When I was just a little girl, I remember how respectfully my father treated my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and me. Let me explain. Chivalry was alive and well in our household. It was the late 60's and early 70s. My dad always opened doors for us, held car doors open, helped us on with our coats, walked on the outside when strolling down the street, and pulled out chairs. I often saw him give up his seat on a train or bus for a lady who was standing. My dad was not an anomaly given the time period and his Greatest Generation upbringing. He was the norm. He was a gentleman and he knew how to treat a lady.
So what happened to the respect and kindness gentlemen used to show ladies only a few decades ago? Where did it change and why? What was so wrong with a man holding a door open or giving up a seat? In my recent travels, I noticed that "guys" nowadays walk right through a door and let it slam in a woman's face. Women now exit a car on their own, struggle to put on a jacket, and seat themselves at a table. And why shouldn't they since men get berated if they dare show any signs of chivalry. A simple compliment or courteous gesture nowadays extended to a woman by a man is simply blasphemy. Since embarking on my vintage/retro lifestyle, I've noticed one thing that has changed for me personally. Chivalry is back and I'm loving it! Adorned in my vintage hats, lacy gloves, flared 40's dresses, high heeled shoes, and lashes, liner, and red painted lips, I now get bows and nods, doors held open, respectful compliments, and an occasional tip of a hat from passing gentlemen. Yes, chivlary is not dead, apparently it was just sleeping.
As a lady, I truly appreciate being treated respectfully by the opposite sex. My husband treats me this way and I love it. He holds the door for me, helps me on with my coat, and so on. Do I think that it takes away from my ability to be a modern woman in the 21st Century? The answer is unequivocally no! So when did it become a crime or a bad thing for women to be treated well by gentlemen? What today's generation perceives as "old-fashioned" ways is simply a demonstration of manners and courtesy.
I remember a few years back, I was a guest at a backyard picnic. The guests ranged in age from 20 something to sixtyish. When a burst of rain suddenly hit, I took refuge under a large tent only to find that all the seats had been taken. A young man, who was dating a young woman that I knew, immediately rose to his feet when he saw me standing there without a seat. He picked up his folding chair and moved it over to where I was standing. He politely smiled and motioned for me to sit down. I thanked him and told his girlfriend that she had found herself a true gentlemen. A diamond in the rough. Basically, this guy's mama raised him right!
Do men just respond to me now with respect and adoration because of the way I dress? Well... maybe. After all, looking like "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" while strolling down the aisle of the grocery store does get it share of stop and stares. But I truly believe that men appreciate my efforts to look, dress, and act like, well...a proper lady. I watch gentlemen as they approach me. They stand a little taller, they smile a little brighter, and they are eager to make my life a bit happier, even for a brief moment. I have had men give up their place in a long line for me, offer to carry something for me, and offer to reach something off a shelf. I guess they figure in the presence of a lady, you should act like a gentlemen. And honestly, I think they like being permitted to act like a gentlemen and let their chivalrous ways shine.
I miss the "old-fashioned" ways of an era gone by. That's most likely why I dress the way I do. But it's more than red lips and high heels that make me long for the days gone by. I miss a time when people were kind, neighbors were friends, life was simpler, and men were gentlemen and women were ladies. Ok, I know that this lifestyle is not for every woman out there. For the modern women who wish to open their own doors and seat themselves I say, "more power to you!" It's who you are. It's who I was not all that long ago as I climbed the career ladder of success. But for me, Mrs. Z, I am perfectly happy swapping out my business suites for Swing dresses, trading my meeting schedule for a cleaning schedule, and lunch meetings for bread making day. Sounds crazy? Well maybe it is. All I know is that I'm perfectly content to let men be gentlemen with me. It makes me feel special, it makes me feel respected, and most importantly, it make me feel like a real lady!