The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry
Okay, gentlemen: this one's for you. Let's say you've enrolled in a yoga class to broaden your horizons (i.e. meet women) and the cutie in the pink tank top three mats down has finally agreed to go out with you.
Don't laugh, it could happen. But now that you've booked a table for two at your favorite French bistro, it's time channel your inner knight-in-shining-armor and sweep her off her feet.
Now of course she's a modern woman. Chances are she's not interested in a man who's going to call all the shots. She has her own job, her own car and maybe even her own place but that doesn't mean you're off the hook. Admittedly, woman can be a bit confusing in this regard (I know; I just happen to be one). We're raised to be independent but some of us also enjoy playing the damsel in distress once in a while, even if we don't admit it, so mind your p's and q's and read on to learn how to endow your latest romantic entanglement with a touch of good old fashioned manners.
Open the DoorWe recommend that you start with some research, but don't worry: you won't have to go to the library for this particular assignment. Start with an episode of PBS's Downton Abbey or any Jane Austen film adaptation. Observe how the men walk. Observe what they say. Observe what they do. Chances are you'll catch them opening doors, holding out their dates' chairs, rising to their feet whenever a woman enters or leaves the room and so on.
Are we suggesting you dash to the nearest costume shop for a ruffled shirt and a pair of knee-length breeches? No. But we are suggesting you pay attention to your date's needs. If she's about to enter a room open the door for her. If you're giving her a ride home at the end of the night, open the car door too. She's perfectly capable of doing it herself (and yes, there's a significant double standard involved here) but when you do it for her, you're saying, "Yes, I know you have the upper body strength and hand eye coordination to do this on your own, but I'm a gentleman. And I respect you. So I'm going to save you the trouble."
Offer Your ArmIf the date is going well, you can try to slip your hand into your date's and hope she doesn't mind or - and this is what we recommend - you can go the manly route and offer her your arm instead. Holding hands is sweet, and even kind of cute when you're in high school, but it's not dashing. Offering your date your arm is a bold gesture and most women love bold gestures. Plus it's surprising. Most guys don't do that nowadays, so you'll be setting yourself apart from the rest. If you catch your date off guard, give her a quizzical smile that says, "What? You mean most men don't offer you their arms? Well, frankly you deserve better and luckily for you, I'm not most men."
Obviously you don't want to say any of this out loud. If you do, there's a good chance you'll get slapped in the face, or at the very least left standing alone in the middle of the street with your elbow extended and nobody to take hold of it, so don't say we didn't warn you.
The key to chivalry is being discreet. Think of it as making a charitable donation. Are you supposed to go around telling everyone what a good guy you are because you gave ten bucks to the animal shelter? No. You're supposed to do it inconspicuously because you're a nice guy and you like puppies. The same goes for being chivalrous.
Pick Up the TabWe've already laid the ground rules for splitting the check on a first date but if you've read them, you'll recall that splitting the check isn't actually your best option. If you've asked your date to dinner, then you ought to be prepared to pay for dinner. Don't make a big deal about it, just swipe the bill as soon as it's brought to the table. If your date offers to pay the tip you can politely thank her and decline or politely thank her and accept. In this day and age, there's no real consensus so do what feels right to you at the time.
While we're on the subject, be courteous to the wait staff. You don't need to get chummy with them but the way you treat your "staff" says a lot about you (go back to Downton Abbey if you don't believe us). Be generous if you're the one to leave the tip and don't get belligerent if there's something wrong with your order. Just request that the mistake be fixed, say "thank you," and get on with your meal.
Keep Your Hands to YourselfSeriously. Your mother told you this, your kindergarten teacher told this and quite possibly your high school sweetie told you this too if you got a bit fresh on Prom night. Well, we're here to tell you to listen to these women. They were right.
Your date might look great. Maybe you can't wait to get her home and out of her clothes, or at the very least into your car for a little first-date make out session but you need to cool your jets. Part of being a gentleman is knowing when to exercise restraint. And this is just your first date; you don't want to scare her off so start by "accidentally" touching her back or placing your hand on hers to emphasize a point. Gauge her reaction and adjust your game plan accordingly because as your mother also told you, good things come to those who wait.
Look Out for HerMost good relationships instill feelings of security and safety. Plant the seed now by keeping an eye on your date's comfort level with her surroundings. If she's cold and you can offer her your jacket, do it. If someone's just lit up in the non-smoking section, ask them kindly but firmly to put out their cigarette. Obviously you don't need to start a bar fight to prove your manhood but pay attention to the little things and if there's something wrong that's within your power to change, offer a solution. She may decline - this is the 21st century, after all - but she'll still take notice and you can bet she'll be bragging to her girlfriends about you over coffee the next day.
- Take an hour or two to check out some period dramas. Gone with the Wind has battle scenes plus plenty of good old fashioned chivalry. Watch and learn. You'll have Rhett Butler's game down to a science in no time.
- Be bold and offer your date your arm. If you've never done this before, start practicing with a female friend or relative (your mom will be tickled pink). This will give you the chance to get used to it in a low-pressure situation so aim to offer three women your arm this week.
- Chivalry isn't just about impressing your date. In fact, you can start right now by opening the door for a co-worker or giving your seat to an elderly passenger the next time you ride the bus. Start paying attention and commit to doing at least one nice thing for somebody else every day.