Chivalry may be an idea of the past, but some basic remnants of a “Golden Age” might still be workable today. Most of the ideas of chivalry are for sure useless in a modern world, but how about this one: Honor?
What does it mean to be an honorable man? To be kind? To be trustworthy to others? The word “honor” probably got a bit miss-managed through history and conjures up visions of aristocrats holding pistol duels at dawn for some perceived slight to their “integrity.”
That’s not honorable behavior. Rather kind of stupid. Being honorable in a modern world is simply behaving well. Okay that all sounds very good, but what is “behaving well?”
Doing the right thing. A gentleman always knows how to be loyal and show compassion to others. The thing is a gentleman shouldn’t need to be told what the right thing is and what isn’t. He has a voice in his head, an inner wisdom. Perhaps it’s not something that just came to him, not even something he was born with. It may be personal secular intuition, or he may call it a divine God. It’s likely been cultivated over time and experience. It’s something inside himself that he has access to and acts upon on a daily basis to figure out the right thing to do in a given situation. Okay nobody’s perfect. You can mess up. That’s part of being human, and a mistake can help your inner wisdom develop further. Cultivate it. Listen to it. (Hopefully) it will lead you down the correct path.
A gentleman could be said to be mature, well-rounded. A Grown-up. That doesn’t necessarily equate to boring and serious. There’s a time for everything. You want to be behaving the right way at the right time. Firm and demanding may work well in the boardroom but it might be out of place in the bedroom. (Perhaps not. It doesn’t just depend on when, where but with whom). Equally, you don’t want to be kidding around at work and getting nothing done. Maturity is not a right demanded by age. You could be a pretty mature 18-year-old or a pretty immature 40-year-old. Maturity is knowing when it’s best to be immature.
It was once so simple for the gentleman. There was etiquette to describe the ideal way in which to behave in each social situation. You had your list. You followed it. But the norms of etiquette are gelatinous depending on the era and culture; they ebb and flow like the motions of the sea.
Today you could make a list, but the rules are no longer so “hard and fast”. What’s appropriate in the place and era of “Downton Abbey” may or may not be right today in your own circumstances. In general, we’d suggest just be sensitive to a lady’s modern independent sensibility, or cultural background, and if she looks uncomfortable with your actions, back off a little. For example, should you always insist on paying in a restaurant, or is going “Dutch” more acceptable today? Traditionally the gentleman paid. Try insisting on it in some situations and you might just get deemed to be an old fashioned (and possibly sexist) relic. Yet in other situations it may very well be expected — try to get out of paying and you’ll come across as cheap. Think you can’t win? Well, you can, and the answer is we’ll let you play that one by ear. Being a gentleman means making decisions for yourself, remember?
Still, many other aspects of etiquette and behavior are plain common sense. Open or hold the door for other people (men and women), and give up your seat when there are no more seats on the train — for in this order: an older lady, an older man, and a lady — just common obvious courtesy. You don’t even need to listen to your inner voice for this one.
Never mastered the right order of choosing utensils at a dinner party? It doesn’t matter — you can still dine in a civilized way. After all, it doesn’t take much training not to talk with your mouth full or chew with your mouth open. Manners aren’t something you should feel are forced or an act. Basic good manners should come naturally and will make others feel happy to be around you.
What else? Well, depending on your culture, enjoying a single (shaken, not stirred) martini with an olive is fine — getting plastered drunk is not. A gentleman is always in control of himself, body and mind. Slurring words, or falling down stairs I think everyone can agree isn’t gentlemanly behaviKnow there are times to turn off the mobile phone (dinner, for example). A gentleman doesn’t sit and reply to texts or emails while he has company. If you’re spending time with someone it’s a choice so learn to be in the moment with that person. Even business can usually wait till the next day (or till you’re alone at least). The trend internationally is actually encouraging this, with many corporates and public sector agencies banning the calling, texting or emailing of employees after work hours in order to prevent burn- out and to give people back their private lives. German car giant Volkswagen recently issued guidelines that employees aren’t to be penalized for switching off their mobile phones after work hours. The German’s have said “Nein” to being tied to a mobile phone and a gentleman should too.
TThere are modern considerations too. Today, it’s pretty common for potential employers to check out your social media profiles. Women and friends will too — often on a whim. How do you want people to see you? Have some partying pictures from college days on Facebook? It doesn’t matter if that was ten years in your past (okay, maybe that would be MySpace), that’s how people will see you today. Your image online follows you.
It doesn’t take much to log in and take a quick look around. Do all these pictures or comments really reflect who you are today, and should everyone have access to them? Download the fond memories of that party in Ibiza for your own personal album. Do some deleting. You don’t want to expunge all evidence of your personality and life, but your social media profiles should say something about who you are now.
While you’re at it, get yourself a grown- up e-mail address. Yourname@gmail.com, email@example.com is fine. That email you started when you were 17 — johnisgr8@gmail or dragonslayer55@yahoo probably isn’t.