I was walking down a city street recently with a male friend. He was on the interior side of the sidewalk, closest to the buildings, and I was on the outside, closest to the street. When I noticed how we were situated I asked, somewhat jokingly, whether we should switch so that he could be on the “guy side” of the sidewalk. His response was a puzzled stare before asking what I meant.
I’ve always assumed – naively, as it turns out – that everyone knows what the guy side of the sidewalk is. But when I explained to my friend that it’s the side closest to the street, theoretically so the man can protect his female companion from the danger of traffic, he confessed that he’d never before heard of it. Say what?!
Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago I was in a similar situation with a work colleague and he himself moved around me and said something about needing to be on the guy side. This at least reassures me that I’m not making the whole thing up.
These recent interactions about the guy side of the sidewalk bring to mind the age ol’ question about chivalry and whether or not it’s dead. But as I’m pondering the issue, I find myself wondering if the better question might be how we’re nowadays defining it.
I oftentimes find myself seeing blurred lines between chivalry and simple politeness. I’ll hold a door open for a guy just as he does for me. At the same time, because I’m in NYC and am on elevators all the time, I’m well aware that guys generally let women step into the elevator before they do. And to be honest, it would seem a little weird to me for that one to be reversed. So is that the distinction? If the gesture is reciprocated it’s polite; if not, it’s chivalrous? A guy holds a chair out for you at a restaurant. Would be weird to do that for him, no? So are chair holding and elevator etiquette chivalrous?
There are some women who feel that any gestures from men that were once considered chivalrous should now be shunned. We’ve made our way up in the world by hard work, courage, and a whole lotta determination. Financially, we’re still making less than the guys, but we’re doing OK so we can buy our own drinks, thank you very much. Well, yeah, I can. But …
There are some things that, frankly, I just like when guys do them. For example, being sensitive to the presence of women during social conversation. Hey, I write erotic romance so I’m no prude. Yet, I don’t want to be “one of the guys” and guffaw at their tit and pussy jokes like I’m standing in their locker room. I’m cool with having them tone it down when I’m around.
In the end, call it chivalry, call it politeness, or call it simple respect for our gender. I think it’s just really nice to be treated like a lady.
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