I’m 26 years old, 8 months pregnant expecting my first child. I’m commuting back and forth to Manhattan via the A train from Queens. At this stage of my pregnancy I’m getting out of work just a tad earlier to avoid the evening rush back home. The August heat makes waiting on the platform almost unbearable. Train is approaching and the anticipation of an air-conditioned car AND a seat made me feel like a teenager waiting for the last few seconds before that dismissal bell. I step in, feeling my skin cool down. I look both ways scanning for a seat, of which all are occupied. This train in particular was of the older model which means that it’s perimeter bench seating allowed everyone to sit facing to the center of the car. With just myself and a handful of commuters standing, there’s a clear view from one end of the car to the other. Do you know what else was in clear view? My huge belly protruding from my thin frame making it an unmistakable assumption that I was truly with child. I was young, humble, not expecting much from anyone, so there I remained standing, stop after stop without a whimper or complaint. What made this ride interesting and memorable? Everyone in that car was a man. I remember that clearly because I felt somewhat bad standing with my belly right in front of any of the seated passengers. First seated passenger, poor guy kept trying to veer his eyes to any direction but forward. I move over to provide HIM some relief. Next seated passenger quickly closed his eyes in a poor attempt to seem asleep. Now I was just amused. I move again. Next seated passenger moved his newspaper so close to his face I’m sure he got smudge marks on his nose. Pitiful. I thought about any man I knew and made a mental note to remind them to never behave this way if they were in this situation.
Just then a voice, “Miss! Miss! Over here. Please come sit”. I get knocked out of my thoughts, quickly look over to the right, and at the end of the car, in the corner space was a woman. An older woman; gesturing me over to her. I smile, waddle my way over to her, not with the intention of taking her seat but to at least find some camaraderie. I would never take a seat from an older person. I was still younger and stronger (subliminal message). I kindly rejected her persistence but thanked her dearly for her chivalry. Well, that set her off. Oh, the exhilaration of speaking ones mind. She loudly directed herself to that testosterone filled car, “You should all be ashamed of yourselves that an old woman was more of a gentleman than all of you put together. Your mothers, your daughters, your sisters and aunts would all be ashamed of you. Shame on you”. I smiled again. She got off the next stop. I took her seat and enjoyed the next 35 minutes in cool bliss.
Why would this lack of chivalrous behavior be acceptable to some and not to others? I have repeated this story throughout the years to many of male friends, acquaintances and coworkers. And one after another, year after year I heard, “I would NEVER have behaved that way. Not me. I would’ve given up my seat. I was raised differently than that”. And yet I continue to scratch my head because I am sure the moms of those seated passengers would take offense to that comment, having spent years doing their darndest to mold them in to perfect gentlemen.
Now, think about it. When we, male or female were being raised by our very own “Best Mom Ever”, did she tell you that we could forego those well-mannered attributes toward others if you had, let’s say; a paid ride, or were waiting on-line for a while, or if you were living/working in the city, if you were tired or maybe if your boss pissed you off? Think hard. Think! Think! Can’t recall that? No? Of course not!
Just recently, on an hour bus ride back home, a middle-aged man who didn’t give up his seat to the only standing woman spoke his mind directly to her. Although she never requested to sit, he felt the need to exclaim, “I pay for a seat. You didn’t need to get on. If you wanted to sit you could have waited for the next bus”. This man felt the need to excuse outwardly what he knew would not gain him any brownie points back home. Just for the record, after about 30 minutes in, he made a 180 and insisted she take his seat. He then proceeded to say, “My daughter would kill (he actually emphasized this word) me if she knew I didn’t offer my seat up to a woman. I was only trying to make a point”. A point to whom? To this woman or to himself? Did his hibernated chivalrous right shoulder conscious finally wake up? Does he get a brownie point now?
Now, what about the counter debate that things are how they are because women insisted on equality throughout the years and THIS has become the deteriorated repercussion of it all?
Bull!!! Hogwash!!! Balderdash!!! (Fill in the blank with your own).
Look, lost in today’s society is good old fashion chivalry. Opening a door, allowing passage, picking up a dropped item, pulling out a chair and giving up a seat. Yes, women wanted equality, of course; to vote, in work, in salary, to education, to have a voice. But that should never, ever have reduced a man’s ability to be kind to women, or to other men, and even to the older generation. If men believed in years past that they were of superior quality, then shouldn’t they have raised a woman’s bar to be equally kind to men as well as to other women. Why did men allow their idea of Feminism diminish their attributes, instead of holding women up to theirs? Or is the idea of mistreating others, being unkind just appeal to them more? Does it self-gratify some deep rooted anger issue or superiority complex?
Stop using Feminism. Stop throwing around this word as an excuse and a crutch to let the monster out. Every human being needs to go back to basics and learn how to treat one another. Keep mental inventory of how your mom would expect you to behave. Refer back to the Emily Post Guide for good manners if you have to (or to my cheat sheet below). And for goodness sake, stop playing the victim and step up to every opportune moment. If you don’t, just know that some dude that mirrors your own actions will treat your daughter the same way. And then you can recount the time to her, that her “best ever” and perfect daddy (or mommy) behaved just as poorly. Good luck with that!