Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Remedial Chivalry

Even now, with my golden years in sight, I still yearn to achieve some goals left over from boyhood and teenage years. Oh, I’ve given up on running a 5-minute mile or bench pressing 300 pounds. But I still have designs on someday cruising the Danube from Vienna to Varna, on the Black Sea, and maybe learning enough Homeric Greek to work my way through the Odyssey in the original.

Near the top of this long-running resolve list is an item I should have accomplished decades ago, back when I pledged my heart to the girl who would rule my heart for the rest of my life:

Resolved: to be a better and more attentive escort to my wife.

Embarrassing Confession: Despite this sincere resolve, I too often neglect my wife at cocktail parties, wedding receptions, and similar social functions. There I stand, doping off, unaware that her wineglass is empty or that the waiter just forgot to serve her dessert.

Or maybe I just forget to pull out her chair or remove her coat or wrap. And, yikes, did I just say the wrong thing to the wrong person, or forget a name and face I should darned well know? Yep, and now my wife is having to rescue me again from appearing like a social ignoramus.

This is unacceptable behavior for any husband, let alone one who professes to worship, adore and serve his better half. By now I should be like Au876, a paragon of chivalry according to his years-ago postings on Lady Misato’s Wife Worship Forum:
“Showing Your Worship of Her in Public: I have been trying to make an example of our marriage in the presence of other couples by the way I treat my wife. Treat her like she is the most important and most special person in the world (after all, she is). Your wife will glow in that and appreciate the way you behave in front of her or your friends. There is a tendency among men to put down their wife in public. The exact opposite should be the case.”

Obviously, I need help. So I’ve been collecting some do's and don’ts from Au and other attentive husbands, like this:
“You will want to find out how she will expect you to comport yourself in public. She will likely expect you to open doors for her, stand when she enters a room, light her cigarette, and perform other acts of chivalry. She may have different protocols for you depending on where you are and with whom.
“When we are together I give her my undivided attention and I am usually always at her side and prepared to do her bidding. She prefers I stay silent unless spoken to.”

Is that excessive deference on the part of a husband? Well, how I wish I’d observed those strictures at a recent function. I actually interrupted my wife when she was talking to a woman across our table. She turned at looked at me in incredulity and annoyance, then snapped, “I’m talking, don’t interrupt.” I stammered back: “I just wanted to ask if you wanted another glass of wine.”

See, even when I’m trying to be chivalrous, I klutz it up!

But some guys get it, like the husband who called himself “Mr. Lisa” on the old Spouseclub message board (several years defunct):
“My job at the party will to remain at [my mother-in-law’s] side as her personal waiter for the afternoon/evening. Lisa thinks this will be a good experience for me, and that it should not be humiliating to me to have to serve in this manner, and I guess it isn't really.”

But no spouse, I think, gets it better than Fdhousehusband, who describes the instructions he was given by his executive wife when he escorted her to a corporate event:
"’I hate carrying a purse to these functions. Put these in your pockets.’ i dutifully found a place in my pockets for Her cell and all Her other odds and ends. ‘you will be my walking purse tonight. I want you close by in case i need anything, understand? Stay at my side, smile and look charming… your job tonight is to convince them that you are the perfect supporting spouse whose job it is to take care of My house and My kids so that I can focus on my job 100%.’"

Which is just what he did: “[As] She worked the room. i stayed at Her right elbow, slightly behind Her, just where Her purse would be. my pockets were bulging with Her stuff and i found myself getting hard at the thought of being nothing more than Her purse tonight. i fetched Her drinks and hors d'oeuvres and remained at Her beck and call all night.”

If you can locate any transcripts from the old Spousechat message board, you will be delighted to read the voluminous postings of Ms. Lynda, a dynamic young woman who launched herself into an upwardly mobile executive job right out of college, taking her boyfriend along for the ride, marrying him and turning him into a full-time “subordinate and submissive” househusband, whom she referred to as “Mr. Lynda”:
“Just as some men enjoy the public adoration of their wives, I think I will enjoy the very public adoration of Mr. Lynda when it becomes even more popular to do so… As people become more comfortable with our life, it would be nice to have Mr. Lynda admit in public that it is my earnings that supply our lifestyle, that I am the boss at home, and that he enjoys being a corporate spouse.”

On another FLR blogsite I found among the “10 golden rules” of proper gentlemanly behaviour one that I should absolutely commit to memory:
“You make sure that no woman remains with an empty glass! It is your duty to always keep an eye on it and ask a lady politely if she would like a refill or something else.”

Followed by:
“You do not eat in presence of women unless every woman has been served some food and is eating."

There are many more chivalric rules in the same vein, followed by this summation:
“Gentlemanly behaviour in a man for me has to express and radiate his genuine respect for womanhood. Just think of the good old days when a proper gentleman was throwing himself in the dirt so a lady could walk over him without getting her feet and shoes dirty!
“I told my darling that in his presence a woman should never have to do menial tasks such as carrying stuff (other than her handbag ), cleaning up dirt, fetch things etc.! All those things are his duty! Furthermore I expect him to do those duties with eagerness, thus expressing that he considers it a privilege just to be allowed to be in our presence!”

Amen! I mean, Ah, Women!


enoch said...

This is an area I am actually pretty good at... because I don't really care for big parties or events. Since I'm not that comfortable at these events, I tend to stay close to my wife and to make sure she is taken care of. I'm much happier standing with her and talking to another couple or individual than I am talking to someone on my own...

Great quotation from fd... I can relate to how he describes feeling. I feel the same way when my wife hands me her purse when we are at the mall. And I have to say I really enjoy carrying her bags for her at the mall - I guess that since I get a kick out of it, I am attentive to make sure I always do - or at least always offer.

Now, today... have to stretch outside my own comfort zone and make some more phone calls to contractors and insurance agents... she asked me to do so the past two days and I haven't done it yet... so MY remedial chivalry is to make sure I take care of the tasks she has assigned me... :)

Mark Remond said...

Enoch, your last graph touches on something that is also difficult for me. My wife often gives me assignments like that, to make difficult (for me) phone calls when things go awry, and be assertive... way out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I try to email my way out and she'll say no, make a phone call. Or take something back to a store and demand a refund, which is really hard for me to do. In times past, I'd almost rather risk displeasing her than following her direction on such matters. That has now changed. Whatever she tells me, no matter how challenging or emotionally difficult, I'll do it rather than not comply with her directives. In fact, refusing her or arguing with her has become pretty much inconceivable. In that sense, I "fear" her more than the customer service sharks at the Best Buy, or whatever.

enoch said...

Mark, that's good for us, I think. Part of it is that our wives are challenging us to grow by insisting we deal with things outside our comfort zones. Another big part of it is that our wives are molding us - shaping us into the husbands they want and need to have. I know we've discussed the "molding" issue before, and it reminds me of the song "Bend Me, Shape Me".

I actually succeeded today in one such task, so I am looking forward to her next phone call, as I will have some good news to report!

Mark Remond said...

I concur, and I am reminded of a "law" that I cited on page 55 of my book:

"The path of least resistance is not always the best way to go. In fact, the path of greatest resistance is more likely the best way. This was codified by mystery novelist John D. MacDonald into Meyer’s Law: “
'In all emotional conflicts, the thing you find hardest to do is the thing you should do.' So, if you find “inter-spousal communication” difficult, take it as a reliable indicator that you’re on the right path."

whatevershesays said...

Wow. Great blog. Thanks for your interesting and very truthful post.

I just try and remember when we were first dating and that usually covers most issue such as door holding, etc.

Mark Remond said...

whatevershesays... good advice, why didn't I think of that? Why haven't I behaved like that? It's exactly what I preach.

Susan's Pet said...

Maybe I misunderstand again. You mean well, but I think that you are getting lost in the details.

If your wife is satisfied with your behavior, then "case closed". Screw how other people see or perceive your behavior with respect to her. Only her feelings matter.

If you feel good when she feels good, then all is well. Otherwise ask her how you can improve your behavior.

Mark Remond said...

Susan's Pet - My shortcomings as an escort are apparent to my wife -- she is not satisfied with my behavior in social settings. I'm not an insensitive boob, mind you. It's just that I zone out. I read somewhere you can divide people into those who actually recharge their batteries in social gatherings, and those who recharge only in privacy. I'm the latter. I can function socially, but it is always a bit of a battery drain... and I can't wait for the party to be over... usually. So I kinda need to keep reminding myself, or have her remind me -- talk to that lady on your right, refill my glass and my mom's... get us some dessert, they're serving now... say thank you to our hostess...