for his actions, and being broke would severely limit his choices so that he would often be forced to represent himself in a way that does not accurately represent his ideals. It also prevents him from keeping to the other tenets of the Southern Gentleman. He doesn’t have to be rich – far from it – but he should have enough to feed and clothe himself, to maintain and occasionally support his friends and family.

2. Have Manners – Southern Hospitality is not just for the South. It’s treating your guests like they own the place. It’s offering to bring food or drinks or plastic cups. It’s knowing which utensil to use, so that whoever has cooked for you does not feel as though they’ve wasted their time. It’s standing when propriety warrants and it’s pushing in chairs. It’s insisting to help with the dishes. It’s knowing when and how to write thank-you cards. It’s all those little things and minor inconveniences that show you care about the people you are with. It’s proficiency. It’s not embarrassing yourself.

You should be saying please and thank you, yes ma’am and no sir to everyone, always, enough that it loses the rust that is so painfully audible whenever someone thinks they can just whip the terms out for a holiday. I, like many in the South, call everyone sir and ma’am regardless of familiarity, occupation, or age. I call kids sir and ma’am and it brightens their day. It brightens everyone’s day. It shows respect in this wonderfully egalitarian way that reinforces the idea that nobody is innately better or worse than anyone else, and serves as a constant reminder to act as such.

3. Be the Escort – No, not that kind of escort. When that obnoxiously wasted acquaintance at the party starts to head for the door, it’s not enough to sit back and laugh with everyone else, letting whatever happens happen. Yes, this is inconvenient – what’s convenient is being an asshole. That’s not you. You are delivering Gatorade and chicken soup to someone who’s sick because they’re sick and that’s all the motive you need. You’re telling someone they have food on their face. You’re walking people home. Picking up the things they’ve dropped. You’re letting the blind guy grab your wrist (not the other way around) as you cross the street. You’re holding grocery bags. You’re lending reasonable amounts of money you never intend to get back, that you will initially and possibly finally refuse to take back. If the situation requires it, you will take a beating for your friends. Which reminds me…

More From Thought Catalog

  • Anonymous

    Very good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=799225004 Casey Hartley

    So true, thank you for calling out guys all over the country! I’m lucky enough to live in the South but it’s still hard to find a good Southern boy to date and eventually settle down with- sadly, the Slacker Epidemic is spreading to the last stronghold of gentleman-ness. 

  • Joy

    I’m from Atlanta and trust me when I say that despite having lived in the South (both in Georgia and Alabama) for the past decade and fully-believing that these southern gentleman-types exist, they are few and far between.  Extreeemely few and far between. Mid-Western men on the other hand…I’ve never met one that wasn’t extremely kind, gentlemanly, and (fairly) well-dressed without looking too stuffy.

    • Virginia

      I’m from South Georgia but have lived in Atlanta for 8 years.  I absolutely agree with you that it’s just as hard to find them even being in the South.  I’m in NYC for the weekend.  I haven’t spoken to any of these boys, but man, they know how to dress themselves!  I have to have a Southern boy, though.  Still looking for a good one!

  • Kmcgrath73

    This article is spot on. As a successful woman who has dated her share of both extremes, this sums up the perfect balance across the board.

  • okielo

    Feel free to date me.

  • Clare Ramon

    Amen. 

  • Purplepixie2000

    I feel oddly compelled to print this, run it down to the copy shop, settle for a run of 200–nay! 500!–copies and leave them all over the place in my city. I luckily have my awesome gentleman nailed down, but what about all of my wonderful lady friends? A drought, I tell you.

  • Anonymous

    tl;dr

    but seriously, i agree on every topic except the bible: knowledge-seeking and openess to the exchange of ideas works better for us hedonistic, secular-types up north. 

    by these standards, i would consider myself a northern gentleman. alas, no one looks for those. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508371039 Rayan Khayat

      Cause reading Hemingway and Faulkner is so much better than reading the Bible, Torah or Quraan. Books which have actually changed history and that billions believe in, what do they know? You’re better than that

      • Guy

        I don’t think the article mentioned anything about the Torah (doesn’t that come as like, a package deal with the first five books of the Bible) or the Quraan.  I think that was the main problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/blottzhkee Maibelle Calites

    You’re a Southern gentleman and I’m an oriental. Wow. Talk about us. Haha
    Team eric. Hurray! :D

  • JJ

    You write very well and I agree with some of your points. I don’t necessarily believe  that maners and being polite are virtues, and I have often found the sweetness in the South to be two-faced and passive aggressive, but I will say you sound like a delight and a gentleman. kudos.

  • guest

     When I read articles like “All the Single Ladies” I sometimes get depressed. But I can’t help but feel annoyed by this idea that we, as women, are asking to be treated as our person rather than our gender. Yet, in order to date a man demand that he still subscribe to traditional gender values. He must “be a man”. It doesn’t quite make sense to me. The last long term relationship I was in was with a Southern Gentleman. He would never let me pay for dinner, he held doors, etc. And I could not do it. I never felt like such a woman in my whole life and at the end of the day I realized I don’t need someone who will provide for me or make me “feel like a woman”, I need someone who is my best friend and loves me for the person I am. I don’t want to be a “woman” and I don’t want them to be a “man”, I want an equal, loving, friendship.

    Further, if there are more “playboys” because men are taking advantage of more single women maybe their just shallow. At some point if you can’t make deep relationships with people it has nothing to do with your available prospects, it has to do with your shallow values.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ubeda Joant Ubeda

      Can we be friends?

    • Virginia

      I think the downfall of feminism is created by those such as yourself.  To not want to be a woman, or treated as a woman, is to say that there is something wrong with being a woman and/or feminine.  When “feminists” refuse to wear skirts, shave their armpits, etc., in order to level the playing field by looking or appearing more like a man, it creates the notion that there is something shameful about being a woman.  I want to be treated like a woman because I am one and the world is a better place because of women.  I will curl my hair, wear dresses, and put on makeup because I am a woman and I am also smart, sophisticated, well educated, and financially independent.  Now, some women simply don’t like being “girly.”  That’s fine as a matter of preference, but it doesn’t mean that being feminine is at all weak or demeaning.   I don’t “need” a man to take care of me, but I would “like” for a man to take care of me.  I want a man and I will treat him like a  man because he deserves it.  Traditonal gender roles were not created, they happened naturally.  No one forces me to decorate my house and bake cookies.  I like doing these things.  No one forces a man to want to protect his loved ones and provide for them, and I believe the main purpose of this article is that it should happen naturally, and it no longer seems to be.  If the manner in which a man shows his love for me is by paying for my dinners and being protective of me, then I will definitely not deny him that and I will happily accept it.  I sure would hate it if the man I loved refused to accept the ways in which I showed him that I did.  I do agree with you whole heartedly that we need someone who is our best friend.  Physical attraction only takes us so far and there absolutely needs to be an emotional, spiritual, and intellectual connection.

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        THANK YOU.

      • Guy

        I have to disagree.  I can respect where you’re coming from emotionally and/or personally, but I think a few of your assumptions are a little off.

        1) The physical markers, like shaved armpits, skirts, and make-up are NOT intrinsically feminine.  Women naturally have hair on their bodies.  Thus, hair could potentially be associated with femininity.  I also have yet to meet a woman who is born wearing make-up.  Instead, there have been a number of social and psychological influences over the course of the past few millenia that have made those associated those things with femininity.  From my experience, many women who appear the way you are critiquing do so because they do not wish for their femininity to be defined by others, nor for it to be something wholly physical and superficial.  They are not trying to be masculine, but instead want to define themselves as women on their own terms.  If someone feels that their femininity is best expressed with make-up, and beautiful dresses, and baking, that is fine too.  The goal is to do exactly what you say, and make sure that NEITHER of those versions of “feminine” are weak and demeaning.

        Assuming that the author of the comment to which you responded looks as you described seems baseless, and reveals a little bit about how your placing values on certain psychologies and appearances.

        2)  I’m not sure how you’re differentiating “like” from “need.”  Sure, you don’t “need” a man to take care of you for your physical survival, but by seeming to limit yourself (maybe you don’t, but that’s how I read it) to men willing to provide for you, you still “need” a man who “likes” to take care of you.  It seems to boil down to not much of a difference.

        3)  You “want a man,” and you will “treat him like a man because he deserves it.”  What exactly makes one a man?  Is a penis enough?  If not, why?  If I don’t act a certain way, will you not treat me like a man?  Does he have to be self-sufficient, charming, and kind?  If so, does that mean that a woman with those qualities is less feminine and more “manly?”  That would seem to shed some light on your attitudes around femininity and girliness.

        4)Also, traditional gender roles were absolutely created.  I have yet to see any real proof that traditional gender roles have developed along a consistent, pan-cultural trajectory throughout recorded history.  I have seen lots of arguments about how gender roles are implicated in power dynamics throughout different societies.  They also function to reinforce racial stereotypes and heteronormativity, among others things.  They can be manipulated for economic gain.  This seems to be your most baseless assumption, and the one were many of the other inconsistencies stem from.

        5)  I would absolutely not want to restrict someone in the way they show their love for me.  But, to me, love is not possessive.  Often, and for a whole host of reasons, a man repeatedly showing his love through money is a stand in for possession, as are all sorts of other ways that guys reinforce good women being inherently through “protectiveness.”  If my girlfriend kept me locked in the apartment with her because she “loved me” so much that we couldn’t be apart, that would absolutely be something I would eventually have to restrict, because it is ultimately detrimental to everyone involved, even if it comes from a good place.

        Still, I feel that both you, the GUEST, and myself all agree that we want fulfilling relationships, and look for more than just a brute physical specimen.  We all want “best friends,” as I’m sure many other readers here do too.  Hopefully my comment makes a little clearer why what you wrote is likely not the best route for achieving that in a relationship.

      • Virginia

        Maybe and quite possible, GUEST just doesn’t want to be treated like a
        girly girl and the guy she was with only knows how to treat women as if
        they are girly.  So it makes sense that they broke up.  Just like you
        said, even if the intentions are good, it might just not be the way we
        want to be loved.  There was nothing wrong with the way he treated her, it just wasn’t right for her. My entire response was mainly based on her saying she didn’t want to be treated like a woman.  Perhaps I misunderstood, but I took that to mean that being a woman is something to be looked down upon. 

        My personal difference between “like” and “need” is that I am looking a man who is pretty much exactly like this article describes.  A man who is financially stable, self-sufficient, and respectful of himself and others.  When I say “take care of me,” I mean that if I’m sick, jobless, sad, under attack, etc., that he will stand by my side, support and defend me.  I’m know he would expect the same from me.  I don’t need him because if I never find him, I will be fine because I will still have my amazing job, friends, family, and life that I thoroughly enjoy.  But yes, this is the type of man I am looking for.    And no, I’m not going to treat someone poorly because they don’t act a certain way. 

        I can see where you’re coming from about gender roles being created.  However, there are certain things that are intrinsic.  Men and women are different.  That’s an obvious statement.  It’s a
        wonderful thing, really, and although we will never fully understand
        each other, I think it’s amazing when we can do our best to celebrate
        our differences and learn how each wants to be treated.  Think of how many times a woman has gotten her feelings hurt over something that seemed trivial, took something you said the wrong way, or assumed that you hated her new haircut because you didn’t compliment her on it.  These examples are a bit extreme, but they do happen.  We’re different.  As I’m sure you
        would agree, it’s still going to vary based on each individual. These gender roles would have never worked out if it wasn’t in our nature.  90% of the women I know, married or unmarried, enjoy dressing up, taking care of others, and maintaining their household.  There is nothing wrong with either liking or disliking these things.  It would be horrifying, as it was in the past, if women were forced to dress up ALL the time.  I LOVE dressing up, but I wear ratty sweatpants and probably look homeless when I’m running errands on the weekends because I don’t feel like making an effort all the time.  I love that I am given the opportunity to have a job I love, an opinion, and a college education. 

        Mainly, my argument, which perhaps wasn’t even warranted, is just that if a couple wants to adhere to traditional gender roles, there is nothing wrong with it.  The opposite remains to be true as well.

      • ariel

        I still wear skirts, shave, and dress how I want. You’re missing the bigger perspective I’m trying to portray here. I never said there is anything wrong with doing what you want no matter what gender expectation is adheres to.  I’m saying that instead of telling people how to act based on their gender we should look at them as individual people rather than saying what is good for all women is a “southern gentleman” and someone who is traditionally male. So please don’t put words in my mouth. And, no, I don’t believe that gender roles are completely natural. Socialization is a huge factor.

  • EP

    I don’t agree with the Bible one, but the rest is so true. Is it too much to ask men to behave this way?

  • Sara

    Um..can we date please?

  • Date By Numbers

    1) As a Carolina girl, that article haunts me.  
    2) As a Carolina girl, SOMEONE GET ME BACK TO THE SOUTH.
    3) Please arrange a mixer with you and your friends.  I am happy to provide pseudo-alpha females looking for a man who can shag, drink, and laugh.  

    • http://twitter.com/no_cazador hunter ray

      yes get back to the south with its latent racism and extreme poverty and poor educational systems!!!

      • Tyrone

        yes take another cock up ya arse hunter ya poof.

      • Virginia

        Hunter Ray is OBVIOUSLY kidding because no one could possibly be that ignorant about the South.

  • mur

    Funny… women in the comments saying “YES! Where are the guys like this??”  I’m sitting here checking off your list wondering “Man… where can I meet a woman who appreciates this?”

    • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

      ZING.

    • Guest

      It’s the old problem of women intellectually knowing what would be great vs. actually wanting it in practice.

  • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

    1. Please find a great prosthetics guy and become Neil Strauss and update The Game.
    2. Sad for my dating future
    3. tell yr frenz!

  • The Happy Husband

    That was a great article! It is hard out there for us good guys. Sometimes it seems like we are invisible/not valued by women. I can’t tell you how many times I would go out on a date with a girl and she would say “your a great guy BUT…(fill in the blank)”. That lie would hurt me the most. If I was such a great guy why did these women want nothing to do with me!? I KNEW I was a good guy who had a lot to offer (attractive, employed, etc) but was always being rejected. I couldn’t understand why none of the girls I ran into saw what I had to offer.

    Thankfully that all changed when I met my wife. She recognized and valued my character and who I was. Guys, the important thing to remember is that you need to keep at it! Someone will see you. Don’t descend into the gutter with your behavior, language or your lust (remember, generally speaking, the “hotter” the girl, the meaner/dumber/materialistic/egotistical the girl. The goal is to get a “pretty” girl, NOT  a “hot” girl. They will only hurt you. Plus, if you are looking for a partner in life, “hot” never ages well, and they’ve probably slept with like a thousand other dudes. What good guy would want that?!). Just remember that there are good girls out there for us good guys and keep at it!

    • Anonymous

      I absolutely disagree with the idea that “generally speaking, the ‘hotter’ the girl, the meaner/dumber/materialistic/egotistical the girl.”

      The ‘hottest’ person I think I’ve ever met is this absolutely gorgeous, six foot tall red-haired Colombian girl, and she also happens to be the kindest, most caring, most compassionate and talented person I’ve ever known. To say that beautiful people are all [whatever] is as meaningless as saying all ugly people are [whatever]. I try not to prejudge people like that. 

      Also, I have a problem with your implication that people who are more attractive must also be wildly promiscuous. Pretty people are still people; they have the same desire for love and companionship as anyone else.

      And, maybe this is just because my outlook is generally more sex-positive, but why would a ‘good’ guy not want an experienced woman? Unless you’re attaching an element of shame to sexual activity, what would her prior sexual partners have to do with *you* and *your* relationship? And isn’t there something a little romantic about someone who has explored other options only to decide – having seen the alternatives – that you really are the best guy for her? Isn’t *that* sort of sweet, too?

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and even more glad that you’ve found happiness in your life, but I believe the modern Southern Gentleman would be a bit less judgmental. 

       

      • Tyrone

        AWKWARD.

  • Alasdair

    Great article. I think you forgot to mention one point – you don’t have to be Southern!

    Personally, I can only say a few of these apply to me completely, but what I like about this list is that they’re all things that anyone can achieve if they work on them. Anyone can be polite, honest, able to cook, well-dressed, etc.; but it takes an effort to do so that most of us often don’t bother with. In many cases, a little effort can make all the difference.

    I don’t agree with the Bible part, but that’s probably the only part that applies exclusively to the South. The rest is true for any man anywhere.

  • Sophia

    I loved this article. One thing that did bother me was how the bold items weren’t parallel. Some were commands while some were statements. But a great article, nonetheless.

  • kay d

    i really liked this, jack. 

  • Anonymous

    JACK I LOVE THIS JACK I LOVE THIS JACK I LOVE THIS

  • http://karyninny.com/ karyn

    three cheers for jack.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508371039 Rayan Khayat

    this was great, good ideas

    but I don’t think that caring and protecting your loved should be described as ‘primal’ or ‘reptilian,’ it’s normal and natural and kind of a reason for living.

  • Bealtaine

     Actually I do think the bible thing is important not only as a mark of respect but as part of the bigger picture ” Take an interest in other people’s interests”.
    As well as that it’s always handy when some biblebasher is going on about how the bible says people shouldn’t be gay that you can then say well the bible also says  you shouldn’t wear more than one type of fabric at one time.
    It was a great article but it makes me sad that men(actually just people in general) wouldn’t be courteous,be able to cook or be loyal without a check list.

    • http://twitter.com/no_cazador hunter ray

      fuck da bible

      • Tyrone

        fuck da police.

      • HH

        ACAB. Wait, what were we talking about again?

    • It's Universal

      FYI it’s not just the Bible that forbids homosexuality, it is every established religion in the history in mankind by the way.

    • It's Universal

      FYI it’s not just the Bible that forbids homosexuality, it is every established religion in the history in mankind by the way.

      • rhi

        ….in Abrahamic religions, maybe.
        Dharmic religions, although often culturally conservative, do not explicitly forbid homosexuality. Just sayin.’

      • heehee

        aight homeboi, let’s take a lil looksy at your supreme god Zeus and ask him how he felt about homosexuality. Maybe you’re right about the Religions of the Book, but don’t be flauntin this nonsense about every established religion banning homosexuality. 

    • Guest

      lol @ the argument of “oh look, the bible has other stupid shit in in too that people don’t follow!” as a good retort to a bible basher.

  • Waicool

    Bravo Jack!!!

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