Does Anyone Remember Chivalry?

I’m a modern anachronism.  I try to stay current on technology and cultural changes, and yet I still retain a great deal of the core values and beliefs of generations past.  As such, there are times that I get genuinely irritated at some of the things that I see.

Nothing gets my Irish up quite as quickly as the complete lack of chivalry in today’s young men.

As I was driving down the road during work this afternoon, I saw a microcosm of the state of courtship and families.  Walking down the shoulder of a very busy road were a young guy and his young girlfriend (you’ll notice that I didn’t say “young man”).  The girlfriend was pushing a stroller with a baby inside.  They were both wearing dirty, unkempt clothing.  They both had bad posture and ambled down the street in bovine-like lockstep.  As I drove by, the young guy turned to look at me with his acne-riddled face, sunken eyes and sullen, hollow expression.

None of that bothered me as much as where they were.  The girl and the stroller were six inches away from the shoulder line of the street – practically in the traffic lane.  Where was Captain Smooth?  About six feet into the grass.

Mom and baby could have been hit by my mirror if I hadn’t seen them and moved over into the oncoming lane (no oncoming traffic, don’t worry).  Wonder Dad made sure that he kept his own hide safe and sound.

Maybe I’m making much ado about nothing, but that really ticked me off.

In the house I grew up in, if anyone was going to be hit by an oncoming car, it would be the guy who took the hit to save the girl.  The whole point of chivalry is that men should treat women with dignity; let the man take the hardship, and let the woman be protected and safe.  Add a baby into the mix, and it becomes even more clear: The man takes the hit, and that’s all there is to it.

No one teaches young men to hold doors open for girls anymore.  Men don’t hold women’s coats for them anymore.  They don’t open car doors for women anymore.  Women walk on the “danger side” near traffic because the man is more frequently concerned with protecting himself.  Men don’t pick up the tab for dinner as a matter of habit.  No one holds an umbrella for a lady anymore.  All the things that were everyday, common occurrence in my parents’ house are now spoken of like displays at the Smithsonian.  I’m creeping up on 40 years old, and I still hold doors open for my wife and mother; not only because I want to, but because it was expected of me as a child.  Who teaches these things still?

They say that progress is good.  Most of the time, I’d agree.  But when “progress” means that chivalry becomes an antiquated notion, I think we’ve lost something as a culture.

I’ll have to revisit this topic.  There’s enough material here for an entire series.