I profoundly love my neighborhood, and here’s why:
I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been in line to hop on the bus, and a guy’s held out his arm to let me go first. And it’s not only guys my age trying to be flirty– I’m talking ages eight all the way up to eighty. The next person to tell me chivalry’s dead gets a smack to the head, because they’re clearly just not paying attention.
There has been a serious increase in the show of gallantry around here lately, and it deserves some legitimate praise. I’ve always been the type to hold doors for people, unfailingly let the elderly go first anywhere, and give up my seat often… but I do that for everyone. It’s what I was raised to maintain as common courtesy [though evidently isn't so common anymore]. But these encounters lately go above and beyond simple civility– they are straight up gentlemen!
Last week, I was waiting for the Circulator on 14th to go to work, and a kid was waiting towards the front of the line. He couldn’t have been older than eleven, scrawny, mildly scruffy, and clearly just got out of school. He let every single woman go ahead of him. When I smiled and told him to go ahead and get on, he shook his head and said, “No no, ladies first!” I laughed and thanked him. He found an empty seat before me, since I fumbled with my wallet, and even hopped up to offer me his seat when I passed him. I wished his mama had been around so that I could thank her, too, because she’s clearly doing something right while raising him.
So this brings me to an interesting power struggle here in DC (no, I’m not talking about Obama/Romney, or the fact that CVS petitioning for a liquor license will put all our favorite bodegas out of business). No, the issue is…..
“The Battle of Feminism vs. Chivalry”
Every time a girl complains about the lack of gentlemen around, she blames guys for being lazy or having no manners. I don’t know how many times a girlfriend’s told me that a guy accepted some variety of favor from her, and then didn’t even offer to walk her to the metro/bus/just his front stoop. Whether it was sexual or simply cooking dinner, a girl definitely deserves more than a “goodbye– the metro’s a ten minute walk that-a-way”.
On the flipside, I hear men protest about women wanting to ‘further their feminist agendas’ AND have dinner bought for them (as if we can only have it one way or the other?). A few friends have even told me that when, being the sweethearts they are, they’ve opened doors for their dates or tried to pay the check, all it got them was an earful. That women have gone off on them about how chivalry offends them in various ways for ‘violating their independence by paying’, or ‘condescending their intelligence, as if they can’t open the car door themselves’.
Here are my two cents on chivalry vs. feminism: a man letting me on the bus first has nothing to do with the strength of my independence or value as a woman–so keep it up, boys! Seriously, all of those issues are complete bunk. Girls: if you’re seeing a man who won’t at least offer to walk you to the metro or kiss you the next morning, it isn’t because they don’t exist– you simply aren’t WITH one, so dump his ass. Guys: gender equality and common courtesy are NOT mutually exclusive, they’re actually the same thing. So stop complaining that we want you to both cut back on the office harassment and pull out our chairs. Everyone needs to just grow up and be thoughtful.
Special note to the more aggressive feminists giving the few gentlemanly guys a hard time: KNOCK IT OFF. You’re being overly sensitive. The only reason his offer to buy you dinner offended you is because you have unresolved confidence issues, not because he thinks women are incapable of counting out correct change. If you think gallantry is contrived solely to lord his manliness over you, then what is your condescending feminist refusal trying to prove? Two-way streets can be a bitch if you don’t look both ways, so stop trying to jaywalk and just let him do something nice once in awhile. If you can’t manage that, then at least don’t scare him into never doing it again for a girl who will appreciate it, please.
And it isn’t just the young ones being all courtly around here lately– a seventy year old man adamantly insisted I get on the bus before him today, and he was using a cane to walk. In the past month, I have also had a man chase after me a block because I dropped my scarf, another give me his seat on the metro, and countless others insist I go first, whether at the bus, grocery store, bank, or various other social situations. I’ve been called miss, lady, ma’am– and once, even, ‘snowflake’ [I was wearing a dark dress and have very pale skin].
What is going on here?? The second you get downtown or even just to Dupont, people are rushing around all over each other to get to the ever-important place they’re going to first, and rarely look up from their Blackberries long enough to realize they’ve tripped someone. But up here in Columbia Heights? Oh no, the only dirty looks you’ll be getting these days are when you don’t offer a lady your seat or give her a hand with the door. Did Prince of Petworth send out some secret PSA this week to his male readers about minding their manners or something? And what does it say about me that my response to this chivalry has been baffled amazement? I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth. I’m just going to keep riding this gallant wave, be grateful, and spread the word.
So here’s my advice:
Yes, DC and I have been hitting it off swell lately. It’s been night after night of wining-and-dining-and-dancing. Minus the wine and food most of the time. In a city of high-energy overachievers, the work hard/party hard mentality is practically a required lifestyle for residency.
Unfortunately, I’ve always had trouble choosing from which awesome thing to do with my life, and that includes my social life… including how to structure this whole writing idea. So I’m going to go with my usual plan, and say whatever comes to mind, even if there isn’t an obvious continuity to it.
Deal with it.
So one of the first things I was told upon arrival in DC was that there is a huge gender disparity. Being accustomed to being one of the few females in a circle of ambitious, political guy types, I assumed it was the same here.
Apparently that is not so anymore, for the 20-something crowd. Some single girlfriends told me there is a huge lack of eligible, intelligent, SINGLE guys here. There is a huge influx of women, and most of the guys already have girlfriends. Bad news bears to a single girl, right?
I don’t know where they were getting their intel, but that’s not the truth. At least, not how I’ve experienced it. I’m thinking they’ve a much more selective taste, whereas I’ve a broader interest.
I’m an equal-opportunity dater. And that isn’t just race, but religion, background, profession [or lackthereof], partisanship…. pretty much anything. Except those of the Westboro/Tea Party persuasion. *Imbeciles need not apply.*
Beyond that, most people find the nook they fit into and feel comfortable, and coast along happily. I tend to bounce around from group to group– depending on my schedule, the weather, or whatever strikes my fancy– so it broadens the possibilities.
The key: you have to take risks. Whether it’s going to a house party/bar you’re unsure of, meeting up with people you met only once weeks ago but have invited you out, or walking up to that cute guy across the bar that hits some secret nerve electrifying your spine– just do it. Don’t say no, don’t think, don’t rationalize… just do it. After a few too many life-altering “learning moments” over the past few years, I’ve come to embrace ‘carpe diem’ not only as a motivator, but as a true lifestyle.
Because of that, I’ve made friends with everyone from the Mexican guys living in the group house on the corner of my block to White House staffers and diplomats on Embassy Row. I’ve asked a cute street musician for a drink because I liked his bluegrass, and been on ritzier dates in Dupont with guys well above my pay grade. I don’t let things limit me.
And you know, I’m happier for it. DC and I are getting to know each other much faster and more profoundly than we would have otherwise. Even if it’s something simple like stopping to take photos of a half-renovated church, or giving my lunch to someone hungrier than me in a park, it’s worth your while to stop rushing around the city inside your own head and actually take a LOOK at the real one around you.
It might not smell like roses, but DC is beautiful, and this butterfly likes the perks of being more than just a wallflower.