Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Death Of Chivalry

The end of another amazing week, and never a dull moment in sight when it comes to the people I meet on my average day.
Most of my blog posts are about my clients and the various people I meet during my working day.
Sometimes the blogworthy comes in the form of the things they do, sometimes in the things they say.
On Thursday it was in a reaction I got to something I said.

By nature i'm a very complimentary individual.
Like peanuts in a bar.
Sometimes salty, sometimes spicy, never sealed and always complimentary.

I had a meeting with a new client to renovate their offices.
I got there earlier than expected, as I planned ahead for traffic which didn't turn out to be as hectic as I expected.
The client, a lady in her early thirties, decided to get right into it and within an hour we had already mapped out the course of work needed. She was seated next to me while I did rough sketches of her proposals, and without thinking I turned to look at her and complimented her on her perfume.
I turned back to my worksheet and continued with my sketches; but I could feel her tense up and keep her steady gaze on me, unsure what to make of what I had just said.

For those that know me, they know that I hardly ever get uncomfortable; couple that with the fact that I have a knack for speaking my mind before my brain has had a chance to process, and you're left with a potential powder keg for a personality.

I turned to her, smiled and said "Well you either going to thank me or slap me. Either way, I was just paying you a compliment. No more, no less."
That broke the ice.
She smiled back and said I had taken her by surprise.

Thats what I don't get.
People nowadays are so nervous and afraid to just be nice or polite, for fear of being misunderstood.
I still stand up when a woman enters the room.
It's a force of habit, even if I'm the only guy standing in a room full of men when she walks in.
Maybe it's because that's what my mentors growing up would do, maybe it's because I realised early on that I always want to be ready to run in case a girlfriends mom walked into the room. Either way, I stand when a woman enters.

When I had my retail outlet I once complimented a client on her perfume as she waited for her credit card payment to go through. I thought nothing of it, but she blushed to a beetroot purple and almost tripped over herself leaving the store.
How do women go from "I love that perfume you're wearing" to "I want to jump into the sack with you and shag your brains out"?
How?
I don't get it.
How is a guy complimenting a woman mistaken for sexual harassment?
Seriously. How terrible must you be at complimenting a woman that they mistake it for sexual harassment?

It's not only the women that get all weird when complimented.
I remember going to a restaurant once where this portly grey-haired guy sat at the head of a table of almost twenty people. They were obviously family and he was undoubtably the head honcho.
I was so impressed with the scene, I walked up to him at one point and complimented him on his family and how great it was to see so many people of different ages having so much fun around a dinner table.
I swear he looked at me like I was trying to score a free meal or something.
It's only when I pointed to my own table of friends that he realised I was also a patron. That's when he cracked a feeble smile and said that they were celebrating his grand-daughters birthday.

I'd hate to think that my daughter will be growing up in a world where guys would think it improper to open her car door for her, or pull her chair out for her, or simply just treat her like a lady. Worse still, I hate to think that the young men of her day won't even realise their shortcomings. It's one thing to think chivalry as improper, it's another entirely not to think of it at all!

It reminds me of the weddings and family functions I attend.
I may have mentioned this in a previous blog post, I'm not too sure.
Anyways, I still have the habit of greeting aunts, friends and the elderly with a kiss on the cheek. I'ts what I've always done.
We attended a function two years ago and a cousin of mine pointed out that he thought it was inappropriate. Suddenly I became self-conscious of it. The manner of greeting I had been so used to all my life suddenly became foreign to me, and when the moment came where I had to greet another female, who happened to be a family friend I had always known, I simply stuck out my hand and shook hers.
No hugs, no peck on the cheek. Just a handshake.
I bumped into her about a month later, and we got to chatting.
Believe it or not, she brought up the incident and asked what that was all about.
She asked me why I was acting all weird.
She'd known me for over ten years and that was the very first time I had just shaken her hand.
So I told her what had transpired, we laughed about it, and I promised her that normal transmission would resume.
With that, I hugged her, gave her the standard issue kiss on the cheek, and left smiling in the knowledge that never again would I have my personality questioned to the extent that it changes who I am.

So to the men reading this, here's hoping you keep the flames of chivalry burning long and bright.
To the women reading this post, please don't act all weird and get your knickers in a knot if we ever do meet and I happen to compliment you on your perfume, and then kiss you on the cheek.