Who’s Killed Chivalry?

By Michelle Cove

PrinceCharmingHow does it make you feel when your date opens the door for you on your way inside a restaurant? What about when he picks up the bill and pays it with no discussion? And perhaps helps you on with your coat at the end of the meal?

If you’re like a whole lot of women I know, you are charmed and appreciative or, at the very least, amused.

So why oh why are men convinced these old-fashioned manners will be construed as old-fashioned, even offensive, to women?

This was a question I’ve long been wondering about. Men that I know (and very much like) go around saying that they’re not going to practice chivalry because women don’t want it anymore. They don’t? Says who? I’m a city girl (I’ve lived in half a dozen of them) and worked in a whole lot of companies filled with mainly modern women. I swear I never met one woman who said that these small, chivalrous gestures are offensive. I’m starting to wonder whether the “strong-minded women against chivalry” is an urban myth?

Sean, a 34-year-old man from North Carolina, recently told me he’s afraid that the southern manners he’s been honing since he was five will be seen as lame by women now that’s he’s moved to the northeast. So I asked him, “Has any woman ever told you they were offended by your southern charm?” He thought about it for a minute and said, “No, now that I think about it, no; that never happened.” So, I pressed, where does the fear come from then? He thought about it for a moment and said, “I think it comes from other guys. For some reason, guys tell each other that they better not practice chivalry because modern women hate it.” We went a step further and discussed why men would tell each other that, and decided maybe it’s because they’re lazy, and don’t feel like opening car doors and picking up checks.

Or, here’s another possibility: Maybe men are confused because we women give them mixed messages: we want to be treated as equals; BUT we want them to carry our groceries and let us go ahead of them in line. I will be the first to admit it, it’s confusing and it’s probably unfair to expect guys to know how to behave if we don’t set out our expectations for them.

In my documentary Seeking Happily Ever After, one of the women we interview says that she was on a date with a gorgeous guy whose “hair was like the ocean,” but when they got to the  restaurant, he went in before her and didn’t hold the door. She immediately turned around without saying a word, got in her car and drove home.

I’m still not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I say “good for her.” She expects to be treated with respect and this guy was rude. Why waste time? On the other hand, what if, just what if, he was a great guy who had never learned to hold the door open for a woman? What if she had said to him in a kind tone, “I need to tell you that if we are going to go out again, I would like it if you would hold the door open for me.” Granted it’s not as romantic as him just doing it; but is it a total deal breaker?

I’m still not sure. What do you think?


Michelle Cove is the Director for Seeking Happily Ever After, a feature-length documentary about why there are more single 30-something women than ever and whether women are redefining happily ever after. See www.seekinghappilyeverafter.com. She is also writing a companion book that is “a feel-great guide to being single while seeking your own happily-ever-after” (Tarcher, 2010)


Watch this “behind the scenes” clip for Michelle’s Seeking Happily Ever After


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