Being a Gentleman?

December 08, 2003

Via Matthew Yglesis, I see some folks discussing a speech by Harvey Mansfield.

Mansfield criticized the increase in recreational sex, suggested that recreational sex was somehow a "man's game" and that women would be better off with a more restricted dating environment. I gather that he was referring to the common college practice of hanging out in groups, "hooking up," and no longer dating in traditional pairs. I know that when I was an undergraduate in the 1980s I was an idiot who was not willing to give face time and relationship time to the women I was seeing - and I had no physical relationship with the women I regularly went out to dinner with, went dancing with, or otherwise was social in public with.

The line that jumped out of Yglesias's summary was this: "Students said they were offended when Mansfield said the only gentlemen left were either gay or conservative."

One of the things I learned after graduation was the incredible power of manners and mannerisms. Most women have had little experience with the Victorian formulas. Many of these formulas are very powerful. Consider this common example (it helps if you are a little sweet and a little goofy, which I am).

You have been talking with a cute thang at a party or at a bar, and you wish to continue the acquaintence. Or, for the college kids, your eye has been caught by one of the other people in your little social circle. How do you indicate that you are interested in spending more time together? You could drop hints, or give inarticulate grunts, or say something on the fly. I suggest this, played mostly straight:

Take their hand in one or both of yours, look in their eyes and say: "I have very much enjoyed talking with you. May I have your permission to call upon you in the future?"

Hokey, yes.

But, it shows interest, it shows sincerity (if you can fake that you have it made), it gets their contact information, and it gives them a chance to respond with anything from "future? come home with me right now" to "While I enjoy your company, you should know that I [have a boyfriend, bat the other direction, have taken vows of chastity, don't like bearded redheads]"

Furthermore, it lets you show decisiveness without being overbearing. Women, as a group, tend to like strong willed nice guys. Wimps and jerks don't last long. A few women prefer strong willed to nice, others prefer nice to strong willed, but if you can develop both characteristics you can do well.

Folks who are worried about their social life could do worse than dig into some of the Victorian dating manuals. Many of those rituals were put together when a society moved from intimate communities to gatherings of strangers, and as such they can be adopted to the twenty-first century. And, these rituals were put together in a society that valued manly independence and yet was also adopting to sentimental desires.

When in doubt, go old fashioned.

Posted by Red Ted at December 8, 2003 09:00 AM | TrackBack