Is Chivalry A Thing Of The Past?

The damsel in distress is trapped in the tower of the evil emperor’s castle. Her only hope for survival is the prince, her knight in shining armor, who will climb up the tower to rescue his princess and carry her off into the sunset.

And drum roll please, here he comes, gallivanting his way to the castle. He jumps over the moat, climbs the tower, lifts her up over his shoulder and props her onto the horse. He slays the dragon, and the happy couple are whisked away into the glimmering night sky.

Nowhere in this fairytale did the princess say, “I can get onto the horse myself, thank you very much,” nor did the knight say: “Hey baby, let’s go back to my place and have some fun.”

These days it seems that notions of chivalry, politeness and manners often get thrown into a basket of “stuffy old traditions.”

Much has been made of the decline of chivalry with the rise of feminism and the equal rights movements since the 1960s. Feminism declared chivalry as sexist and tried to eradicate it. Holding doors, offering to help carry heavy loads and paying for things were rejected as discouraging equality. With this change in the parameters of acceptable behavior, the societal norms shifted. As a result, people stopped even thinking about being chivalrous, even to other men or children.

Let’s contrast behaviors during similar incidents from before and after the ’60s.

In 1912, as the Titanic sunk, men allowed women and children to board lifeboats first, leading to a survival rate of 75 percent for women. Contrastingly, only 25 percent of the men survived. In 2012, 100 years later, the Costa Concordia sunk off of Italy, and men were reported as pushing, shoving and berating their fellow passengers, including women, to board lifeboats first.

I don’t blame men for thinking that women want to be treated like strong, independent people, because we are, but do women want men to be chivalrous? I believe we do, and here are some suggestions as to how to be that knight in shining armor.

— Hold the door for her.

— Walk her to the door after a date.

— Compliment her (in a sincere and not-creepy way).

— Take off your hat when you enter a room … ALWAYS!

— Remember special days.

— Walk on the outside of the sidewalk (nearer the street).

— Hold her hand.

— Offer her your jacket when she is cold.

— Bring her flowers just because you love her.

— Tell her you love her.

— Leave endearing little notes around for her to find.

— Care about her opinions and show respect.

— Stand up for her if she is being spoken to aggressively especially by another man.

Here’s my verdict: Chivalry isn’t dead, but it darn well could use some attention.

Let’s not look at these things in terms of “old fashioned” or “outdated,” but realize that making your partner feel good is something timeless. These little things don’t need to change just because we’re in the 21st century. Let’s face it there are some things that our grandparents just did better than us.

Judi Hendrickson of Wheeling is the co-author with Dr. Jeanne Finstein of “Walking Pleasant Valley.” She teaches etiquette and pre sents programs on Tea Time Traditions, the History and Etiquette of Tea and Wedding Traditions.