Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chivalry, Oh Chivalry, Wherefore Art Thou, Chivalry?

The dental school I attend is a part of the international college at my uni, so we have our fair share of students who hail from all over, be it the US, Finland, South Africa, England, Bangladesh, or Australia. Last week, as I was walking toward the front door of the IC (international college), this Italian guy walking behind me did something for me no stranger has ever done before.

He quickened his pace, reached around, pushed open the door, and held it open for me with a smile that had enough wattage in it to light up the entire length of Broadway.

I have to admit he made me stop in my tracks, because, wow -- and let's be honest here -- there aren't that many guys who actually make an effort to do that anymore.

(Of course, the whole stopping-in-my-tracks thing might've been because he had the whole tall, dark and handsome thing down to a tee, was at least six-four, and the owner of a killer pair of baby blues. But, um, that's beside the point.)

Now, whether or not he's a charming rogue or simply a boy whose mama taught him well is of course up to debate. But still, it made me wonder why guys never hold open doors for us ladies anymore.

Or, to be more specific, is it simply THAI guys who remain completely clueless toward the concept of old-fashioned chivalry, or is it that European guys really know how to turn on the charm factor? (And believe me, if you saw this guy, you will realize I am not joking when I say his charm factor was to the power of infinity. Really. Charm was oozing out of his every pore.)

Now don't get me wrong -- it's not like I expect guys to toss their velvet coats upon muddy waters so their lady fair can cross puddle upon puddle without so much as soiling their silk-lined petticoats, but whatever happened to chivalry? I'm not talking gallant knights in shining armor upon white stallions here, but simply good old-fashioned gentlemanly behavior. Did it get swept away with the tides of evolution, only to be forever lost to civilization?

I don't know about you, but I'd like to think some guys out there still have a bit of that gentleman in them. But still, as optimistic as I'd like to be, I have to ask you, when was the last time you saw a guy hold a chair for a woman or help her with her coat?

Well, with the exception of male waiters holding chairs for female diners, I've never seen that here in Thailand. And don't even ask me about the coat, because there's obviously no need for coats in the sweltering heat here in the Land of Smiles. But even if there were such a need, I don't think I'd be seeing much of that, either.

As for holding open doors? My brother does that for my mom, and sometimes for strangers, even. But then again, that's only because I've rammed it into his head at least a zillion and one times that holding open a door for a woman can go a long way (believe me, we girls don't forget that kind of stuff very easily). And, okay, in all fairness, a number of guys I know have held open doors for me in the past, but complete STRANGERS whom I've never even met before?

Well, until Mr. Debonair Italian last week?


Of course, like I said earlier, his being Italian and all might've had a little something to do with it. I mean, c'mon, it's no secret those Italian guys live to flirt. (Anyone remember that scene in Under the Tuscan Sun, when a small group of guys practically stalk Diane Lane through the streets of Rome?) When my cousin went to Italy, she said she got honked at on the streets by 3 out of every 5 cars that passed her. And while it was kind of fun at first, it got downright annoying a few dozen honks later. Now, I'm no expert in math, but 3 out of 5? Italian guys are definitely not shy.

Which brings me to the men's side of the argument. Some guys might argue that such chivalrous behavior will only make us ladies suspect them of an "ulterior motive." Ya know, basically, "jeez, he's just holding open them doors to get into my pants." And as if that weren't confusing enough already, you've also got another group of women who adamantly insist , "hey, buddy, if I can rack up the dough, I think I can manage a measly door on my own, thanks." (And rightfully so.)

"Well," the modern-day man cries in sheer frustration, "what the hell am I supposed to do? Open the door, or not open the door? Help her with her coat, or dump the damn thing in her arms? Pick her up at her place on my white stallion, or meet her at the new Japanese place downtown instead?"

(And guys, you have my sympathy; I do realize all this is enough to make a guy go completely insane.)

So what do you think? Ladies, do you think chivalry is dead, and do you think it's necessary in the 21st century? And do you like guys to show random acts of gentlemanness (I just so totally made up a word there), or can you open your doors on your own, thank you very much?

And guys, do you think women who demand such behavior are woefully stuck in the 19th century? Or, even worse, do you think we fickle, modern-day women are utterly confused, what with the way we firmly plant our independent-minded, Manolo stiletto heels in the 21st century, yet leave our romantic hearts aflutter in the 19th? Also, do you think chivalry is bogus, and that we women are perfectly capable of opening doors on our own? (Ditto our chairs and coats.)

It'd be interesting to hear what others think.

Oh, and as for Mr. Debonair Italian with the killer smile and pretty baby blues? We talked briefly and I found that he was indeed mighty charming and easy to talk to. Unfortunately, ladies, he was also the biggest, baddest flirt since Giacomo Casanova -- all roving eyes, easy smiles, and wandering hands. I don't care if you're Prince Andrea Casiraghi of Monaco, please do not be all touchy-feely with me if I do not know you and have never even laid eyes on you before. As charming as you may be, too much charm, I have learned, can also stink up a room pretty bad.

(Well, okay. I lied. Maybe I would care a little if you were Prince Andrea Casiraghi of Monaco.)

EDIT: Oh, wow. They actually have a whole series of articles on Gentlemen Etiquette over at Of course, some of those tips are just plain ridiculous -- "Do not curse"? Um, how is that physically possible? Someone enlighten me please, because I haven't the faintest idea. I mean, jeez, we girls want Mr. Darcy every now and then, not a freaking saint.


Currently Playing: Hey Ya! by Outkast and Starry-Eyed Surprise by Shifty and the incomparable Paul Oakenfold, because these here songs will make you want to bounce in your seat and get up and shake your booty, even if you can't dance for squat (not that *I* can't dance for squat per se; I'm just saying. That's all). Oh yeah, Starry-Eyed Surprise also holds lots of memories for me, because it was while SES was playing on the radio that I got into my first car accident. Famous Thai Singer Who Also Goes to My Uni rams his shiny new BMW into my crap car while turning into uni, and I, unapologetically late for an Embryology exam, walk away with his number (for the insurance guys, obviously) and a totally believable excuse for being late for finals. Starry-Eyed Surprise? Gosh, you bet.

Currently Reading: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Again. Because it is so strikingly clever and poignant, I just had to read Christopher's story once more.


At Thursday, October 20, 2005 6:58:00 AM, Blogger james said...

Nice post although I do not have all that much of an answer for you. What you described seems pretty common or so I would have thought.
Where I went to college I had this hammered into me as I was with a bunch of Irish and Italian Bostonians.

I actually enjoy doing things like that just to get a thank you or a warm smile. If you are dating someone, giving them your coat during a rainstorm etc. is the proper thing to do and it makes you happy knowing that your helping someone out. That being said it's important doing this for anyone, not just hot young women or else your just looking to pick someone up and not actually being a good person.
This is just being nice, even for other guys.

I'm surpised you do not see that more often or perhaps there may be a cultural thing going on there.

The running in front of you is a bit dodgy but then again he did get to talk to you and be friendly at the same time. If you think about it it's the perfect pick up line.

Also, as far as the chivalry thing goes, I don't mind having my chair pulled out for me or having a girl run out to the car to pick me up )

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 8:16:00 AM, Anonymous pan said...

james is right that the guy probably held the door open as the perfect pick-up line.

personally, i hold doors open for others more often than not. and i almost always look behind me to see if anyone is following behind and hold it open for them, even if i'm standing there waiting for a while. i don't think i've ever run ahead to open a door for someone unless i see their hands are full or if they have a child's stroller or are walking with a child. here in NY if you run to open a door for someone, the person would probably think they're being attacked. i also offer my jacket to any friend who seems in need.

anyway, to me it's courtesy, not chivalry. i do these things because i want to be nice, not because i want to impress girls.

PS lynn, it's always great to read your blog. and maybe the guy was just trying to make you stop to chat with him... but i can't blame him. smart guy. ;)

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 9:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! I sure do hope chivalry isn't dead because I surrre do enjoy it! But I agree, it seems like it's somewhat fading. I don't think we can completely blame it on the guys though, I think as women have tried to come up as almighty equals, the line between chivalry and fear of insulting ultra feminists being blurred could be the cause as well perhaps?

Your casanova sounds like he must have had quite the eye for you if he was willing to dash up and open the door! Then again I'm sure any man would just be dying to open the door for Khun Lynn Sud Suay+ ;)

P.S. You've left me at a cliffhanger on Mr.BMW SES!


At Thursday, October 20, 2005 9:57:00 AM, Anonymous him said...

you know what? in the UK I've often seen women berate men for simple politeness like this. even if he had an alterior motive, which he might have, it's still no reason to be a bitch (not you, not you - western women).

it's certainly something that really grated on me in the last few years in London.

i remember at uni, a guy i knew walked two girls home one night - with no intention of anything else (and he was butt ugly) and they took the piss badly, just because he was nice to them.

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 10:04:00 AM, Anonymous harrisben said...

I was going to ask if you're stalking the Italian guy now, but you answered my question at the end there.

Dashing ahead to hold open a door is nuts, it just ain't done. Holding open a door that you're at or passing through is nice though and I do it sometimes, although I'm careful not to do it too often since I don't want to give the impression that I'm trying to pick them up.

Further to something James said, I'm starting to think that Thai women are considered second class-citizens after hearing the way they are spoken of and watching how they are regarded and treated.

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 11:22:00 AM, Anonymous him said...

i just realised I never actually answered your question! Sorry!

Ok, I do think chivalry is dead (speaking in the west, here) and I think it was killed by the 90s-woman who felt it belittled her.

Dashing ahead is a little extreme, I agree with Ben, but plain and simple manners should still exist. It's the little things like holding the door, letting the woman go first etc etc.

But, I have to say again, generally, I find western women no longer appreciate this kind of thing so, along with many men who can do this just to be polite, i think "well, screw them".

And you do start to see it out here, it's a generation thing I think. If I hold the door for a young thai woman I can feel the cold air breeze past as she doesn't acknowledge my existence let alone manners. Older women, they'll smile and thank you.

sad but true.

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous him said...

Ok last comment!

If you like starry eyes suprise, check out "slide along side" by Shifty.

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 11:29:00 AM, Blogger naeglerian said...

I've practically never dashed ahead to open a door, unless perhaps it was someone who might be having difficulty with that act, e.g. hands full, elderly people struggling with walkers, etc. I do fairly routinely hold the door open for people behind me, and I am usually the last person in the elevator, and the last one out.

As others have said, though I don't doubt the possible romantic overtones, I view it more as being courteous than anything else. I probably am a little more likely to hold the door open for a girl, but I am an old fuddy-duddy.

Is such courtesy dying out? I don't think it will ever die out, as long as you continue to nag your brother. :) As for Thailand, much as I love the Land of Smiles, and though the people are generally friendly, I would agree with you that such acts are rare. I wonder if it is perceived not as courteous or chivalrous, but as subservient? People hold the door open more often on this side of the Pacific, but I still find it pretty rare, depending where you live.

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 5:09:00 PM, Blogger k.t.x said...

hi lynn,

i view it as some form of etiquette traditionally practised in one way or another instead an action for "valor". i do hold the door often for my female colleagues, it is pretty much a norm really. however, i would not rush to the front, open the door and hold it as i deemed that is totally out of context. i really do not see the need.

allow me to digress, in a more asian context, i hv seen numerous westerners (so far all), who does not demonstrate a sense of simple manners, eg. not distributing the bowl of rice to the ladies,or the elderly, starting the meal first.

so, it really depends...

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous Swita said...

Hahaha. I too would swoon if a hunky Italian ran up to the door and held it open for me-- it's a grand gesture, strictly aimed to please. It's an indication of effort being made. It's a touching gesture in this thankless world. God, then we run into the whole "women burned bras in the 70s and now why do they want men to open doors for them?" question. Well, i think I like men to hold open doors for me because--- because it shows thought. Plain and simple. It's damn refreshing in this day and age. And brownie points to those men who have the insight and intuition to do so!!

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 11:45:00 PM, Anonymous Poeh said...

ma ma mia, italians sure know how to romanticize or he was just trying to be really really nice. \

so far i know, the Dutch are social people and they will stand up if an (elderly) person needs a seat, or hold the door open. But they dont do flowers. too bad, we are the land of fresh Tulips and other pretty flowers like Gerbera daisies, but no.... Coupons and going to the Mac all the way. (haha just kidding, not all guys are like that).

a little bit chivalry might be nice. not too much though. a flower so now and then would be nice.

At Friday, October 21, 2005 1:35:00 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

James: I think you're spot on about the cultural aspect -- the only Thai guys who've ever held open doors for me and shown other random acts of courtesy are ones who were raised abroad or have studied at an international school their entire life. As for the Thai guys I knew in undergrad (born and bred here) -- while great guys all around -- they never did that for anyone, unless, of course, they were actively trying to pick you up. So, yeah, I definitely think culture/background plays a large part...

Oh, and I'll have you know I'd pull out a seat for you anyday! :) But seriously, that is an interesting thought -- why should guys be the only ones making an effort to be courteous?

Pan: Totally agree. It's definitely all about courtesy...a sense of selflessness and concern for those around you. It's always nice to see a guy opening doors for others without expecting a phone number (or something more) in return. I think it just tells a lot about a person's character, ya know? (And thank you for the kind words; you really know how to make a girl blush, huh?)

Pam: You bet Mr. Casanova had an interested eye -- he was eying up every last girl in the room!! When I walked out of my advisor's office about ten minutes later, I saw him chatting up a group of giggly, equally touchy-feely girls (like they really had to touch his arm just to emphasize how much they liked his shirt!!) who were aaaall over him. I felt so embarrassed for our sex. =X Oh, and as for Mr. BMW (this was almost 3-4 years ago): I checked out my car after my exam and saw that there was only this smidgen of a scratch on my bumper, so there was no need to get it fixed. Still, he felt pretty bad about making me run late for finals, so he insisted I let him treat me to lunch the next day. (Hee!)

Him: Wow, that sucks how Thai women give you the cold shoulder whenever you make an effort to show a little courtesy. Some might argue that it's because Thai girls can get a little defensive when approached by Western men (even though I know you're the farthest thing from the stereotypical Farang guy out here in the LOS for a good time), but I once held open the door for a Thai guy at Central (he was right behind me, so I thought it'd be silly to let the door slam in his face), and he didn't so much as glance at me, the jerk. So don't take it personally. I mean, it's not only the girls who are snubbing common courtesy.

Oh, and thanks for the Shifty recommendation! I'm listening to Slide Along Side right now and am loving it. Will definitely be buying his album (wasn't so sure before, because while I like Crazy Town's stuff, I wasn't sure if his solo CD would be as great).

Ben: Sadly, no stalking for me. Mr. Casanova is definitely very easy on the eyes, but just not my cuppa. I think dashing ahead to open a door for someone (who's obviously not in need of help) is nuts, too. That's why he caught me so off guard...I really wasn't expecting him to do that.

And I totally agree with the Thai-women-as-second-class-citizens bit. It's not as bad as in other Asian countries -- like Japan and Korea -- but it's definitely there. But gosh, I won't get started on that or I'll never shut up.

Kris: Hee, you bet I hammer that kind of stuff into my brother's head. Whoever snags him one day will be one lucky girl (though I may be biased, being his sister and all ;)). And ooh, yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. Maybe Thai guys DO look at it all as being subservient. Hmm, I never thought of it that way...

Keatix: You mention the elderly, which is another interesting thing...Asian guys in general have the utmost respect for their elders (which is awesome, really), and so they always put them first. Western culture on the other hand doesn't dictate filial piety as much as the Asian culture does, which is probably why Western guys can come across as rude in the presence of an older person. So again, it just might be another case of serious culture clash. Hmm, it's interesting to see how it plays both ways, huh?

Swita: I totally agree...I'm all for feminism and equal rights for the modern-day woman, but why bite off someone's head if they have the common courtesy to do you a little favor? (Not YOU, obviously, but bra-burning womYn.)

Poeh: Yeah, I would expect the Dutch to be all about flowers (seeing as how it's the tulip capital of the world ;)). This is interesting because here in Thailand, everyone goes mad crazy on Valentine's day. Just like most things, us Thais took a Western tradition and amplified it to the power of ten. But yeah, I agree, flowers are nice to receive every now and then. :)


Anyway, wow, thanks for chiming in, everyone -- I'm just really glad to see chivalry ISN'T dead. You guys seriously rock. There may be a few ungrateful @#$%&* out there, but please don't let them stop you from holding open those doors for us ladies. Like Swita says, super cosmic brownie points for all of you!!

At Tuesday, October 25, 2005 4:33:00 PM, Blogger dafty said...

strange guy...

At Wednesday, October 26, 2005 3:45:00 PM, Blogger Chaichakri said...

Isn't it strange when Malaysian guys like Thai girls for being good hearted and really very women-like...

It is not only Thai guys, but generally most Asian guys lack the best chivalry. Perhaps, they were brought-up in a strong Asian culture where fathers dominate the household.

I hope, I am different. At least, when I am with my former GF, I treat her really very nice!

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 11:52:00 AM, Blogger no-i said...

Hmm.. I guess for me, growing up in Thailand and all, the lack of such chivalry in men doesnt really count against them (as long as they're still respectful and still good-mannered and all that). But of course, it's a plus when they do show that kind of thing.

Having said that, if I'm going through doors, I do look behind me to see if anyone else is coming through or not. If there is, even if it's a guy, I would hold the door open and let him/her in as well. (More often than not though, a number of my non-asian guy friends won't let me hold the door for them no matter what. Even if I got to the door first or even if it might be easier for me to be the one openning the door, they'd hold the door even if they didn't open it... I guess it REALLY is a matter of different culture.)

I don't really see much of the rushing-ahead-to-get-to-the-door-first though. Unless, of course, it's someone holding tons of things or someone who seems older.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 9:35:00 PM, Anonymous swita said...

you know what, the whole business of holding-the-door is just awkward sometimes. A colleague of mine and myself take the same bus every morning, so either she ends up opening the door, or I do. But then what happens next? We're equals and both girls. So, either I open the door and go through it but then after I pass, I reach out and keep it open for her, or else she'll attempt to rush in right when I open the door so i wouldn't be holding the door for too long--- arugh!!! it gives me headaches. We should just have hi-tech doors that open themselves so this would never happen. But not revolving doors because GOSH i hate those.

At Friday, October 28, 2005 5:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the only thing that could even possibly allow me to risk getting door germs on my hands is the mere prospect of getting into some pants.

thanks, door! gateway to silk-lined petticoats, infinity and beyond!

(be sure you read that last sentence out loud for maximum effect)



there's the link
just click and don't think.
hollat at cha boy

At Friday, November 04, 2005 2:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chivalry is never dead.

Despite what the most self confident woman tells you, I believe no woman ever wakes up and says to herself - "I hope I don't get swept off my feet today."


At Tuesday, November 08, 2005 8:07:00 PM, Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

Very interesting....I think it's a cultural thing. You're right to say that the only Thais that'd do chivalry are the ones that are raised abroad or attend some kind of international school. While the normal born and bred in Thailand would just do such thing only to 'get in your pants', as you put it.

Personally, I think it's an ingrained cultural thing. In olden days Thailand, women were still ranked below men and there were slaves, so there was no need for a man to be chivalrious to a woman. Do you get what I mean?

I'd hold doors open for women and elderlies, offer them a seat on public transports, etc. I don't remember my parents ever explicitly teaching me those things, but I think I picked it up along the line somehow. However, after a lot of these chivalrious act went absolutely unnoticed (door held open to women who didn't even say 'thanks', not even looked you in the eyes to show any kind of gratification, being elbowed out of the way by elderlies who wanted to board the tram as the prima, etc.), I started to care less and less about being simply nice and charming to the opposite sex at all - not even that I've ever been sexually attracted to them. It just doesn't pay off most of the time.


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