In a recent Slate article, the so-called Gentleman Scholar Troy Patterson deals with an e-mail from a reader who was scolded by a woman on the Washington DC Metro when he offered his seat to her. Her response: "No, I'm quite capable of standing."
Is chivalry dead? Does chivalry belong on the first date?
I, the male half of The Dating Gurus, often experienced the reverse situation. When I took the Metro every day, I became quite adept at reading all the nuances of car behavior and, with necessary urban aggression, was able to secure a seat almost 100% of the time. This seat meant 35 minutes of peace to read the Washington Post or a book. Do you think I would give it up for a woman? Especially since 51% of the people on the train were women? I even hardened myself against the pitiful looks from nonagenarians, pregnant women, and the disabled.
But that was no date, and they were strangers.
I believe that, whatever chivalry you impart in the rest of your life (except for on the subway) you should impart on the first date. There's a good reason for this. It's all about integrity and consistency. You do this (or not) based on the same theory that dictates that you don't:
- Put on a fake British accent to impress your date.
- Pad your bra.
- Imply that the current model Mercedes out front just might be yours...
...because it's something you cannot maintain over time. Should you put on this fake veneer of chivalry for the pre-date or first date, you will not remember to do it later on (the problem is compounded by the fact that chivalry itself in a type of veneer).
Disappointment ensues. Somehow, unaccountably, you "turned into" a different type of person than she initially met. Obviously, you didn't "turn into" anything. That's what you always were.
By the same token, if you are prone to acts of chivalry--if this is ingrained in you--you can't just stop doing it. You will encounter the occasional woman who bristles at anything resembling chivalry, and that's fine for her. It just means that you are different people.