I raced him across the campus in my high heels and suit. My teaching colleague was determined to open the door for me. I didn’t need a man’s help. “My mother taught me to open the door for a lady,” he said as my nose met the extra-heavy door.
Some women stop and take notice.
Some women think discussions about chivalry are silly.
Others claim it is an insult to their strength, personhood, and equality.
I’ve softened a bit over the years. I no longer race in high heels (too dangerous.)
I now recognize and appreciate simple and grand gestures of male chivalry, attitudes of respect, and masculine kindness:
Men at the post office and the recreation center who hold open the door – and not because they view me as incapable.
Male classmates from years past who pick up the lunch tab when they’re in town. “I’ve got it,” they say – even when I argue.
The auto service repairmen who do not laugh when I want to show them an issue – but can’t feel where the release lever is beneath the hood. “If you don’t do this every day, it’s easy to forget,” they say matter-of-factly.
The men at the gas station at a crossroad of “Nowhere,” Oklahoma who pulled out a map, assured me I was only slightly off-course, and directed me onward to my destination. “Have a great trip!” They waved.
Men who remove their cap in church – no matter if it’s a casual Friday night, “come as you are” venue.
Men who remove their cap when the National Anthem is sung.
Men who invest time and affection in their grandchildren.
Men who enjoy baking cookies.
Men at the Gun & Ammo store who never laugh when I bring in a shotgun for them to examine, or I ask questions about a handgun with an easier trigger-pull or slide.
The neighbor, who after inviting a group of us to his house for dinner, walked me home – across a small park. I’ve driven cross-country by myself and climbed two mountains over 14,000 feet. I wasn’t helpfulness, but his mother taught him that’s what men are suppose to do.
Men who honor their mothers by practical helps, fix-its, lunch-out, flowers, or a phone call. “I miss you Mom,” touches a mother’s heart.
The neighbor man who tosses my newspaper onto my porch when he walks his dog.
Men who lift my carry-on into the overhead airplane bin. Texas men are particularly good at this.
Men who extend a hand when I’m balancing on rocks to cross a stream on a canyon hike.
My Alaska bush pilot doctor father who saw life as an adventure – and beget my curiosity.
My brother who lets me tag behind him on Alaska mountain hikes, knowing he can reach the summit three times faster without me.
My son who fully engages in parenting his two preschool boys.
Mothers who taught these values to their sons,
fathers who modeled them,
grandparents who insisted on them,
and other significant people who made an impact.
Thank you….men, fathers, brothers, friends, and neighbors. You’ve put a smile on my face – and I trust you’re doing so for other women in your life or who cross your path.
(First printed in “The Country Register” (Kansas), June 2014)