Let’s start at the very beginning, tender thirteen. My mother bought me this book, thrusting it to me, wrapped in navy blue paper. She had such pride and adulation at my becoming a man. She said that she raised me to be a gentleman, and that this book was somehow going to remind me of that.
Fast-forward 5 years; there I was trying to not only find myself, but also trying to figure out what it meant to be just that very word: Gentleman.
My grapple with this may seem trivial to the abundance of world hunger and systemic teenage binge drinking in America, but seriously, it’s a serious internal conflict nonetheless. Perhaps it stemmed from my lack of interaction with gentile folk in the first place. I hung around ruffians, you know the kids who rang door bells and ran away…
I was in no way some self-professed savant or suave wannabe Cary Grant amongst social derelicts. I was simply always the odd one out the pack.
Speaking of Grant, this guy is like the archetype for this sort of stuff. I swear anyone over 50 will attest to his gentlemanly demeanor. His picture was probably in every dictionary next to the word MAN. Further, how does one even stay that dapper at all times? He literally imbues a relaxed x sprezz coolness as it were as natural as a spring of water. I digress, lest this turn into another “creatively written” manifesto…
I broke up the question into two parts:
First, it’s 2013 and most guys aren’t really trying to get that touchdown on the first date. We pay for dinner, maybe even a few drinks afterwards, and a gentle kiss on her cheek when the night comes to a close (and not invite yourself upstairs to her loft apartment to use the bathroom) Chivalry wasn’t dead, so I guess that part was down pat.
Second, being a gentleman went beyond women. It was it holding back from giving the inbred grease monkey at the bar an ass kicking after shoving me because my double-breasted sportcoat rubbed up against his Manning jersey.Okay, maybe not…but I guess it started with the clothes, it always does. When your friends rag on you, brush it all off your shoulders, literally.
This was all well and good, but it still begged the bigger question of the word itself.
I realized I wasn’t a gentle person. I smoke, drink heavily and swear (a lot). So, what was this quest of mine if I couldn’t even meet the basic criteria for being gentle? Or was it just that: taking the word too literally. I am a man. With all of its shortcomings and, well, one long coming. Ha! It meant living up to a standard that I set for myself. It meant working and living in a realm far beyond Mad Men. Yeah, that’s it, understanding WHO I am, not WHAT I was suppose to be.
Not only working hard, but working smart. Not dwelling on my prior horrid relationships and thereafter treating women with a clinical lack of affection because of this. Lastly, dressing in a manner that perpetuated a learned sensibility rather than one from a monthly GQ catalogue. No tight pants for me sir.
Yeah, being myself. That’s the stuff. Being wholly okay with my transgressions and faulty decisions concerning more than my wardrobe. Oh yeah, and being ready to admit I listen to Coltrane even though it’s apparently cool to say that you don’t. Showing emotion doesn’t make a pansy, it makes clear the fact that I am human and not a cyborg from planet 757409.