All my life I have heard about how to be a gentleman. My mother was constantly instructing my four brothers (and me) to not put our elbows on the table. Say please and thank you. Don't belch. We were often admonished to "mind your manners!" Although we were (and still aren't) perfect, I think we eventually learned how to behave ourselves, and I don't think we caused too much embarrassment to our sweet mother. I hope not, anyway.
During those same formative years, I remember her often teaching my brothers how to behave around girls and women. They were instructed to open the car for my mother. They learned to open doors and let the women go through (although I don't remember being on the receiving end of these practices). I do remember her admonishing them to "be gentelmen."
I just got a lovely book from my dear sister-in-law (thanks so much!), and I read it that very day. Twice. It was set more or less in England's Regency period, similar to Pride and Prejudice. Oh, I enjoyed the book! For some reason, I have always been drawn to the gentle refinement of that era. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Jane Austen's writing. No, that's not true. I have suffered through a few of her books that I thought were abominably dry and unnecessarily long. And there are a lot of things I don't like and find unfair or restrictive about that period. But I love reading about it, living it vicariously. I would even like to live there for a short while. I would.
I think the thing I like the most is the emphasis on being a gentleman. All those good manners that my mother worked so hard to instill in my brothers are there, and bigger than life. Similarly, I am constantly trying to teach my boys to be nice and mannerly and kind. Please don't belch at the table. You can use nicer language than that. No, we do not comment on the passing of gas. It's a constant battle of refinement against our more coarser nature.
I love to read (and got some of my boys hooked on it, too!) The Art of Manliness. That's what I'm talking about here. Let's just peruse some of their articles, shall we? How to wear a leather jacket with style. Bringing back common sense. How to roll up your shirt sleeves. Why every man should be strong. Being a gentleman at the office. This is not sexist. It's just how to be the best man you can, and how to be strong and nice at the same time. I think it's a worthy goal.
I was a bit frustrated this morning, and I was thinking some uncharitable thoughts. My inner mother jumped out, and I nearly admonished myself to be more gentlemanly. Hmm... Now that I think about it, I don't remember being taught how to be ladylike. Only in keeping my skirt down and not climbing trees in a dress. The picture of womanhood that is being advanced in our society is remarkably... manly. I am not a man, not am I interested in becoming one. That is not to say that I am any weaker in character, for that is entirely untrue. But there is a fine difference between being a woman, and being a lady. Are we losing the art of being feminine and strong and kind? What happened to being a ladylike? I'm wondering.
P.S. I'm not affiliated with The Art of Manliness. They have no idea who I am, although I'm a huge fan, and raiser of sever gentlemen-to-be. I even sent off one of my missionaries with a double edged safety razor and shaving soap, just like they recommended.
P.P.S. Jay always told me that he would never strike a lady. That's what he daddy taught him. But with a wicked twinkle in his eye (probably after being hit by a pillow flying out of my grasp), he did admit that if a woman hit him first, then she was definitely not a lady. Stinker.