Being a Southern gentleman revolves around one word: respect. It’s respect for yourself and for those around you. Being a gentleman isn’t a personality quirk. It’s not something you turn on and off like a switch. It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. And although it’s a reputation that’s quickly diminishing in today’s self-absorbed world of me, me me — I’m hopeful the traditions can make a comeback.
Here are a few Southern Gentleman Traditions that should still apply today:
A gentleman will …
1… open her door
In old days, it was seen as a sign of his protection and strength, when a gentleman would help a lady up into the carriage. Their dresses were often long and heavy, so the gentleman would open the door for her so she wouldn’t have to drop her dress in the dirt. Today, opening a door for her is not a sign of weakness towards her, but a gesture of affection.
2… let her walk through the door first
Women should always go through the door first. Even ardent feminists will admit to this. It’s not an acknowledgment that women are the weaker sex — it’s perhaps an acknowledgment of women as the stronger sex.
3… pull out her chair
In old days, it was common for the gentleman to pull out her chair and allow her to face the open room. Today, the gentleman pulls out her seat, and sits facing away from the crowd and the TV. Why? Because he doesn’t need to be distracted — she needs to be the center of his attention, not a football game.
4… pick up the check
A gentleman always picks up the tab, especially on the first date, and with no expectations.
5… hold the umbrella when it rains
When raining, a gentleman will hold the umbrella over her. No, he does not mind getting a little wet.
6… stand to her outside, closest to the street, when walking
Symbolically this might be seen that he’ll always be by her side, through thick and thin, and will protect her from anything. But this does have historical merit to it. Before today’s sewage systems, a man would stand on the outside of the sidewalk to protect a woman from the dust and sewage that could splash up from horse-drawn carriages. The notion of the man laying his coat over a puddle meant he was protecting her feet from fecal because sewage was common in the streets. Today, a gentleman might stand in the way of puddles splashing up the street, or in the event a car veers onto the sidewalk.
7… help her put on and take off her coat
Up through the early 1900s, women often wore multiple layers, making movement difficult. A gentleman would help his lady put-on and take-off her coat due to these restrictions. And while those multiple layers are less common today, men should still offer to help.
8… never walk ahead of her
Another reason with historical relevance. Because ladies often wore long dresses and could trip on them, a gentleman would stand behind them when climbing a staircase. Today, because of long heels or a long dress, a gentleman should follow the same etiquette. This is another sign of him protecting her.
9… walk her to her car / door
Because he’s concerned for her safety, a true gentleman will walk her to her car or home to this day
10… carry her bags
A gentleman will help her carry her bags — whether they are groceries, packages, or she needs help with her luggage when flying.
11… give up his jacket
A gentleman will always pay attention. When she starts to shiver, he gives her his jacket.
12… give up his seat
If there are no other seats available, a gentleman offers his seat to a lady.
13… tip his hat
Tipping a hat to a lady is good form. If he’s at a dinner table, a gentleman will always take off his hat — cowboy hat, baseball hat, or otherwise.
14… stand when she walks into the room
As a sign of respect, men used to stand when a lady, dignitary, or elderly person walked in the room. Today, when a woman comes into a room, or to the table, a gentleman should stand up to acknowledge her. Period. Standing for her shows they are attentive and they care.
15… never laugh for the sake of attention
Loud, unruly laughter is the characteristic of recklessness and bad-manners. A gentleman commands attention through his character, not his volume.
16… sit after she sits
She’s the guest — a gentleman will allow her to sit first.
17… he listens to her
There’s etiquette to listening: If a woman is talking, be quiet. Just shut up. To be a good listener is as important as to be a good talker. Simple enough, right?
18… always on time
A gentleman is only as good as his word. He should plan in advance and don’t ever keep her waiting. Traffic is not an excuse for being late.
19… be complimentary of her
Even if is she is late, she spent a lot of time getting ready, so compliment her. Don’t play on her insecurities, either. Insulting her is petty.
20… be trustworthy
A gentleman will always keep a secret, especially one entrusted to him by the woman he loves and cherishes. Should the relationship end and a break-up happen? The gentleman should still be trusted.
21… never look inside her purse
Whether he is invited or uninvited. A gentleman should simply refuse. Bring her her purse, don’t fish around in there. A gentleman doesn’t need to know what’s in there, and they don’t want to know.
22… never guess her age, or her weight
A gentleman should never even talk about weight in front of a woman. It’s rude and disrespectful.
23… keep his appointments
A big part of being a gentleman is respecting other people’s time. When a gentleman tells someone they’re going to help them with something, they help them. When a gentleman promises they’ll have a project done by a certain date, they meet the deadline. Not only does this build trust, it helps build self-trust, a crucial-yet-underrated form of trust for a gentleman.
24… send a proper thank you note
What constitutes a thank-you note? Don’t use technology as a crutch. Text messages are impersonal and e-mails should be forbidden. I believe the old adage that the sooner you write a thank-you note, the less you need to write. Here is a simple formula: Start with a first line thesis statement. The second line is designative. The third is a kind of an affirmation. Close with something uplifting.
25… pick up after himself
A gentleman keeps a tidy office, home, and car. It shows he takes himself seriously, and takes pride in what he’s worked hard for. No one looks up to a slob.
26… never hit a woman
No matter the reason or the circumstance, a gentleman never hits a woman…no matter what.
27… sends his mother-in-law flowers on his wife’s birthday
His mother-in-law will always be the one who helped his wife when she was sad, skinned her knee, and kept her safe. For that, he should always be grateful. Showing appreciation to a mother-in-law and her sacrifice is a great way to tell a spouse ‘Happy Birthday.’
28… ask her father for her hand in marriage
In Victorian days, a gentleman would have to show his ‘credentials’ to her father to show his worthiness. Today, a gentleman asks her father for his blessing because it shows a sign of courtesy and respect to his future father-in-law.
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