You know what I hate? I mean, besides liver and onions? It’s when people call me “old-fashioned.” Granted, my choices in fashion and music don’t include men’s “rompers” or songs that need interpreting from one of my grandchildren. I believe “old-fashioned” holds the foundational character values that are passed from generation to generation, and has nothing to do with modern culture or trends.
Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about, outside of the obvious “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” etiquette. Let’s start with chivalry. As men, the burden is totally on us to not only practice it, but to excuse the unappreciative stares of those on the receiving end who don’t know what courteous treatment is anymore. There have been numerous times where I’ve held the door open for a lady who either gave me a suspicious look or ignored my effort, as if I were the doorman to their luxury penthouse.
Does that discourage my chivalrous attempts? Maybe a little, but it says much more about them than who I’m trying to be. Being married provides many opportunities to both succeed and fail in my gallantry. Fortunately for me, my wife views me just as God does by remembering that “I am but dust,” and doesn’t hold me to unnecessarily high standards. But from the day we started dating, I’ve always made it a point to open doors for my wife – any and all types of doors, regardless of weight, color, or forest creed. To me, this is one of hundreds of opportunities I’m given each day to be an old-fashioned, romantic, and classic gentleman on my journey to becoming the better man.
I remember a story I read that always hit home. It was about a man who learned a hard lesson about chivalry much too late. He wrote about how his wife would often ask him why he didn’t open the car door for her anymore like he did when they were dating. He would downplay it by saying, “Well, Honey, there’s a lot we don’t do anymore after years of marriage,” or “You always get there before I do,” or “My hands were full.” What he didn’t hear was a small request from the one he promised to love and cherish for the rest of his life, for a small token of chivalry to make her feel special – not to the world, but to him.
Well, time went on and every now and then she would drop a hint about how nice it would be if he opened her door at least once in a while. Eventually the hints and playful ribbing stopped. Flash forward years later, when his wife became seriously ill and eventually passed away. He goes on to describe the funeral service and the pain of losing the one you love, recalling the heartwarming moments of their life together. The one moment that was a painful reminder of regrets and missed opportunities occurred while they were exiting the church after the memorial service. He walked with the coffin behind the funeral director, who was maneuvering the casket to transport his wife for the burial service. Once they reached the back of the hearse, the director asked him if he could please open the door. At that moment, the thousands of missed opportunities for such a simple and selfless act pierced his heart and brought him to his knees.
Unfortunately, these days men hear more about how to replace the “keg” in their belly with a “six-pack,” or the best way to enlarge their triceps and flactoids (if there really is such a muscle), rather than learning how to become a man of simple virtues like honor and integrity, and being a gentleman. We, as men, are on our own personal journey to become better men until our last breath on earth, and what we do on this journey is totally up to us. I just have to remind myself that it isn’t about leaving the impression of being a gentleman for the benefit of others, but rather for a much larger purpose, which is for my own benefit in learning to be a better man.
Dennis Muñoz is a freelance writer, local author, and family man