The Loss of the Perfect Gentleman

When I was a little girl, I was obsessed (like most) by the classic fairy tale relationship.  What’s not to love about the princess being saved by the chivalrous knight, riding off into the distance to enjoy their happily ever after?  As I moved into my teen years, I still couldn’t shake off this perfect vision of romance, indulging shamelessly in every rom-com under the sun, with a particular addiction to American 90's chick flicks.  For the sceptics out there, I’m sure you can pick holes in my idea of ‘true love’, telling me that these films are predictable and unrealistic.  On several occasions, friends of mine have even snatched the remote from my hand to stop me from watching The Notebook or A Walk to Remember for the fifth time.  However, in an age where romantic displays of affection are on the decline and chivalrous deeds are few and far between, maybe it’s no wonder that I sometimes take comfort in the romantic scenarios depicted through film. I find myself unable to confront the sorry truth that my ideal – the perfect gent – has seemingly been wiped from our society by a plague of hipsters donning bucket hats, off their tits on MDMA.  I’m not saying I expect my boyfriend to wear a three piece suit and wax lyrical about the poems of Robert Browning; I’m just hoping that he will do a little more than hold a door open for me.

Why is this old-fashioned- and some may argue, outdated- type of man lost from our society?  Perhaps it is due to the advent of online dating (see my last article for a full rant), porn, or the notorious lad culture which now dominates every university across the country.  It is also likely that the sexual liberation of women through access to the contraceptive pill has contributed as both genders now find themselves freely able to take a no-strings bed partner for the night.  Men have more options and no longer have to contract themselves to one woman for a bit of fun.  Whilst many, both men and women, will argue the pros of such a situation, I find myself crying out for something with more meaning.  Downing jaeger-bombs with a stranger and waking up next to Hagrid just isn’t my cup of tea.  What’s wrong with going on a date and getting to know each other beyond the bedroom?  As David Gandy puts it, being a gentleman isn’t about ‘what you wear, it’s about how you behave and who you are’.  If a man treats me as no more than a one night stand, he doesn’t deserve the title of gentleman.

Although I may seem to adopt a rather negative view of the men of today, I too question whether chivalrous deeds are outdated and their return may just signal a backwards step.  The contentious subject of who’s going to pay the bill at the end of one of those rare dates always troubles me.  I find myself firmly saying that we split even when the guy half-heartedly suggests he pays.  And my reason for the awkward insistence?  He is probably a student like me.  We are all struggling on the meagre loans given out by the government and just because he is a man, the responsibility shouldn’t fall with him.  I’d be lying if I didn’t have visions of being wined and dined post-uni by someone with a regular income, but until then I can’t expect my fellow student to foot the bill.  I also understand that because we’re not the wilting flowers the Victorians made us out to be, I don’t have an automatic claim to a seat on the bus and I can hold open a door for myself.  But this doesn’t change the simple fact that I will always respect my dad for positioning himself on the outside of the pavement when he was walking with a female.  He didn’t do this because he felt he had to, or because he believed a gust of wind would have me swept into a line of oncoming traffic.  He did it because he was a gentleman.  Instead of focusing upon the double standard and a sense of male obligation, it would be nice to think that men actually wanted to do these things for women.  You never know, if I really like you, next time I might be the one paying the bill.

Edited by India-Jayne Trainor