Chivalry Isn’t Dead. At Least, Not Totally.
Whenever I feel a kiss coming at the end of a good first date, I give the guy the Look—you know, the one that says “embrasse-moi” in the sultry French accent I don’t have. But despite my attempts to say yes with my eyes, I often see him hesitate before making a move, as if he’s doing an AP Calc equation in his head.
This confusion could easily be solved with a simple question: “Can I kiss you?” But that’s not really cinematic canon, is it? It’s clunky and vulnerable. It is confirming consent, however, which is important. I know plenty of men and women who are either horrified at the idea of someone lunging at their mouth or else horrified at the idea of being cringingly asked if it’s okay to kiss them now. Does this stress you out? It stresses me out.
Sweeping a woman off her feet in a society that values gender equality can feel as complicated as learning a new TikTok dance. If chivalry were still alive and well, this wouldn’t be an issue—that dance has been around since, what, the Middle Ages? Imagine wooing someone at a time when 90 percent of the work involved getting her dad’s permission and the remaining 10 percent was dropping a couple of fair maidens here and some miladys there—you know, back when you got a lot of mileage out of milady.
But chivalry met its demise as humankind evolved over the centuries. We got more woke. And the things our society craved—equality, egalitarianism, freedom of expression—couldn’t seem to coexist with such a traditional concept. Still, I have to admit that every time I go on a date, I subconsciously tick off boxes for “gentlemanly” behavior: opening doors, picking up the tab, checking that I got home safely. There’s a “playing house” taboo in the ceremony of chivalry—in letting a man really lay it on thick when it comes to old-fashioned courtship. It makes me think chivalry can still be sexy, even though it’s got one foot in the past. You just have to do it right.
Starting with how you initiate the date. The difference between “Would you want to go out sometime?” and “I’d really like to take you out sometime. Would you be into that?” is massive. There’s nothing technically wrong with the former, but it’s slightly passive and could easily garner an equally passive response—much less enticing than the idea of going out with a man who’s already signaled that he is into me and that I’m in for a wooing. Of course, the idea of putting yourself out there to potentially get rejected is scary, but trust me when I tell you there’s nothing hotter than a man who makes it clear he wants you, and then goes out and gets you (respectfully and with your permission). You gotta throw down to get down, so to speak.
Now, if you’ve asked someone to spend time with you, it’s the classy move to treat them to it. When the check arrives, it does so with an opportunity to show your date one of two broad strokes: that you’re a gracious gent who’s happy to invest in her having a nice evening…or that you’re really good at doing simple math in your head. There is nothing wrong with being good at math—it’s a useful skill—but in the case of courtship, generosity goes much further than number crunching. I’ve never taken issue with going Dutch, but I’ll admit that if a date opted to split the bill, especially if he had originally asked me out, I might not exactly take him as seriously as guys who gladly pick up the tab.
At the end of the night, offer to give your date a ride home or walk her to the subway or bus stop. If she’s not comfortable with you doing that, you can text her to make sure she got where she’s going safely. Navigating public spaces as a woman can be dicey in ways that men never have to think about, and it’s nice to know that you have thought of that. I’ve had a handful of first dates where I’ve appreciated the guy asking if I’d prefer him to walk me home or not—and he always followed up with a text to ask if I made it there safely even if he did walk me home, which was sweet.
“It’s not about what you think someone deserves but rather how you choose to conduct yourself.”
Now, hold up: If men and women are to be treated equally, why should men put in most of the effort and capital to pursue women, you ask?
I’m not suggesting you do these gentlemanly things because women deserve different treatment. Do them because it’s a cruel and lonely world out there, and basic gestures of kindness are the easiest ways to foster human connection. Do them for the same reason you’d go out of your way to do anything nice for anyone. (The same applies no matter your partner’s gender.)
Chivalry is, after all, a code of conduct. It’s not about what you think someone deserves but rather how you choose to conduct yourself. If you find the idea of broaching a first kiss uncomfortable, imagine how it feels being kissed by somebody who doesn’t mind helping themselves to your lips without express permission. And by all means, open the door, but I’m not about to tolerate a man making any kind of decision that affects my quality of life, like how I should dress, how much makeup I should wear, or what I should be doing for a living.
Cherry-picking which parts of chivalry are acceptable (paying for dinner) and not acceptable (assuming sole ownership of our joint finances) isn’t really all that complicated. I just want to be politely courted and treated as a precious person while retaining full social, physical, and sexual autonomy over my own body and mind, you know?
In chivalry’s golden age (18 whole centuries ago), courtship involved actual courts, its rules were clearly defined, and everyone got married around the same age, which feels irresponsibly young today if not illegal. Luckily, we have plenty of time to practice now that we’re all getting married later in life, which leaves tons of years to date casually, seriously, and all the kinds of dating in between.
Taking the time to figure out who the hell we are as individuals and what we truly need in a partner (swipe smarter, not faster), and then figuring out how to be our best selves for that person, is the real chivalry 2.0 glow-up. In finding ourselves as individuals, we’re gaining a clearer sense of what we want as opposed to what society has always told us to want, which includes how much of the past’s values we deem worthy to accompany us into the future. You cannot buy love the same way you cannot buy time, but in a pinch, chivalry can definitely boost your prospects.
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