Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Few Gracious Women

The days of knights and fair maidens are long gone. For many young women the question, “Can I carry that for you?” sounds more like, “Prithee, fair maiden! Allow me to relieve thee of thy luggage.” To which they respond, “What century are you from?”
~Brett Harris, When Lancelot Comes Riding

The last strains of Carl Davis' famous theme fade away as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy ride off in their wedding carriage. Pride and Prejudice ends, and with it comes the blissful sigh of satisfaction. Happy ending! But the bliss doesn't last long, because after the sigh soon comes the question, "Why can't there be guys like Mr. Darcy today?"

I know I've asked myself this question--and I'm betting that you ladies have, too. For a diehard Janeite like myself, a real hero might look something like Colonel Brandon or Mr. Knightley--a true gentleman in every sense of the word. This is a great ideal, and gentlemanliness (hmm, that's not a word) is definitely a trait I want to see exemplified in my husband someday. Unfortunately, though we may admire men like Colonel Brandon, Mr. Knightley and Mr. Darcy, that admiration is often followed by--quote, unquote--despair. Where are all the gentleman of the Modern Era? Did they go out with cravats? Are they an extinct race, vanished from the face of the earth.

Well, no, they're not. But it's an indisputable point that true gentleman are rather scarce nowadays. Simple courtesies such as opening doors for ladies, not smoking indoors and removing hats are now considered as obsolete as Internet Explorer.

I myself am an old-fashioned girl.  I only started using Google Chrome last summer.  (And I still haven't switched to the new Blogger interface.  I know, I know... delaying the inevitable.)  I'm a history buff and love studying times gone by--now really, wouldn't it be pretty neat to be able to step back in time and attend a Regency ball or be in the crowd during Lincoln's Gettysburg address? I've often daydreamed about living in a world of hoopskirts and four-wheeled carriages, a world where people bowed and curtsied ... a world where good manners were taken very, very seriously, where gals were ladies and guys were gentlemen.

And though the desire to live in a bygone era may very well be "just me", the fact that true ladies and gentlemen are rather scarce nowadays is something that a lot of people are acknowledging.

In his four-part series on The Rebelution blog, "When Lancelot Comes Riding," Brett Harris writes,
"For decades gentlemanly behavior has experienced decline. Not only are men becoming less apt to offer service, but ladies are much more likely to refuse it."

You know, I have to wonder... does the Decline of Chivalry maybe, just maybe have something to do with the way we girls are treating gentlemanly behavior today?  Could our unladylike attitudes possibly be keeping guys from being gentlemen?  Might this just be, in some way, our fault?

The Marine Corps are famous for saying that they need a few good men. Well, I'd like to say that I think we need a few gracious women.  Our world needs women who are not afraid to be ladies, who are not unwilling to be mannerly and gracious, who don't worry about looking "helpless" or "wimpy" if they--gasp--let a guy open a door for them.

And really, why is it awkward for us to accept a little chivalry now and then?  I know I'm guilty of it-- if a guy opens a door for me or steps back to let me go first or offers to carry a box, my automatic response is, "Oh, no, I've got it."  Why?  Probably because I don't want him to think I can't do it myself.  I don't want to be considered helpless.

But if a guy offers to carry something for me, he's not saying that he thinks I'm helpless.  He's simply showing good manners.  It isn't that he thinks I can't do it myself-- it's that he's being polite! (Hey, did you read that article I linked to yet? No?  Go read it.  I'll wait.)  Okay, are you back again?  Great, now we can discuss it.  I think my favorite analogy in the whole Rebelution series is the one about the CD.  (I know some of you didn't go and read the article even though I asked you to, so I'll just repeat the analogy here.)  If a friend bought you a CD for your birthday, a CD she knew you'd been wanting, would you consider that an insult?  Would you think she was hinting that you're too poor to buy the CD yourself?  Of course not! You'd know that your friend got you the CD because she wanted to do something nice for you... something that you could have done yourself, but didn't have to because she did.

So let's stop getting offended over a CD.  Let's stop saying, "Oh, it's fine, I'll get it," if a guy offers to do something for us.  Because you know what?  If we keep refusing, they'll stop offering.  And then they'll think we're morons when we start whining about how there are no gentlemen around these days.  And since nobody wants to be called helpless, I think I can say with certainty that no one wants to be called a moron either.

Seriously, letting a guy do something for you does not automatically turn you into this.  Believe me.

Accepting chivalry isn't easy for us to do at times. But do you think it's always easy for guys, to act like a gentleman when they know there's a pretty good chance of getting snubbed?  Let's make it a little easier for them... by being ladies.  If we want to encourage our brothers in Christ, we have to act like the sisters in Christ that we're supposed to be.

Plus, it's embarrassing for everyone if you refuse when a guy steps back to let you go through a door.  Believe me, I speak from experience.  I remember one time when my family got together with some friends, and as we were moving from one room of the house to another, one of the boys stepped back to let me go through first.  Under the impression that I was being a good hostess (it happened at our house), I said, "Oh, no, you go ahead."  Embarrassed, he shook his head and insisted that I go first.  By this point, we were holding up everyone else and his mother had to say, "Now, now, ladies first, you two..." and at last I realized how ridiculous I was being and hastily zipped through the door.  I think we were both mortified for the rest of the evening.

Now all you lovely readers know just how much I'm willing to do for you--I'm actually telling you embarrassing stories about myself to get a point across.  Sigh.  Moving on.  (I haven't refused to go through a door first since then, by the way.  Lesson learned.)

Recently, I've been trying to encourage my brother in this respect by thanking him every time he opens a door for me.  He's seven, I'm seventeen.  He's half my height and often has to ask me to pick him up so he can reach things.  I don't need him to open doors for me-- but it doesn't hurt to let him.  In fact, if he gets into the habit of being a gentleman now, his future wife will be grateful someday. :D

(You can read a little more on this topic here.)

And you know what?  If we practice being ladies now... we'll be so much readier when Mr. Knightley does come riding.


Rhoswen Faerie Wrose said...

Brava! You've hit the nail right on the head! I've been thinking this for quite some time. Thank you for writing this post!

I only just got Chrome recently, too, and only because certain sites were starting to not work with my IE, and I haven't switched to the new Blogger interface, either. ;-)

Miss Melody Muffin said...

Spot on, Amy!!!! Excellent advice for the young women of today. I loved the 'If more females would sit down and be ladies, then more males would stand up and be gentlemen'!! So true!!

Lydia said...

amen sister!!!!!!!!! i think we should all accept men's chivalry...we need to be ladies! btw...loved the picture from cranford! hehehe...just perfect!

Aravir said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for standing in the gap and encouraging women to be ladies!

I miss the old times where gents actually being gentlemen. So often I see that we (ladies) are the ones who are keeping them from wanting to be polite. There are a few guys at my college who will open doors for the ladies and I am sure to thank them every time.

We ladies definitely need to step up to the plate and stop taking away the simple privileges of the gentlemen around us.

GreenMedallion said...

I still use Internet Explorer. ;) Teeheehee. Lovely post! I agree completely.

Kate said...

I can very much relate to your *awkward* scenario. I've done the same thing many times.
And it was very awkward.
I sigh over all those times I refused chivalry, not realizing how much it took for the guy to do what he just did! I was only making it worse for him by trying to be "polite".
Thank you for you beautiful post, I agree wholeheartedly!

Alexandra said...

Another Internet Explorer Person - hehhee!!!

Awesome post, m'dear. Very much needed. I wish more people would pay attention! :)

Glad to have ya back. You've been sorely missed indeedy. By the way, I need your opinion on my Les Miz comparisons on my blog. :-P

Autumn said...

"Our world needs women who are not afraid to be ladies, who are not unwilling to be mannerly and gracious, who don't worry about looking "helpless" or "wimpy" if they--gasp--let a guy open a door for them. " So true love everything you say in this post! I, with God's help resolve to be a 'gracious woman' or die having tried.
God Bless

Miss Dashwood said...

Rhoswen Faerie Wrose,
So glad you enjoyed the post-- and I'm also glad to know I'm not alone in my obsolete computer usage! :D

Miss Melody Muffin,
I know, isn't that a great quote? I just about squealed when I saw it!

Heehee, that's one of my favorite Cranford pics. :D

Bravo--exactly so! It's great to hear that I'm not the only one feeling this way. If we girls can commit to acting like ladies, perhaps we can be a good influence to the ungodly world around us!

Green Medallion,
Heehee... don't tell anyone, but I actually prefer Chrome now that I've switched. :P

Yay, I'm not alone! :D Ah well, awkward moments make the best testimonies later... :P
Thanks for commenting!

Aww, I sorely missed you! I've given my opinion on your Les Miz post--couldn't comment while I was away, but I was dying to. :D

Maria Elisabeth said...

Very true, Amy, and much needed to be said!

I've been thinking about chivalry/heroes/etc. for a while (I even have a post almost published) and this is a very good reminder.

By the way, even though I use the new blogger interface and love it, I (still!) have internet explorer. It's so nice and easy to use and I have a um, technilogically adept, brother who'd give me a list three pages long on why Internet Explorer is so great and advanced, and nearly centuries ahead of Chrome, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Heehee

An Old-Fashioned Girl said...

What a great post, Amy dear! You hit the nail on the head! By the way, love that Cranford pic! :)

Kate W said...

Amen! This is a good post. A good reminder!

I've recently been blogging about modesty & doing all for the glory of God. This post goes right along with my train of thought on all of that...

Also, I'm glad to see that you're a fellow Rebelutionary. I was blessed to help organize a Do Hard Things Conference we had in STL back in August 2010. Alex & Brett are very godly young men. So sad to see that they're no longer hosting DHT Conferences, but excited to see what God has in store for their ministry in the future!

Thanks for sharing! Be blessed!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunny Smith said...

I know you've probably gotten it before, but I awarded you the Liebster Blog award over at

Nice post, great point:)

Anonymous said...

I am constantly amazed at the awesome friends God has given me through blogging!! =) Amy, you encouraged me so much with this post. It is definitely a message that more young ladies need to hear. Yes, we moan and groan about the dire lack of true gentlemen, but are we true ladies? Food for thought! =) Thanks for writing this!
~ Puddle

Rose M. said...

Wonderful! Beautifully said!

~Rose M.

Miss Dashwood said...

Thanks for your comment! So glad there are so many of us who want to be gracious ladies! :D

Ooh, I'll look forward to reading that post. :) Heh, heh, heh. You must have a more recent IE than I do... I'm not sure which version it is, but according to my dad it's obsolete. :P

Me too-- it's a hilarious picture!

Kate W.,
Thanks so much for commenting! That is so neat that you were able to participate in a DHT conference-- I've never been to one, but I've read Do Hard Things and Start Here and enjoyed them both immensely.

Sunny Smith,
Thanks so much for awarding me!

Awww, same here! So glad you enjoyed the post-- and thanks so much for linking to me on your blog! :D

Rose M.,
Thank you!

Hayden said...

How did I JUST NOW see this post? Oh dear, I'm so dreadfully behind. But I loved this one, Amy. It's so true!

Once, I was reading the Sunday paper and came a cross the Dear Abby section which was talking about men holding open doors for ladies (I don't normally read Dear Abby, and those rare occasions when I do I never agree with her...)Apparently, a man had asked what to do when a woman makes a scene when he offered to hold open the door for her. Anyway, a whole bunch of people responded and one response wasn't exactly chivalrous, but it was hilarious.

Basically a man was walking with his wife when he saw a woman and opened the door for her. She blew up and told him she didn't need any man to hold the door open for her just because she was a woman. Very calmly, the man answered, "oh, I didn't hold open the door because you were a woman. I held it open because of your age." She didn't have a response for that :)

I think of that whenever I see a woman being disrespectful to man being gentlemanly towards her. After all the hullabaloo the feminists make about men mistreating women, it's really quite sad to see the way some women treat men- and instead of being seen as rude, it's commended as "independent"! ugh.

On a pleasanter note, I appreciated the Cranford pic :)

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!!! Let me echo Payton's comment and say that I'm so grateful for godly blogging friends!!

I know there are godly guys out there because I've met them. They've held the door open for me on numerous occasions, carried heavy things, and thanked me for doing little things like cleaning up after a get-together. However, there's also a great lack of chivalrious men simply because we've stopped being true ladies, like you said.

I'm not a girly-girl (I don't like shopping or getting my nails done or anything like that, and I love being in the outdoors and getting dirty and watching "guy movies"), but it's different when a guy opens a door for me or carries my luggage. I feel like a cherished young woman, and am heartily grateful for those young men. It's an awesome feeling, and I'm sorry that there aren't more young men like that.

Thank you for such a thought-provoking post! I loved it!


PS: A great book that I can't recommend enough is "It's (Not That) Complicated" by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. I have read MANY books on this subject, and I think this is the best - by far! It's more of a how-to book than the others. Other books are great because they give the gist (you're supposed to be a lady and dress modestly and treat guys like your brothers but not your brothers... muddled a little there!), but INTC actually goes into details of how to treat your brothers in the Lord. It's a really great book!!!

Little Lady said...

I totally agree with what you are saying about ladies needing to be ladies if we expect gentlemen to be gentlemen! So often we focus our criticisms on the gentlemen being "no Darcy" or "not comparable to Mr. Knightley", but the facts are, too often we are "no Elizabeth", nor are we comparable to an "Emma" or a "Margaret Hale"! Cute post! Keep up the good blogging, and come visit mine! I think you will like it! :)

Miss Elliot said...

Thank you, Miss Dashwood!! That's all I can say. You nailed it (as usual!). And no, I did not read the entire Harris article, but I have read several Harris books and I am so glad to find that you like their work!
We still use Internet Explorer! I didn't even know that Internet Explorer was obsolete. :-) (So it's not obsolete to me haha!)
I too sometimes struggle with the opening-the-door-thingy. I feel honored, of course, but sometimes I also feel selfish (even though *he* wouldn't think me selfish for accepting his polite action!).
Thank you again. I know I'm about two years late in reading this post, but better late than never.