With Valentine’s Day looming once again, is there still a place in our lives for chivalrous acts, particularly if we are on a date, or is it a little bit of an outdated concept?
The phrase "chivalry" stems from the Old French chevalerie, which translates as "horse soldiery." Originally, the name referred only to fighting men mounted on horses – cavalry - deriving from the French word for horse, cheval, but it eventually came to be linked with knightly actions and values. Chivalry – or the chivalric code, if you will – has its roots in the Carolingan Empire that controlled much of Western Europe about a thousand years ago, and was based on concepts of military bravery, personal growth and training, and high service to others. The chivalrous code sought to set educated warriors aside from everyday folk, and to give them something to aspire to. Encapsulated in ten fundamental commandments (no, not those ones) chivalry was about defending the weak, protecting the church, not recoiling from thine enemy, and being faithful to thy pledged word. So, stick up for the little guy and your local vicar, never surrendering, and not knowingly telling large ones.
Heavy stuff indeed, but fast forward, and chivalry has become more associated with the holding open of car doors and not taking the last After Eight mint. So, as watered-down as the idea has become, is there still a place for chivalry in modern society?
We at Hawkins and Brimble say yes, there is still a role that chivalry can fulfil, and we still like to have our dinner chairs pulled out for us. However, we wouldn’t deny that the concept needs pulling into the 21st Century, and needs to be a bit more inclusive and spread across the sexes, rather than being something that men generally perform a bit haphazardly. But what could that look like, and how do we push it beyond simple memic events like Valentine’s Day, and make it an everyday way of life, like changing your underpants?
For a start, chivalry can be owned by anyone, and you don’t have to be in a relationship to either do or appreciate it. What’s more, chivalry is dynamic and can be sufficiently flexible so that it fits any genders or romantic entanglement you can think of. Chivalry, we believe, can become inextricably entwined with general politeness and the notion of ‘be kind’, and manifest as a series of acts that make people feel good, and raise their self-esteem, like:
- Dress for the occasion. While it might not sound very chivalrous, the way that we dress says lots about how we show respect to our partner or date. That means dressing appropriately for the venue and the company that you are keeping, and always try to dress up slightly, so if it’s dinner, smart casual will usually suffice but definitely no shorts, crummy trainers, and Hawaiian shirts in the restaurant.
- Pick your date up. As long as they are happy with this, arrive slightly early, get out of the car and go to their door – rather than just leaning on the horn – and make sure that you hold the passenger door open for them when they get in. It’s a little thing, but it means a lot.
- Your mobile phone stays in your pocket. Better still, it stays at home. How can you expect to be attentive when you’re itching to glance at your social media? You don’t really need it so just enjoy your dining partner instead.
- Pay the bill. Just pay it. Don’t quibble like a quisling, or asking if they want to go Dutch, just stump up! And smile while you are doing it.
- Walk on the traffic side of the pavement. Strolling along, it’s a little thing, but your partner will notice that you are protecting them from vehicles, and it shows a certain sense of chivalry.
- Walk them to their door. At the end of your date, particularly early in the relationship, securely escort them to their door. This is particularly critical if they live in the big city, where social tensions threaten to shred everyday niceties. This demonstrates your willingness to make an effort to safeguard them and helps instil a feeling that they are secure with you.
The concept of Chivalry has evolved, and while we may not be expected to lay our jackets across a puddle so that our date may walk across dryly, it is reasonable to understand that common courtesy and respect never go out of style. Hawkins and Brimble are all about style, and we think that there is still a place in nice society for all those little fortes that set us aside from the beasts in the field and jungle. Manners maketh man, and always will.