How To Act Like A Modern Gentleman

The Second Essential Scary Truth

A few weeks back Heidi Cuda, producer extraordinaire for Fox 11 Los Angeles and arbiter of Southland cultural mores, asked me to write a blog entitled ‘How to be a Gentleman.’  Talk about an easy assignment; throw in a little bit about holding doors, buying flowers and some time worn Ann Landers wisdom, post the thing and (to paraphrase Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson) this never to be nightmare would be over.

My gut told me a flip dismissal of this topic was like taking the brown acid during Mardi Gras: a good idea in theory that was bound to backfire spectacularly.  Any idiot could post a few paragraphs as a reminder to open doors, bring flowers and walk on the outside of the sidewalk.  After some more consideration and discussion with Heidi I realized there are two questions that need to be addressed:

1. How do men behave like a gentleman in the post-Feminist 2010’s?


2.  Do modern men know how to behave like gentlemen anymore?

I know I have been trained in proper etiquette even though I practice it badly from time to time.  My brothers and I were always told by the Old Man to hold doors for girls/women/ladies, light cigarettes, pull out chairs etc.  And Mother insisted we learn how to ballroom dance properly and our table manners be immaculate.  (The latter of which precipitated a break-up with a girlfriend who found going out to dinner with me ‘daunting’ because I knew how to eat with the proper utensils.  So thanks a lot Mom…) However, I wonder if the generation(s) that came after my brothers and me were taught in the same fashion.

Using the two lists below from an article entitled ‘What Do Women Expect From a ‘modern gentlemen’ I went to several Los Angeles/Hollywood bars to ask various women my two questions.


* Lays a coat down in a puddle
* Opens and closing the car door
* Always paying for dinner
* Walks on the outside of the pavement
* Pulls out a chair for a lady
* Asks for a girl’s hand’ in marriage
* Asks a girl to dance
* Carries a girl’s bag for her
* Sees a girl safely home
* Requests a first date
* Buys cards and gifts regularly


* Walks you home
* Looks after you when ill or hung-over
* Puts the rubbish out
* Cooks at least one impressive dish
* Doesn’t run a mile when you mention PMT
* Brings a cup of tea in bed every morning
* Cries openly
* Uploads your favourite songs to your iPod
* Fills up your car with petrol
* Regularly sends sexy / soppy texts
* Lets you watch your favourite soap

My expectations were low.  In reflected light Society has become so coarse I thought most women just wanted the guy to show up on time and speak in a dialect that resembled English.  The five women I spoke to surprised me; not only in their very sharp observations of male behavior but in their agreement of how they wanted to be treated by the men they chose to have in their lives/date.

After my unscientific bar experiences, I posed the same two questions in various forms to fifteen women I am friends with to ask their opinions on the topic.  This group included a choreographer, playwright, DC lawyer, professional dominatrix, and waitress, massage therapist, an actress and an antique expert.

During the course of our discussions, two topics came to the fore immediately: men under the age of 35 GENERALLY do not know how to act like a gentleman around women.  (Every lady had different thoughts on the topic and I’ll address that in another post.)  The second topic was in how they preferred a gentleman act and I’m here to tell you gang, the Modern Gentleman list above is not what these ladies want.

Below is a list, by no means comprehensive in scope or scientific at all, of the various elements of what most would call ‘Old School’ gentlemanly behavior these women like, responded to and greatly admired and desired in men.  It is complied from the super majority of responses.  (Generally, this group of ladies agreed 80-90% of the time – maybe we should send them to Washington!)

* Open doors and let the ladies go first.

* When you first meet and hit it off, ask for a phone number.  Trying to get over immediately is gauche.

* The first date (or any date) should be a ‘proper’ date i.e. you arrive ON TIME to escort the lady to the agreed upon venue.

* Dress like a man.  (This doesn’t mean a suit at all times but at the very minimum venue appropriate.  And guy’s wrinkles are a big Schedule 1 no no.)

* Turn off your cell phone.

* Be understated and a good listener.

* Proper language matters.

* When possible, stand when she enters or leaves a room.

* In a restaurant, ask what she would like then repeat her order to the server.

* We all may not have the best table manners or etiquette but the simple act of putting your napkin (not in the collar and over the chest) on your lap goes a long way.

* Always ask for the check.  This caused a bit of consternation as some of our group wanted to/felt it proper to pay on occasion.  So even if it is a special occasion – your birthday – and/or your date demands to pay, ask for the check and make sure she wants to pay.  Then you can accede to the ladies desire.

* Walk her home or to her car.

* Little things/details mean a lot.  A text, a song that reminds you of her, a link sent via Facebook to something you discussed, a good afternoon phone call are always appreciated.

* Flowers aren’t only for Valentine’s Day. Birthdays or when you are in Chateaux Bow Wow.  And when you do get flowers, not only roses – Calla Lilies and Tulips (among others) and very nice as well.

There is no such thing as ‘old school’ when it comes to Gentlemanly behavior: the modern woman wants to be treated the same way as her forerunners with the occasional modern twist (see cell phone etiquette).  In short, when a man is with a woman she wants to be treated with respect, dignity and made to feel special.

When in doubt as to how to behave around a woman just fall back on this Judy Zola axiom: women are people too – without all the burping, farting, scratching and growling at football games.


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