Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ladies First

``You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.''  Miss Elizabeth Bennett, “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.
You tell him, Lizzy!    
I’m trying to raise my son to be a gentleman.  How do we define gentleman-like behavior these days?  Wikipedia says gentleman is a man who is chivalrous, courteous, or honorable.
That sounds good.  Of course, we would hope everyone would behave that way.  So, to narrow it down, let’s talk about teaching boys courteous manners.
Is gentlemen-like behavior a thing of the past with our changing culture? 
Lately Dirk and I have been watching the 1960s television show “The Saint.”  I noticed Simon Templar (cue the halo!) helping ladies with their chairs, holding doors open, jumping in front of them when there is danger. 
How does Simon Templar compare with modern day TV heroes?  Rick Castle always holds the door for Beckett, but Beckett has the gun, and protects Castle from danger.  Booth holds the door for Bones, but occasionally you’ll see her hold the door for him.  Bones usually tells Booth to let her be when he tries to protect her from danger.  You certainly wouldn’t have seen that on “The Saint.”
Different times, different roles; but I still appreciate it when a man defers to “ladies first.”
A few years ago, two boys caught the bus at Libby’s stop.  When the bus came, it never failed:  Those two boys would rush to get on the bus in front of her.
This bugged me, so when my younger kids’ bus came, my goal was to get Jacob to hold back and let Megan go first.  He was a bit resentful, but things got better when I told him he could exit our van first before getting on the bus.  I also suggested that he might offer Megan a hand out of the van, but that didn’t go over so well.
Having a sister seems to be a big influence on whether a boy grows into a gentleman.  This is not an easy task for the sister, let me tell you.  Don’t tell my sister-in-law, but she wasn’t the one who trained my brother to be a gentleman.  My sister and I did.  And let me tell you, it took a lot of bossing, tattle-telling, and hair pulling to accomplish it, but I think we did a good job.
My friend Adele, alas, has five sons and no daughters.  She worried that they would not know how to act around girls.  So, occasionally, Adele would sit all five down and make them watch “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”  Three of the boys are married now, so they must have picked up some good pointers.
Mr. Darcy:  “Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: ‘had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.’ Those were your words. You know not … how they have tortured me.”
Lizzy:  ``I was certainly very far from expecting them to make so strong an impression.”
Ladies, let’s raise those expectations. 
I think having four sisters helps keep Jacob in line.  Also, his best friend is a girl.  When Jacob is with Ella, he’s gentler than when he’s hanging out with the guys.  He’s more courteous, even to the point of playing with Polly Pockets for a FEW minutes before suggesting they go back to playing on the Wii.  (His Pollys are superheroes, but still.) 
We attend church with Ella’s family.  When it’s time for the children’s classes to begin, Jacob watches for Ella to stand up from her pew.  He jumps up, hurries to her side, puts his 9-year-old hand respectfully on her 8-year-old back, and walks her to class. 
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.