Why Chivalry SHOULD Be Dead

“Why don’t you ever open the door for me,” and “why don’t you ever buy my dinner” were two questions my ex-boyfriend heard often in our year-long relationship. I, like many others, wanted the wine-and-dine, flowers at my doorstep, pull out my chair at dinner kind of love... or so I thought. From the moment I started dating at the young age of fifteen, I was told that if he didn’t come to the door when he picked me up on a first date, that I should “ditch” him, and if I had to open my own car door—he wasn’t the one.

Though, at the time, it seemed like harmless advice to keep in my back pocket, this advice, on the contrary, lead to a world of unrealistic expectations. I grew into an eighteen year old high school senior who expected seventeen-year-old boys to pay for extravagant dinner dates, and leave me heartfelt love notes—things far beyond their emotional maturity level. Though at times, these boys actually did jump through my hoops. I got the giant stuffed teddy bears, never had to open my own door at a restaurant, and received the love notes I always wanted (and was told I deserved).

It was only until I fell in love for the first time, however, that I learned how little chivalry really did mean in the grand scheme of things. This man, the man I loved, was not the “chivalrous” type I had hoped for. On our dinner dates, the check was split two ways, and he thought a bouquet of red roses was a, “waste of money.” But shockingly enough, I loved him anyway, even though the voices of relatives, friends, and co-workers shouted “you deserve better.”

And it was when I threw the line, “I deserve better” at him, that he threw a wake-up call back at me. I remember him asking me why I needed the fancy dates and my car door opened, when I had someone that treated me like an equal, valued my opinion, and helped me achieved my goals. It was then that I realized flowers and free dinners paled in comparison to having someone that valued me for me, and not someone simply to be wined-and-dined. I had clung to chivalry, not because I needed it, because everyone else told me that I did. Opened doors meant he loved me. Candlelight dinners meant he valued me, or at least that I was the delusion I was under.

To be quite brutal, this need for chivalry of mine was not only idiotic, but also extremely harmful to the men around me. This culture of wanting boys to be “gentlemen,” had unknowingly put the past, present, and future boyfriends of mine under severe economic and social pressures. And not only that, but I found that chivalry had a funny way of putting every man into one very restrictive box. If they weren’t the door-opening type, they weren’t the type worth-while.

And while I understand that women are under endless pressures to "be this" and "don’t be that", when seeking out a potential partner, how can we tell men that their expectations are unfair when we impose on them our own list of do’s and don’ts? And after all, if we are the self-respecting, strong, independent women we claim to be, why aren’t we setting standards higher? Since when did a fifteen-dollar bouquet of carnations equal love and respect? Why aren’t we expecting the men in our lives to do more than pay for our dinner? Why instead aren’t we glamourizing men that empower us, that value our skills, that celebrate our successes, rather than just worshipping the men who simply open a car door for us?

The men we love are more than car-door openers, they are complex people who should not be evaluated on outdated criteria from the dating lives of our grandparents. And now that I have let go of my juvenile expectations of chivalry and love, my attention can be set on seeking out more important qualities in a boyfriend, ones that will more accurately determine our compatibility. While I understand that opening the door for someone, or buying the occasional dinner, is a kind gesture, one that does show a certain level of respect and decency, it simply should not be the criteria we are resting our future spouses on.