By James Mack Adams
I am often amazed at how an insignificant incident can trigger an idea for a column. Such an incident occurred one day during a visit to my local pharmacy.
As I approached the main entrance to the store, I noticed a young lady approaching behind me. As I always do, if I have presence of mind, I opened the door and stepped aside for her to enter. She seemed somewhat surprised by my move. Then she smiled and thanked me.
I later began to ponder about the young lady’s initial reaction. Why was she surprised? Has our culture changed to the point where acts of common courtesy and gentlemanly gestures are becoming the exception rather than the rule? I know all about gender equality, and I am all for that. I know that some may feel that a few time-honored courtesies are now antiquated. Forgive me if I still believe ladies deserve certain courtesies from us men. Perhaps it is a generational thing.
In an earlier column, I referenced one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Jeff Foxworthy. A favorite of his routines is, “You might be a redneck, if.” Again, with gratitude to Mr. Foxworthy, the following short discourse could be titled, “You might be a gentleman, if.”
If you open the door for a lady to enter or exit a building or room, you might be a gentleman. This courtesy originated during an era when ladies wore voluminous hooped dresses that reached the floor. It was very difficult for her to open a door while managing the dress and maintaining ladylike modesty. Heaven forbid she expose an ankle or calf.
When walking on the street with a lady, if you walk on the side next to the traffic, you might be a gentleman. In earlier days, many city streets were unpaved. The gentleman escorting the lady shielded her from being splashed with water or mud by passing traffic. Even on paved streets, splashing can be a problem.
If you give your seat to a lady or elderly person, you might be a gentleman. Gentlemen should never occupy available seats while ladies or elders are standing.
If you remove your hat when dining in a restaurant and if you seat your lady before you seat yourself, you might be a gentleman. I don’t think this one needs further comment. It is such a basic example of good manners.
If you stand when a lady enters or leaves the room or dining table, you might be a gentleman. Here again, this is demonstrating common courtesy and respect.
If you call for your date at her front door and if you escort her to her door at the end of the date, you might be a gentleman. Many dates take place after dark. You are ensuring your lady is safe.
If you hold the umbrella over a lady to keep her dry while walking together in the rain, you might be a gentleman. Many of us have heard the story of Sir Walter Raleigh laying his expensive cloak over a puddle so Queen Elizabeth would not get her feet wet. A noble gesture but said to be an untrue story.
If you help a lady with her coat or wrap, you might be a gentleman. In an earlier time, women wore boned corsets and other clothing that restricted their movements. It was only right that she be helped with her wrap.
Let us fast forward to today. If you leave your cell phone in your pocket while on a date, you might be a gentleman. Put the phone on silent mode and put it away. Don’t be constantly checking your email or Facebook. Focus all your attention on your lady. She will appreciate it.
Many of our present acts of courtesy date from Medieval knighthood and chivalry. Chivalry was a combination of qualities expected of a knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice and help for the weak. The code of knighthood also included gallantry toward ladies.
Chivalry is not dead in today’s society; it just needs to be resuscitated.