This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.
When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.
Or so I thought.
They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.
I now share them with you.
My father used to say:
“If you’re a man, be a gentleman – always. If you’re a woman, be a lady – not a strumpet.”
My father was the quintessential Gentleman. When he went for a stroll with my mother, he would always walk on the curb side of the sidewalk – to protect my mother from passing cars or rain puddle splashes. He would open doors for her, sit her down on a chair before seating himself, exit a bus or train first and then extend his hand to help her down, and he would always (without hesitation or a word of complaint) wash the dishes after she cooked us one of her savoury meals.
He was most certainly NOT a male chauvinist. He was a gentleman – in the old-fashioned sense. There is a difference. And he dressed impeccably – complete with a perfectly pressed handkerchief in his pocket. No kleenex or tissues for him!
His behaviour and manners taught me what I should expect of a man. That’s a long, tall order in this day and age. However, when he met my husband (at that time, my boyfriend) for the first time in 1979, I could see that he approved. How could he not? Their characters were similar in many ways.
And, yes, of course my husband is a gentleman. He doesn’t use handkerchiefs, but he always sports a very nice hat.
My father expected the men in his household (he and my brother) to be gentlemen and the women (wife and daughters) to comport themselves like ladies. My mother was very much a lady.
Although our manners are ladylike, my sister and I are products of the Baby Boomer generation and when we started wearing jeans…. well, all hell broke loose in the household. I remember my father lecturing me about how slovenly and unladylike jeans were. Try as he might, he could not come to peace with modern casual wear. If he were alive today and saw some of the skimpy, body-clinging dresses that a lot of young women wear…. he would be speechless (with horror). He would probably prefer jeans to some of their outfits (er, fabric swatches).
Are gentlemen a dying breed? I don’t think so.
Just the other day, I was on a MetroRail during rush hour. The train was packed with people and there was standing room only. A young man – twentysomething – stood up, smiled at me and asked me to take his seat. I gave him one of my most radiant smiles, thanked him and sat down.
His parents taught him well.
In my generation, women were fighting for their positions in professions like law, medicine, engineering and business. Unfortunately, some women felt that they had to be hard and aggressive in order to compete and excel in their fields. Many mistook gentlemanly overtures for male chauvinism and, as a result, they rejected any gesture that would differentiate the genders.
Well, be careful what you wish for, ladies. If you don’t want a man to be a gentleman, then he won’t be.
This twentysomething generation, however, never ceases to amaze and impress me. They don’t have the gender struggle of the Baby Boomers. Today, most professions enjoy a fairly even ratio of men to women. And for the most part, these young men and women are polite, respectful, environmentally conscious, and have a sense of family, community and an interest the world at large.
So there is hope.
And, as far my father (my darling Daddy) – thank you for being such an exemplary role model.
Would you be proud of me today? I’d like to think so.
Except that I do curse a lot. That would be a big no-no in your books.
I’m trying to curb that. Miracles don’t happen overnight.
Images via Crazyyetwise.files.wordpress.com and akrasakis.blogspot.com.