He was late for the date by an hour. I heard an inner voice squeak (“It isn’t exactly a date, it’s just a dinner to which he agreed to accompany you.”)
Alright, but how rude to keep a lady waiting!
(Inner voice: “Big deal, maybe he is stuck at work. Why should he drop everything to be by your side?”)
Even as my inner and outer voice continued their banter, he arrived, looking rather dapper. I decided to stop sulking, and put on my sweet self along with a coat of fresh lipstick.
Dinner was good and conversation flowed easily. Soon it was time to leave. “How will you go home?” he asked. “Taxi,” I replied. “Great, I will walk you to one,” he smiled.
Drat! End of story. No generous offer to drop me home and later, no ‘have you reached safely’ WhatsApp, either. Even if he wasn’t interested, at least he could have been large-hearted enough to drop me, I voiced aloud to no one, nursing a slightly hurt ego.
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(Inner voice: Come on, he stays close to the restaurant. How silly to expect him to go out of his way! And stop being old-fashioned, you don’t need a man to chaperone you, you can find your way. Why should he trouble himself?”)
Valid point. Why should he indeed? And why expect, in this day and age of equality, only the man to implement moth-eaten rules of the dating guidebook chapter: ‘How to treat a lady’?
Why should a smart, independent woman want a man to do things for her that she can easily do herself? Like, taking a cab and going home alone (unless it’s Delhi!).
All fair questions. And one, perhaps unfair, answer: because it is chivalrous to do so.
Ah chivalry! The act of ‘men behaving courteously toward women – holding the door for them, offering them their jackets when it’s cold’ and so on. Originally a code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood.
Chivalry is an odd word. While most of my female friends insist men today would rather see you as ‘one among equals’, my male friends equate being chivalrous with subtle patriarchy. Others wonder why women cry foul when their expectations are NOT met when otherwise, they insist on not being treated differently from men. The expectation on a man to make special efforts to make her feel protected and cared for, undermines her own intelligence and independence, they say. “Would you rather have a guy who genuinely takes care of you and is there when you need him or would you have one who believes in show-off? Why should he open the door? Is he a valet? What if the guy who does that or pays the bill each time, turns out to be a jerk?”
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Well, what if he doesn’t? What if he believes in women’s rights AND doesn’t mind opening the car door? Chivalry and care needn’t be mutually exclusive, need they? Just because you carry her bag or hold her jacket or make reservations in an overcrowded restaurant, doesn’t make you a patriarchal prick. It just makes you very sweet.
Most of my knights haven’t felt any compulsive need to do anything too special. Often my date would seem like a guys’ night out instead of a guy taking a girl out. We would meet, chat, have fun, split the bill and then, I’d get home on my own. I have lost count of the times I have SMSed ‘Hey hope you reached safely, message me when you reach’ to the guy who suddenly remembers to ask ‘I have. And you?’
My gal pals say it’s also the ‘vibe’ one gives out. Men, by nature, like to protect their women but get confused if the woman gives the ‘hey dude, I can take care of myself’ message!
Twenty-first century knights do not read subliminal messages. For them, no means no, not maybe! So if you want to be picked up or dropped, just say it, don’t think it.
As one of my former crushes once said, “I wanted to take you out more often, but you never indicated you were interested or needed anything from me.” (Interested? Needed? I was playing hard-to-get but he obviously didn’t get it!)
So what is chivalry in these complex times then? I guess it’s just when men do beautiful things naturally and not overtly. For instance, when he flirts without being boorish, when he watches over her without even putting the proverbial protective arm around her, when he checks up on her if she’s unwell, and when he, without reason, surprises her. It certainly doesn’t mean women should take men for granted or look the other way when it comes to paying bills (always a problematic situation) or depend on him constantly for things she can easily do. Chivalry happens when something that you DON’T need is done for you. You are certainly not any less without it but a little richer with it.
So take it from me, gentlemen, sometimes being old-fashioned is lovely. The test of whether you are Shakti Kapoor in Rishi Kapoor’s clothing can wait for the next date or until the relationship is cemented. Until then, opening the car door is just very charming.