You may have heard that a truly enlightened person doesn't go around telling people they're truly enlightened. I've found the same to be true with men who describe themselves as old school gentlemen. I'm a modern, single woman who can change a tire, fix a leaky faucet, etc., but I do find it charming when a fella I'm dating opens doors for me, walks on the curbside, sends flowers.
I open doors for everyone: men, women, children, pets, robots....you get the idea. I just think it's a nice thing to do. Of course I don't send all of these people, animals and pieces of machinery flowers, but if the occasion were fitting I'd be happy to. The interesting thing is that every time a man has claimed to be a gentleman when we met, he turned out to be anything but. I'm using false names and have purposely selected names I find particularly unappealing, although most of the guys' real names were bad enough.
We'll start with "Bruce." I'd just moved to a new city and decided to give the dating sites a try. I selected one of the more hip ones. It was also free. I may have been new in town but this girl does NOT need to pay to get a date. I came across a profile that appealed to me. He was cute and said that his grandma had taught him how to treat a lady. Well, he certainly had all the bells and whistles. He paid for everything, opened doors (to buildings AND cars, even when I was getting out if I couldn't escape on my own quickly enough), stood up when I entered or exited a room and lit my cigarettes. He was really over the top. It didn't take long to realize that this was pretty much all there was to the guy. The breaking point for me was one morning after I'd spent the night. He was in the shower and I discovered some Playboy magazines, which didn't bother me at all. In fact, I hadn't seen one in several years so I was kind of excited to look at them. When he emerged from the bathroom I was flopped on my belly on his bed looking at a Playboy. I happened to be looking at fully clothed women on one of those pages where they print a bunch of pictures of famous (although I never know who the hell they are) people at fancy events. I was unsettled by how unnatural they looked. I made a comment about it and Bruce smacked my ass and said, "Don't be so bitter." That was the end of Bruce. I'll open my own damn doors.
A few years later I met "Chad" at a bar. He wasn't drinking much at all which I liked and we had a nice conversation during which he described himself as an old school gentleman. Apparently I hadn't learned my lesson with Bruce because I thought, GREAT! We made a date for him to come over for dinner, which he did, emptyhanded. You don't even have to be a gentleman to know that when someone is making dinner for you, you bring a bottle of wine or dessert or a weed you picked on your way over. SOMETHING. As our relationship progressed, which I am ashamed to admit it did, it became painfully obvious that he was even worse than Bruce. Chad didn't even have basic social skills. We would be at the gas station and he would always come out with a beverage for himself, never having asked me if I wanted anything. I don't care who I'm with; if I go into a gas station or store I'm going to ask them if they need anything. There could be a carjacker with a gun to my head telling me not to say a word and I'd find a way to write a note: Would you like a Snapple? In fact I think I'll keep a variety of 3x5 cards in my glove box just in case: Beverage? Chips? Candy bar? Slim Jim? Actually, I picture my captor to be a Combos kind of guy, but I digress. Eventually I told Chad that I thought it would be nice if he'd open my car door for me. His response: That just seems so stupid when you can do it yourself. I guess his definition of a gentleman is most people's definition of big fat jerk.
At the beginning of my last relationship, I was determined to do things right. It was a guy that I'd gone to high school with and we'd connected on Facebook. He still lived in our home town but I was about 90 minutes away. We talked on the phone a lot and although I don't think he used the term "old school gentleman," he said he was old-fashioned. I was interested in him but much more interested in behaving the way I wished I'd behaved with men all along. I decided that I was going to make the rules and if he had a problem with it, too bad for him. We made plans for him to come to me and I told him that he needed to book a hotel room. Under no circumstances was he staying at my place. I also told him that I didn't want either of us to consume any alcohol on this date. He had no problem with any of this and we had a lovely time. He dropped me off before midnight with a kiss on the cheek. He said he liked that I was old fashioned as well. I was just trying to avoid the familiar scenario of getting drunk and sleeping with someone I barely knew. I was setting boundaries. Apparently he thought I was protecting my virtue or some wacky Victorian age nonsense. I eventually moved in with him and discovered what he meant by "old-fashioned": Man goes to work, woman takes care of home and children (of which he has three).
I suppose the lesson here is that it takes a while to get to know someone. Everyone tries to be at their best at the beginning of a relationship. But if you hear those three words, run far and fast.
Top image: Gone With The Wind
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Vivienne Frances is a writer, singer and animal lover. She also has a relationship advice show on YouTube called "What's Up, Buttercup?". If you need advice, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.