Is It Goodbye to Good Manners
My dad, and yes I think he would have given me a very strange look if I’d have called him father, and when I talk of ‘my’ dad I also mean the dad to my four brothers and one sister.
I’ve digressed; back to my dad who was in every respect you care to think of it a Gentle Man and gentleman and especially where women were concerned his outlook being that every female should be treated like a lady until they proved to deserve otherwise.
He would stand up and offer his seat to a lady, he would hold doors open for women and the elderly male or female, he would let a lady go through a door ahead of him, he would never ever swear in front of a lady, he would always stand up if a lady approached where he was sitting and he was invariably polite to everyone he met.
Perhaps the best thing to say about dad was summed up by mum who was bedridden and couldn’t attend the funeral of a man she married after having only known him 10 days and who remained with and in love with him for over 51 years when asked by the vicar to sum him up said “He was very kind”.
Now what is the purpose of this anecdote, well firstly if you can’t praise your own dad then who can you praise?
It also helps that he was my hero in so many ways.
Well he came to mind yesterday as these things usually do as you get older when I offered to help a young woman carry her clearly heavy shopping bags to her car which was in the carpark at the local supermarket.
By the look on her face you would have thought that I had asked her to name her price, or that I was going to butcher and eat her children, and it was confirmed by her very curt, OK for reasons of delicacy I’ve cleaned it up, verbal tirade that she didn’t need help just because she was a woman.
I think it’s fair to say my reaction varied instantly between shock, amusement, anger and embarrassment, not necessarily in that order and in all probability and reality all at once.
My response however was just to say, “fair enough I’ll take that as a no then” and walked away.
The question is this though, “When did good manners by a male towards a female suddenly become an example of outrageous and condescending misogyny on the part of the male?”
and “What would my dad have made of it?”
The immediate thought of course is to say f*** it, (Dad would certainly not approve ) that’s the last time I offer to help which of course is wrong on so many levels because thinking rationally I didn’t know the woman or what her circumstances were.
It may be that she was in a bad and perhaps abusive relationship which has made her aggressively wary of men approaching her no matter what the circumstances are.
It may be that because of her experiences she genuinely dislikes men and feels that all men are misogynistic and a part of a controlling paternalistic society which and it will come as no surprise to those who know me reminded me of someone I know and clashed with when actively involved in local front line politics (but that’s another story for another time)
It maybe of course that the problem was much simpler, that within my dad’s definition she simply wasn’t a lady.
So what was it that I have drawn from the experience?
I will continue to hold doors open for women.
I will offer my seat to a woman if it is busy.
I will continue to let women go through a door ahead of me.
I will stand up when a woman approaches.
And if I happen to do it to you just smile and think of it as an old man who was brought up in a different age where manners and consideration for others was ingrained in me and just say
“No thank you” and walk away.
And if you can’t accept it as what it is, an offer to help, and insist on making a public issue of it then I’m afraid that all I can do is repeat the word that was nearest thing to hearing my dad swear,