Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Here Lies Chivalry…

Here Lies Chivalry…

Sometimes there are days I wake up and just know I was born in the wrong decade, wrong century, hell.. maybe even era. Sure, I would miss some of my modern day conveniences like TiVo and the Internet but all in all I can’t say I would miss some of the nuances that have developed among my generation’s ideals. Somewhere between women being drug around by their hair in caves and us burning our bras, the concept of chivalry disappeared. Women found as many doors slammed in their faces as they did opened. Flowers and other random acts of kindness became reserved for national holidays or when you were sleeping on the couch. And dates became more of a business transaction than anything else. Sure, the short-sighted people could blame one sex over the other, but really… both sides are to blame.

Much like the dinosaurs, no one really knows what happened to chivalry. It wasn’t like all of American society just woke up one day and said.. I think I will become an @$$hole. No, instead I think it was more just a victim of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Nature selected the best adapted individual traits to survive in this cruel world we live in and chivalry as we knew it faded into obscurity. Men didn’t open doors anymore. Women treated men like they were somehow responsible for those five days a month they acted like a hormonal bitch. No one said please. No one said thank you. And in the end… we all forgot how to treat one another as human beings.

In a society where women have fought to be treated as equals, one would argue that we in fact are responsible for the death chivalry. We burned bras. We fought to vote. We fought to choose. There was a whole era in the mid nineties about it… I believe the Spice Girls called it “Girl Power.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with this notion that women don’t need a man to be a complete person. I mean, just ask the girls of Sex in the City. Sure I can go “Dutch,” play by the three day “no calling” rule, and walk on the side of the walkway closest to the street. I don’t need to be placed on a pedestal or treat the person I am with like they are indebted to me for my presence in their life. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t expect the people in my life to possess certain values, and above all respect me as an equal.

Being knighted in today’s society simply means you are either Hannibal Lecter or one of the greatest selling music artists who taught the world piercing only one ear meant more than just lack of follow through. The days of men walking around in suits of armor defending fair damsels and cities from fire breathing dragons, fuzzy vampire bunnies, and such… well, they only remain in Monty Python reruns. The only “armor” you can find on today’s market is made of mostly spandex, and I dunno about you… but I don’t picture my prince charming rolling up to save my ass in some tights. So while noble fashion may have fallen in recent years, I don’t see why chivalry should disappear with it.

What most people fail to realize is that chivalry really wasn’t about playing the hero; so much as it was about upholding a moral code of honor and ethics. It really had little to do with patronizing women. In fact, true chivalry was never even gender specific. It was simply about abiding by the rules of the code.

While we could go on and on about the different aspects of chivalry, the gist of the whole thing goes as follows.

*Do whatever it is you do, to the best of your ability. No half-assing here buddy! Take pride in it.
*Be honest. Don’t lie or cheat, or assist others in doing so. They created the Moment of Truth for people like this!!!!.. While you can blame the dog for eating your homework, you certainly can’t blame it for your lapse in judgment.
*Uphold things that are right and just. Be ethical.
*Help those in need and protect individuals who can not protect themselves. Be charitable, be sympathetic, but most of all… defend their honor and rights from oppression. Do you get pissed off and defensive when people mock the fact your favorite team is below .500???.. Yeah??... Well, why protect 30 capable athletes and not someone who really could use your defense???..
*And finally, fulfill all obligations. If you give someone your word, follow through at all costs. I’d rather watch a film from the silent film era than date a guy who was all talk, no action.

No where in the list does it mention holding doors, or picking up tabs, or doing things out of necessity. It simply asks you to make the choice to do the right things in life. Do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. Not because there is some ulterior motive involved. I once read a short story by Neil Gaiman entitled "Chivalry,” in which a widow finds the Holy Grail at a second hand store and proceeds to guard it the way the code intended for it to be. The female grail-keeper puts a knight seeking the Grail through a series of tests of virtue which have nothing to do with the strength of his sword-arm or with impressing beddable women. It was simply a matter or whether he would do the right thing when called upon. Gaiman not only demonstrates how the concept of “value” has been lost in today’s society (with the Grail’s discovery at a junk sale), but he also shows that true chivalry knows no gender.

You can apply the concepts of chivalry to your career, your friendships, but more importantly… to your relationship. When I think of all the failed relationships I have witnessed in my twentysomeodd years on this planet, they all lacked a certain characteristic: respect. They simply did not value their partner for who they were as a person. They would control them, belittle them, question their opinions… make them feel like they were simply inadequate. There is no compassion for one another, no loyalty, and trust. Eventually, they find themselves fighting against each other instead of on the same team, at which point the relationship is dead in the water. Each side points fingers. He says she is a feminist bitch. She accuses him of not stepping up to the plate and using his masculine powers for evil. She is an egotistical princess. And I now dub thee.. Prince selfish.

I’ve always believed you treat the people in your life the way you want to be treated: with respect, dignity, and honor. Family aside, the rest of the characters in your circle are don’t have to be a part of your life. They choose to be. Particularly if they are crazy enough to actually want to date you. You don’t have to kiss their ass, or worship them… but do make them feel like they are a wanted presence in your life, especially if all they do is make your life easier. Don’t reserve “pleases” and “thank yous” for professional settings and your elders. Just because someone is your peer doesn’t make them any less deserving of your respect and acknowledgment. Disrespecting others only leaves you sitting at the round table by yourself there, Arthur.

I’d never expect the man I am with to become my bitch. In fact, I’d be insulted if he didn’t assert himself against people who put him down and belittle him. After all, if you can’t defend yourself.. how and the hell do I know you will ever stand up for me if called upon?..

It all comes down to a basic code. One of courtesy. One of respect. One of honor. I won’t start quoting lines from Karate Kid soundtracks or anything, but it’s comforting to know the person you are with will always have your back. You wouldn’t sit back and watch your buddy get his ass kicked in a bar fight would you???... (Well.. maybe if you thought he secretly was long overdue for an attitude adjustment.) Then why treat your significant other any different???...

Relationships aren’t all happily ever-afters and horseback rides into the sunset. Even the best ones can take some work. But as long as you learn to respect yourself and the person you are with… it’s never too late to rewrite your story. So why are you still sitting around in a glass box you moron??..

Besides, any girl that waits for a knight should always remember…

They’ll have to clean up after his horse.


Shane said...

This was a really fantastic post! It was well thought out and you communicated your perspective very well. I agree with you. Common courtesy shouldn't be lost in the movement to create more equality between men and women. Chivalry goes both ways!

This is my first time on your blog, and I'll be looking forward to your future posts!

Files from The Crief Case said...

Jenn, a very though provoking and well written post. I appreciates your thoughts on the matter. The boundary lines of decency have been virtually erased, much less blurred. Thanks for trying to reintroduce them. Stay classy.

Anonymous said...

Well you were born in the 80s so young women of that decade pretty much threw the concept of chivalry out the window...and I might sound somewhat biased towards my gender, but in general men's intentions were always since the inception of time to sleep with the most women possible, while the biological intention of women was to choose the best mates to sleep with, and to be hyper selective because pregnancy and caring for one's young is an extrodinary task for humans. So actually women (not all but most) are almost soley responsible for the death of chivalry because they no longer required the same expectation of men, their social programming (partly due to motley crue and the musical revolution of the age) had overriden their biological reproductive programming, causing them ot be seen as easy, and giving men in general a free pass to abandon the effort required to be masculine.