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Gentleman Speak: A Gentleman in Progress


After posting Jedediah Bila’s reminiscence of an early dating disaster, Verily asked readers on  Twitter a simple and delightfully loaded, question: Are most men “completely out of touch with how to treat a lady?”

As a man, I can tell you that the short answer to that question is, yes. But that’s not the half of it. It’s not that men have forgotten how to treat a lady. It may be that men never knew. At least not intuitively.

A gentlemen is, first of all, a cultural achievement. No boy is born opening doors or laying his jacket across puddles for his sisters and girlfriends. A boy doesn’t naturally keep his word or forbear a slight when an excuse or a score settled is within easy reach. All those things we might call virtues, and good manners must be learned. But to be learned they must be taught, and that requires first of all that they are esteemed. So you’ll immediately see our predicament: Mr. Darcy is not born, ladies, he is made.

Distinguishing between true and false manliness, the American author James Freeman Clarke wrote over a century ago:

“Manliness means perfect manhood, as womanliness implies perfect womanhood. Manliness is the character of man as he ought to be as he was meant to be. It expresses the qualities which go to make a perfect man–truth, courage, conscience, freedom, energy, self-possession, self-control. But it does not exclude gentleness, tenderness, compassion, modesty. A man is not less manly, but more so, because he is gentle. In fact, our word ‘gentlemen’ shows that a typical man must also be a gentle man.”

To say that men today lack exemplars of this kind of manliness would be true, but again, that’s only half the story. Nearly everywhere you look, whether on television or in what passes for men’s magazines, it sure looks like we esteem the exact opposite of Clarke’s true manliness. We’ve got the suave and damnable Don Draper on the one side, and New Girl’s lovable slacker, Nick Miller, on the other.

So what’s a girl to do?

First of all, please don’t lower the bar. We men often tailor our behavior to women’s expectations, so don’t be afraid to communicate your expectations, and don’t hesitate to walk away when necessary. The best way to ensure you’re treated with respect is to start a healthy dose of self-respect. Any man worth your time will rise to the occasion.

Secondly, when you see a man playing the part, let him know you appreciate it. A simple “thank you,” kind words delivered in a note, or surprising him with World Series tickets would all go a long way. (OK any baseball tickets will do, I’m just saying, Guys have dreams too.)

Lastly, and I know this may read as unsympathetic to those surrounded by Drapers and looking for a Darcy, but don’t despair. There are few forces on earth so transformative in a man as the heart of a woman.

(Photo by Andrea Rose)

By: Chris Marlink

Chris Marlink will mark ten years of marriage this month. He and his bride are raising three gentlemen and a lady in Michigan.


  1. Jessica says:

    Love this! and sooo true! We have to remember that we’re raising the next generation of gentlemen and ladies, we’re the only ones who can help fix this trend

    • Micha Elyi says:

      Females can start apologizing! for the mess! they’ve made of the last two generations by raising girls to be feminist bullies instead of ladies.

      Ladies don’t organize or participate in SlutWalks, nor socialize with females who do.
      Ladies don’t demand free birth control pills, they have self-control.
      Ladies don’t acquire piercings or tattoos.

      Gentlemen do not throw pearls before swine.

    • lucy says:

      “A real man opens the door for a woman and spanks her bottom when she misbehaves”

  2. James Felix says:

    You can’t spend two generations disparaging masculine virtues and then complain when those virtues vanish. Well, on second thought I guess you can… it just makes you certifiably insane to do so.

    • NateWhilk says:

      Here’s a quote from “The Abolition of Man” by C.S. Lewis. He was writing about all people, not just men. But it applies.

      “…we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible… In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

  3. Perro says:

    If women want men to behave like gentlemen, perhaps they should consider acting like ladies? Traditional chivalry was a two way street.

    Women wish to be freed of any and all traditional gender expectaions, yet they wish to shackle men to gender roles right out of the 1950s

  4. edh says:

    You need to use a legible font before I will read this blog.

  5. rhhardin says:

    What is gentle accompanies what is strong, says Vicki Hearne, explaining why big dogs are gentlemen.

  6. slim w. says:

    What, exactly, is a “lady?” What is implied by “perfect womanhood?” If men are expected to hold to a certain set of behaviors, what is behavior is expected of women that feel they deserve it? Should there be an expectation of female behavior that qualifies a “gentlewoman?”

  7. Jonathan Silber says:

    Gentlemanly behavior belongs to part of a system, called
    chivalry, in which there are standards and obligations
    regarding the behavior of women, too, not just men.

    In our day, both men and women writing on the subject
    focus on the men–what men who aspire to be gentlemen
    must do or avoid doing, and how women can make them into
    gentlemen; there’s little or no consideration given to what
    women owe to men, what they must do or avoid doing to
    meet the right and proper expectations of men, if they hope
    to be treated in a gentlemenly fashion.

    In short, a woman who wants the men around her to act like
    gentlemen must, as her part in the bargain, learn what it is to
    be a LADY, and then act like one.

  8. Brett says:

    Ah yes, where are the Gentlemen? Well, if women are having trouble finding gentlemen who know how to treat a lady, maybe they should be looking a bit more inward. As a notable comedian once said, “You’ve been married nine times, hell maybe it’s you.”

    When I was in high school, my drill sergeant’s response to my complaint that he didn’t treat us with respect was simply, “What have you done to earn my respect?”

    If a woman wishes to complain that I have not treated her as a lady, my response is “What have you done to deserve being treated like a lady?” You quote a man writing about what constitutes a gentleman over a century ago. If women want the gentlemen of the 19th century, wouldn’t it be appropriate for them to act as the ladies of the 19th century?

    You cannot have your cake and eat it to. Chivalry was a code that imposed restrictions on behavior for women as well as men. Women have cast off their restrictions. Whether this is right or wrong is a separate argument. However, they cannot logically expect men to live up to their half of the bargain, if they will not live up to their’s.

  9. The DRILL SGT says:

    If you want men to behave as gentlemen, start by acting like a lady. It’s a two-sided system with rights AND responsibilities.

    • grayswindir says:

      Amen. Respect is earned. Chivalry was a means of showing respect for the qualities of a lady. Pride in herself, her intellect, her place as the fount of life, a potential valued and trustworthy life partner and mother of a man’s children.

      When those qualities aren’t present. When a woman views herself as just a toy for the sexual pleasure of a man, including her willingness to be that night’s shack-up including killing the consequences– well…

    • Katherine says:

      Yes, we should also raise little ladies. But don’t say that is a prerequisite to someone being a gentleman. I certainly hope neither of my boys think it is ok to behave badly when they run into a badly behaved women. Also: polite, mannerly, and kind behavior has to start somewhere: be the good example to those who have never had that example. Keep your standards high for yourself and your children first, and trust there are others out there who are better than our pop culture’s minimal standards.

      • grayswindir says:

        Every man, in the deepest part of his heart, wants to find that woman, that lady that he must strive to be worthy of, that partner who will inspire him to be more than he ever thought he could possibly be. And who will appreciate him for it.

        If I die defending her, do not weep for me– it will be one of the proudest moments of my life. Do not regret or wish it away, celebrate that I was man enough for the moment.

  10. JorgXMcKie says:

    It’s hard to be a gentleman when there are so few ladies around. I’m kind of unsure why every problem women have with men must be the fault of the men.

    In the movies, both John Wayne and Cary Grant were true gentlemen when interacting with true ladies.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      John Wayne was especially gentlemanly on screen when he turned Maureen O’Hara over his knee and spanked her.

      • Ten says:

        Right. Because villainizing the fantasy industry’s for-profit outmoded gender stereotypes is always the way forward.

        I mean, if you were being sarcastic and if I may employ the progressive’s rhetoric and conditionals to illustrate your snarky fallacy.

        Actually, Western civilization would benefit from some old fashioned disciplinary wisdom where the weaker sex submitted to learning something about a method of responsible caring and sustainable organization that as its primary function it’s substitute statist daddy-husband will only ever prevent it experiencing.

  11. John says:

    Someone please show me where the ‘Lady’ equivalent to gentlemen are at in todays world. You may as well lament the fact that both sexes have degenerated in their behavior towards each other.

  12. JorgXMcKie says:

    Oh, and women seeking out ‘bad boys’ doesn’t help, either.

  13. Deserttrek says:

    when i was younger, women did appreciate a gentleman. in the 90’s a bill clinton phony touchy feely clone was wanted. nowadays i have no idea what women my age want. easier to not give a crap and just do the best i can.

  14. Amazed says:

    When the majority of my fellow women begin acting like Ladies again, you will see Gentlemen re-emerge. Unfortunately, with the current state of affairs, we’ll be waiting a long time.

  15. Greshams Law says:

    If you can cite a long list of qualities and virtues you demand in a man, but cannot detail an equally long list of qualities and virtues you bring, then you will never find your gentleman.

  16. Fork says:

    Men will act like gentlemen around ladies; it is a perquisite for getting laid. Men don’t need to act like gentlemen around women who are not ladies.

    • Alan says:

      Amen. Chivalric behavior is, essentially, a game: a set of rules for all players, a reward of a pleasurable relationship if you “play” well by them. Women who don’t play by the rules for a Lady are signalling they aren’t interested in that game; unsurprisingly, men pick up on that and choose not to play by the rules for a Gentleman when dealing with them. The resulting relationship, if based on an anarchic lack of rules, or some other “power” game, may not be as pleasant in the long run for either party; for which reason some choose not to enter into any relationship at all.

  17. Diggs says:

    Having grown up during the heydey of feminism, I can assure that the idea of being a good gentleman was psychologically beat out of most men. For those of us who had a father who demanded we be gentlemen (it didn’t hurt that I had five sisters who wanted to be treated like ladies), it wasn’t that hard. For others, the idea of getting scorn for opening a door, holding a chair, getting and holding a coat, wore thin the gentleman veneer they had learned as a boy. Add to that the idea that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and women have pretty much demanded to be dated only by selfish frat boys. Gentlemen exist, oh yes, and in great numbers. They exist around Ladies.

  18. tweell says:

    As noted, gentlemen are scarce nowadays. Almost as scarce as ladies. I raised my son to be a gentleman, and he found that to be a profound handicap in today’s social melieu. Treating all women as ladies invites bad treatment and abuse, I cannot recommend that behavior any more. My son (and I) have had to adopt a modified policy – verify that you are dealing with a lady before acting like a gentleman.

    • Ken Royall says:

      I can relate to that. I made the mistake of treating girls as ladies in my younger days and they took it to mean I was a doormat. They quickly lost interest. Every woman I had a long term relationship since came about because I adopted a more cocky, nonchalant attitude at the outset. I wasn’t nasty to them but I wasn’t a gentleman in the classic sense either.

  19. Howard Roark says:

    Amen, Amazed!!

    Women who no longer strive to live as ladies are not entitled to chivalrous men. Womyn who want me to hear their roar should expected to receive the same from others, not special extra special treatment.

    How to know feminism is about the feelings of inferiority which liberal women feel? Watch their anti-male efforts on even the smallest gestures of courtesy and civility. The 3rd time a 20-something woman scoffed at my opening the door for her was confirmation of this belief. Other men have opened the door for m and I’ve opened it for other men also. The act carried no emotional significance for either of us. But Ms. Birkenstock couldn’t abide the possibility so she isn’t worthy of the courtesy or regard. Nor are her sisters who say nothing about HER rude behavior.

  20. Offended Man says:

    “There are few forces on earth so transformative in a man as the heart of a woman.”

    Ha. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, a woman marries a man believing she can change him, and a man marries a woman believing she won’t change. And both are disappointed.

  21. Scott M says:

    “So what’s a girl to do?”

    Stop participating in the demonization of the man. Stop watching shows that portray fathers, husbands, and boyfriends as children in adult bodies, oafs, clods, or otherwise clueless imbeciles. Stop buying products from companies that advertise commercials that give the same treatment to fathers, husbands, and boyfriends. Stop buying into stereotypes like fathers aren’t nurturing, caring parents, or that male teachers are inferior.

  22. GM says:

    Women train men to be cads.

    An analogy; you have a dog that you want to pee outside. But this dog constantly pees on your rug. You have a doggy treat that this dog LOVES. Everytime the dog pees on the carpet you give the dog a treat. Everytime the dog pees outside you withhold the treat. And then you can’t figure out why the dog keeps peeing on the carpet!

    The dog is men, peeing outside is treating women with respect, peeing on the carpet is treating women with disrespect. And I think all know what the doggy treat is.

  23. Mark says:

    I think most men know quite well how to treat a lady. I just think we rarely meet any women who one would call ladies.

  24. Warren Bonesteel says:

    Sorry, Mz. Feminanzi. If you want respect, you’ve got to earn it. If you want me to open doors for you, you’ve got to stop cursing at me when I tender this respect. If want to be my ‘equal,’ stop complaining when I do not open the door for you. If I address you as “ma’am,’ don’t yell at me because you think I accused you of prostitution. If I addres you as ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’ don’t yell at me or curse me and tell me you’re ‘Mz.”

    If you’re my ‘equal,’ you don’t deserve alimony, child support or any other special consideration under the law or in a divorce or at the end of any intimate relationship. (50-50 means 50-50 and not a penny more.)

    If you want respect, you’d best call me, ‘Sir,’ and ‘Mister,’ instead of ‘heartless’ and ‘oppressive.’ Then, I’ll be polite and courteous and carry your bags and open doors for you and call you “Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’, and ‘ma’am.’

    You have created the incentives. You have no one to blame but yourselves. Now, live with them, or change them.

    It’s entirely up to you.

  25. Boomushroom says:

    We have given up chivalry in favor of equality. They are incompatible, and I fear we made the wrong choice. Either people are the same, or they are different. If they are different, then it would make sense to have a system of behavior that emphasized the strengths, and minimized the weaknesses of each. If they are the same, then no inherent differences can be acknowledged or dealt with.

  26. boo says:

    I’m reminded of the time a few years ago when I saw a woman (whom I didn’t know) struggling to carry some boxes, and I held a door open for her. She treated me to a diatribe about how she didn’t need any help from a sexist pig like me, even though I would have done exactly the same thing for a man who was approaching a door while struggling with boxes. That wasn’t the only time something like that has happened. Result: now, I only hold doors open for my fellow men. Women can fuck off.

  27. Ten says:

    The Western woman is culturally and intellectually schizophrenic: Demanding endless special institutional and politically correct treatment for having a vagina, she somehow then presupposes that men will magically divine when she *feels* simultaneous offense for being treated as other than an equal, by simple logic an equal that warrants no such exclusive treatment!

    It’s said men are macroscopic and serial thinkers while women are microscopic and parallel thinkers. If so, women are advised by this gentleman that as long as they react with emotion and entitlement they’ll naturally find avoidance and exclusion in their futures. Self-centered thought breeds self-centered action. Nobody tolerates that for long.

    It’s all a question of unthought wants versus the conscious will to determine a just principle of needs. If you need a man like a fish needs a bicycle that’s precisely what you’ll get. Kindly drop the canard of there being no Good Men in what you in the next breath label the conspiracy of Patriarchal Dominion. Solve your inherent paradoxes before blaming.

    Actually, *you* created this culture. Now own it as such.

  28. A Southerner says:

    One of the nice things about the South is many women still understand that behavior is a two way street. Someone treats you with manners and you reciprocate. Sadly it’s not as true as it was in big cities or in other parts of the country. Our boys were raised to be gentlemen, and after one semester at Ivy League or Little Three school, both gave up. As one told me: “the women act and want to be treated like tramps, the guys have no class and no honor, and the best way to deal with the administration and faculty if you are male is to assume they are out to screw you. And don’t dare mention anything on politics, religion, or society that doesn’t fit the PC code: they will destroy you.” So both learned to lie real quickly: women are getting what they want and I hope they like it. My oldest says the worse he treats them, the more willing they seem to be to put out.

  29. Fearsome Pirate says:

    People who wonder why men don’t treat women like ladies must not have seen Miley Cyrus pretend to jack off with a foam finger.

  30. Mastro says:

    Women don’t actually appreciate gentlemen. Anyone spending 5 minutes in a bar or nightclub will see the crudest men rewarded while someone acting like a gentleman will be thought of as weak, boring, or- and I don’t think it’s yet a complement- gay.

  31. Jim Vinoski says:

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it to be so, but the undercurrent of your entire post is a denigration of men. Half of our cultural sickness is this constant, unescapable misandry, and it’s driving the business of becoming a gentleman out of business. Why should any boy today, seeing men reviled and ridiculed at every turn, engage with our broken society at all, much less as a gentleman of old?

    You point out that ladies must not “lower the bar” in their expectations of men. Yet we men have already allowed the bar for women (not many of them being ladies anymore) to be thrown out the window. The other half of our cultural sickness is our celebrating of the most vile and basest behavior by females, whether it be prurience, nagging, intolerance or victimhood.

    You’re right about one thing: gentlemen are made, not born. But so are ladies. And our culture is piling roadblock upon roadblock in the way of making both. So yes, there are still gentlemen, and there are still ladies. But not many of either, and I expect them to get fewer and farther between, given the downward trajectory of this broken society we’ve made.

  32. elHombre says:

    “It may be that men never knew.”

    I’m pretty sure that most millenials never knew a lady.

  33. Dana says:

    People treat you as they perceive you wish to be treated. If you dress like a thug… people will treat you like a thug. If you are sharply dressed… people will treat you with respect.

    As for the gentlemanly point here… if you dress and act like a piece of trash… men will treat you like trash. If you dress and act like a ‘lady’… that is how men will treat you.

    It isn’t fricking rocket science folks.

  34. Coyote says:

    The question that remains unasked here is “Do women deserve this kind of behavior?” Simply existing is not good enough to warrant deferential treatment. Women will not be worth chivalrous behavior until no-fault divorce is eliminated, and they start getting married as 19 year-old virgins.

    Now, we have hairy refrigerators pretending to be women and demanding they be treated like goddesses. I don’t feel like marrying or associating with a major appliance.

  35. grayswindir says:

    But one does not have to be a puritan to recognize that young people have been instructed out of their humanity. I think it’s awful when young women treat themselves like meat. I think it’s awful when young men treat them no better. But I don’t blame one of them more than the other. Rather I blame the underlying logic of a culture that has lost its way.

  36. DC Texan says:

    The decline of men who are “gentlemen” is likely proportional to the decline in women who are “ladies”.

  37. TBlakely says:

    Here is a classic example of misandry. Any mother who tries to teach her son to be a gentleman in todays’ culture is consciously or unconsciously setting him up for a lifetime of misery, self doubt and failure. Roughly 95% of the women in his generation who would even bother to give him the time of day will ruthlessly exploit him and either drop him or cheat on him with the first bad boy that crosses their path. Hopefully the kid will be bright enough and observant enough to realize what his mother is trying to do to him and adjust his behavior accordingly.

    I’m not kidding when I say that any mother trying to teach her son to be a gentleman nowadays is abusing their son.

  38. Dienekes says:

    I find I have grown fond of Rhett Butler’s departing comment in “Gone With The Wind”.

    I expect to encounter a unicorn long before I meet a lady in our current culture.

  39. Pedro Gallegos III says:

    Women today don’t WANT to be in the presence of a gentleman. I have personally been insulted many times by being called less than manly because I do not lust after women, and do not incessantly flirt with them. Most woman today seem to have NO self esteem if men do not see them as ‘sexually attractive.’ Women today WANT the cat-calling and groping. I was taught to NOT see women as sex objects, but as beautiful daughters of G-d. In return for that respect my manhood and sexual orientation are called into question? It seems to me men today are just ‘living down’ to the modern female expectations. And these women are teaching their sons to behave in the same way with which they expect men to treat them.

  40. Brooklynguy says:

    Why? Why should men treat females like “ladies”? I’ve spent 25 years watching women reward men for acting like jerks. I’ve listened to leading feminists, female leaders, female celebrities, female professors, all telling me – nay, demanding of me – the same thing: Treat women the same as men. I’ve seen endless “young ladies” drinking themselves to the point of stupor, stripping in public for a nothing more than a chorus of male approval, sleeping with guy after guy, degrading themselves to where it’s numbing, to the approval of females everywhere. If I meet a female that I find to be a lady, I’ll treat her as such. But, as a gender, you’ve given up the right to treated as a “lady” just because have different genitalia.

    • sarahbeth says:

      I am so sorry that’s been your experience. I can promise you that there truly are beautiful women who act like ladies and deserve to be treated as such; perhaps you need to look elsewhere to find them!

  41. Tom says:

    To misquote “Lawrence of Arabia”: “While others behave like knaves, I behave like a gentleman, because it pleases me to do so.” Behaving well is its own reward – that’s not to say one should allow oneself to be stepped on. Soft-spoken doesn’t mean soft, patient doesn’t mean cowardly. And there’s nothing wrong with telling a non-lady that she’s not a lady.

    I would encourage all ladies who wish to see more gentlemanly behavior, to compliment it whenever they see men OR boys doing it – I have noticed how few women pay any males compliments, so a public compliment of male goes a long way.

  42. Josue says:

    Like commenter “Boo” above, I recall as a young man holding the door open for a female co-worker struggling to carry a large load. She scolded me for my chivalry.

    But, I have to say, not all women are that way. Guys, if you’re having a hard time meeting real ladies, you need to switch “communities”, travel, or make new friends. There are Ladies out there. Guy’s have to own the responsibility of being a gentleman–we can’t blame the women for that. It is true feminism, and the pop-culture that has made it into a religion, has put undue pressure on traditional chivalry.

    So, let’s be men, and resist that pressure and stick to doing what is right. Let’s fight for the preservation of the traditional gentleman. Let’s defend the high honor of being classy and of encouraging ladies to be classy.

    That’s what men are supposed to do.

    • Rebekah says:

      Thank you for this. I am so saddened by the many comments implying that all women are tramps. I am not, and most of the women I know are not. We are probably an exception– most of us are fairly conservative Christians– but we do exist! Guys, I’m really sorry that you have only experienced put-downs from the feminazis. Please keep looking. Please don’t give up. I married a gentleman and I am so glad his mama raised him to be one.

  43. Olaf says:

    I’m sensing a pattern in the replies to this article.

    Women as a group have the power to change men’s behavior, but they must change their own behavior first. If women refused to have anything to do with disrepectful “badboys”, and treated gentlemen with sometning other than contempt, you would see male behavior change very rapidly.

  44. John says:

    The problem with this is that women don’t act like ladies but they expect every man to act like a gentleman, ie having their cake and eating it – they go out dressed as sluts and cheat and expect that to be “ok”.

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