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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Chivalry - Dead or Alive?

In the course of my surfing today, I came across a post which states, "Between the wish of the male consumer to look at naked female bodies and the inhuman lust of a rapist, lies the common man's world." I politely beg to differ. There is another type of common man. One who does not lie between the two boundaries specified above. He is the chivalrous man.

I was a mute witness to the following drama in a tuitions class aeons ago.

Boy and girl enter class late. Boy rushes to grab last chair ahead of girl.
Indignant girl: "There's no chivalry left nowadays."
Defensive boy: "Yeah, 'coz there're no pretty girls left either!!"

You know, in my humble opinion, the indignant girl was wrong. Hark! Do I hear you say, "What rubbish! Which century is he living in?". True, in this era of The Liberated Woman and Equality of Sexes, chivalry's lost much of it's sheen and is considered "demeaning" by men and "stifling and condescending" by ladies. But chivalry still exists in pockets. These pockets are spread out amongst the teeming populace, as well as in the minds of those few guys who'd rather die than act unchivalrously.

Here's a sneak peek into the mind of a modern-day Launcelot, a true-blue chivalrous guy I've known personally since childhood. He's dumb in many ways, so I'll call him Chivalrous Moron or CM. These are twelve things that characterize CM and keep him ticking.

  • CM is a mega-time sucker for a pretty smile. If CM ever happens to save your life, just give him one honest and disarming smile which reaches your eyes, and CM will go away thinking he hasn't done anything to deserve such a glowing repayment.
  • CM loves it when girls giggle at his jokes, most of which he knows are dumb. Come to think of it, he's cool even when they're giggling at him, not his jokes. So long as he knows why they're giggling, he's fine.
  • CM is a true MCP. He genuinely believes that women are weaker than men. Not emotionally or mentally or spiritually -- he knows they're usually stronger in these departments -- but physically. That's why he'll do dumb stuff. Like run ahead of them to open doors for them. Like get up and hold the chair for them while they settle themselves in. Like give up his seat in a bus to any girl near him, even when he's not well that day.
  • Again like a typical MCP, CM will escort any girl safely home from college, office or that late-night party, even if it means going way out of his way. CM considers escorting to be a bounden duty and a significant honour to boot. He proudly claims he runs a 24-hour one-man "Girl Escorting" service.
  • CM knows that most girls will find him "cho chweet" and "what a darling" and basically "such a nice guy naa". Horrors, they may even pinch his cheek in public !! He also knows he'll get loads of Rakhis on Raksha Bandhan. Basically, CM is fully aware that most girls he knows will look at him either as just another good friend or as a brother. But that's okay. CM's happy with these labels. Come to think of it, he's proud of them. Because he feels these tags carry with them the warmth of comfort, of security, of blind trust. Which of course they do.
  • CM is a die-hard romantic. He believes in soulmates. That's why the concept of divorce confuses him no end. Every morning, he awakens with the belief that he'll find her today. She'll be waiting there, for him, just round the corner. And when he doesn't find her round the corner, never mind. For there are so many other corners just ahead. And if he never finds his particular corner, if he never finds her, that's fine too. One failure by the God of Love doesn't mean it's the end of the world, or even the end of Romance.
  • CM knows he's chivalrous, and it's unfashionable, but he's not apologetic. He will always choose the idiotic road less travelled, that of being a chivalrous "loser with girls", rather than the far more popular "use and dispense with" path adopted by so many.
  • Like many of his ilk, CM is a peculiar mix of egregariousness and reserve. He loves making friends of both sexes. He'll often take the first two steps towards you. If you take the next step, leave the rest to him. He'll guarantee that you find yourself a lifelong good friend and confidante.
  • And talking of confidante, CM is filled to the brim with secrets of his friends which he'll never ever reveal, so don't bother asking him. But if you ever want a sympathetic ear, if you ever need a supporting shoulder, refer to CM. It'll help.
  • You'll usually find CM in a bubbly mood, he's a pretty cheerful optimistic devil. You may sometimes catch CM in a flirtatious mood. But if you encounter it, remember it's always totally harmless and in good spirit. CM gets confused and hurt when people misunderstand him, he's a bit thick that way. And yeah, he hates bitching, so girls lay off him when you're in one of your scurrilous moods.
  • CM, being a "modern" MCP, knows -- from personal experience -- that women are usually better at work than men. Because they have a higher EQ, lower ambitions and less conceit. Hence he has a genuinely healthy respect for working women. And he's floored by women who manage both home and work. He knows he, for one, would never manage that. Nappy changing and washing the dishes is fine, but CM is an unmitigated disaster, a la a Japanese Tsunami, whenever he approaches a kitchen. After all, remember CM is an MCP, albeit a modern one. And he's also a guy. It's a bad combo, and he needs your sympathy and support here.
  • And finally, and perhaps most importantly, CM knows and respects that some things are very important for girls, much more important than even their lives. And CM feels sick if these things are taken advantage of, if any girl had to ever compromise on any of these things. He would personally drown in shame if he could help her but didn't. And he knows it's woefully inadequate, but on behalf of his gender, CM would like to apologize to the opposite sex for all the accumulated shit they've tolerated over the ages.
There aren't too many CMs around today. They're there, sure, but they are a fast-dying breed. And today's world, filled with ghastly incidents of rape, incest, molestation and abuse, could certainly do with plenty more CMs.

On your part, a little encouragement to the CMs you know would go a long way in bringing dignity back to this fading art. For there is a CM in almost all men, the trick is in drawing him out.

And that's an onus which rests squarely on the fairer sex.

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