BEL AIR—I was but a little girl when I spotted my brother sporting his Sigma Nu hoodie emblazoned with the words “Chivalry is not dead.” Curious, I asked what chivalry meant, sparking a lengthy family conversation.
I relished the notions of respect, honor and valor, especially when demonstrated by these charming, older frat boys. I couldn’t articulate the essence of chivalry, but I was certain I wanted it to live forever.
Per google, chivalry is embodied by the ideal knight; a man who is courageous, honorable, courteous, just, and willing to help the weak.
Growing up in the 90077, I felt uncomfortable with the stuffiness of the neighborhood mothers; the type that would attend yoga an hour a day, her therapist an hour a week, her esthetician 2 hours a week, and her plastic surgeon more often than she’s willing to admit. Their Barbie doll appearance, typically painted with an aggressive frown, would only crack a smile for someone with at least a few million in the bank.
They were fake and plastic in a way I never wanted to be.
As a rebellious teen, I ventured outside of my zip code, going as far south as Pico Boulevard to hang with the cute boys of limited means.
Something about the culture in poor neighborhoods excited me. Something about poverty made me think a guy was a REAL man. Tough enough to jump a fence or fix his car, this man never feared dirtying his Ralph Lauren’s. In fact, he neither knew nor cared who Ralph Lauren was.
For me, this made them richer than any boy in my neighborhood. Boys I was raised with didn’t know how to change a flat tire, they simply knew how to pick up their cell and phone for help.
There was a sense of realness in the typical “poor” boy’s house. It was exciting.
In these houses, people chewed with their mouths open, often talking through a loaded bite of food. Some would curse, even in front of the parents.
Though I never indulged in these behaviors, the culture of these houses always captured my interest. It was a casual environment where you wouldn’t be scolded for beckoning another person two rooms away. In my house, you didn’t shout for people. You walked up to them and politely addressed them.
In these houses it was common to hear screams of, “Mom! I want food!”, the response typically being “Get your ass down here and get it yourself!”.
I found their way of life unusual and painful at times. But this was their domain, so I accepted it.
Dating was a different story. If I were on a date with a guy that didn’t demonstrate the basics of chivalry and table manners, there was no second date.
If we’d go to a restaurant and the man ordered first, I immediately knew he had no class. If he didn’t open the car door for me, there was no “us.”
Still, I had a special thing for the “poor” boys. I couldn’t help it. I fell for it so easily. However, this attraction presented many awkward moments when I brought these boys up the hill to meet my friends and family.
When invited to dinner, they would typically misuse their silverware or make tacky jokes about our way of life. Some would offend friends of the family, not knowing we lived in a community of public figures.
I felt I had to secretly school the boys I dated before meeting my parents. But I didn’t want to change the boys I liked. It dulled the edge that made them so attractive, hence the problem.
I had the spiel down so well that I could recite it in the 1.8 mile drive up the hill. I was more nervous about them fitting in than whether or not the boy liked my parents. In fact, I didn’t care if he liked them. I only desired my parents’ approval.
Some did better than others, but my parents rarely liked any guy I brought home.
Through my current dating experiences, I’ve learned that chivalry can’t be faked. It can’t be developed later in life. It’s developed through a lifetime of genuine effort. It’s either there, or it’s not.
You show a person that you care through social confidence. You dress appropriately for functions, demonstrating they are important to you. By putting yourself together, you are respecting others and making a positive impression on them. You are literally gracing them with their presence. If you are raised in a house where your parents or role models don’t demonstrate this type of character, it is doubtful you will develop it later in life.
As a child, you learn it is unacceptable to attend high tea in flip flops and a t-shirt. As a teen, you learn one doesn’t show up for cotillion without a date that knows how to speak politely and open the doors. As an adult, a gentleman always opens the door in the absence of a paid doorman. It is common courtesy, the expectation of a person with class.
When a man opens the door for someone, it immediately elevates him in my eyes. My father and brother always held the door open for ladies, often extending the courtesy to their male counterparts as a show of respect. I open the door for other ladies if a gentleman is not present.
There is nothing worse than having a guy rush through the door first, allowing it to abruptly close on the lady behind him. If I see a guy on a date get into the car first and unlock it from the inside, I know he’s classless. I know he lacks the morals and ethics of a gentleman.
As an adult, I’m still attracted to men that were raised in poverty yet possess the desire to be something grander. However, if that man didn’t learn the basics of chivalry, he won’t be a part of my future.
Chivalry is still alive up the hill and in neighborhoods of higher socio-economic status. Its a way of life. Perhaps its worth being surrounded by a certain level of “fake” to feel respected.