I was asked last week during a radio interview if I believed the "days of chivalry"are dead. And in answering, I questioned how many of us these days actually know what chivalry is? The Macquarie Dictionary advises that chivalry is first and foremost "the ideal qualifications of a knight, such as courtesy, generosity, valour, dexterity in arms"and that to be chivalrous a man would be "having good and polished manners, and a consideration of others".
But given that knighthoods and dexterity in arms have little to do with life in the 21st century, how relevant are the good and polished manners and consideration of others?
And how manners have changed. In the early to mid 20th century it was considered polite for a gentleman when walking in the street with a lady to always walk on the outside of her, that is closer to the road. This was to ensure that if there were splashes from horses or cars, the mud would not dirty her clothes. These days the man is more likely to take that position in order to defend her from human danger.
When it comes to dating etiquette these days it is a minefield of possible faux pas. Can you ask someone on a first date by SMS?...please, not! Does the person who does the asking for a meal, or the movie have to pay?...yes. Should a man hold out the chair for the woman at a restaurant, for example?...yes, and she should respond with a" thank you", not a mumbled acknowledgement. Should a man open the car door for a woman?...yes, if he feels comfortable with it and certainly if it's raining and he has an umbrella to protect her. The central locking system has a lot of answer for in the decline of this level of good manners.
But are all of these "old fashioned manners"relevant today, when internet dating is so prevalent and giving rise to a whole new area of dating etiquette? Previously, if going on a date the man would collect the woman from her home rather than meeting in a cafe or a bar with a predetermined signal for recognition. The game rules were more clear. In today's world the manners are evolving faster than the technology that is driving the communication revolution.
And so, is chivalry dead? No, from all accounts, old fashioned manners, in a new guise, are still alive and well. I think the most important consideration should at all times be that other aspect of chivalrous behavior....consideration of others.