Jul 28, 2013

The Chivalry Paradox

A friend recently shared a joke on Facebook about a woman who complained about her boss not treating her with the same respect he shows the guys, and went on to tell him how she'd rejected a matrimonial prospect because he wasn't taller than her. The irony of the double standards was lost on her.

That post has prompted me to write this. As society is evolving, the gender divide and rules governing behaviour seem to be evolving constantly and it's especially tough on us guys to keep up. I call this the chivalry paradox, and I'll quote a couple of examples here.

When you're out for a meal with a girl, how should one deal with the bill? Traditionally, the guy's supposed to pay. A lot of women expect this and would label you a total cheap-ass if you suggested anything else! But then, there's the equality brigade who see no reason for you to pick up their tab, and are offended by any such suggestions.

Then there are handshakes. Some women offer you their hand like you're a nineteenth century knight about to kiss it. If you don't read it right, you'll probably seem like an uncivilized ape crushing a feather. Others, especially those in serious careers, offer a firm handshake. If you go light, they'll think you're a sissy. The impression is made in the first instant and by the time you adjust your grip, it's already too late.

The bigger problem is that there is no fail-safe approach. You can't decide 'this is what I'll always do - some will like it and others won't mind'. Whichever route you take could land you in trouble and you could find yourself at the receiving end of a diatribe.

Personally, I've decided to always pay the bill when I meet someone for the first time. If we meet again, the assumption is we're friends and then we ought to go Dutch. Handshakes? I still have no answer. I just try and avoid them altogether!

So, here's the take-away for women. Please understand that the lines are blurry and all over the place. We're still trying to figure things out. If we make a mistake, it's generally an honest one - so please don't get mad and launch into a tirade. Just call it out, and if you think it's necessary, explain to us what we did wrong. We'll try not to repeat it.

For guys, I'm going to offer the same advice I always do when my friends - for some unfathomable reason - decide to share their problems with me. 'Just grow a pair and deal with it, da!'

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