Chivalry: The Ladies Auxiliary

21 Mar

Source:http://openclipart.org/detail/169702/odd-knight-by-j4p4n

Source:http://openclipart.org/detail/169702/odd-knight-by-j4p4n

I think I have a lead on where some of my :flailflailgender: feelings come from – regardless of how I am physically, the cultural ideal I’m striving for is masculine. Not because it’s the only legitimate or important way to be (please), but because it’s what feels authentic and desirable to me. My D&D etiquette alignment is masculine. Alignments feminine, neutral, or chaotic are all a-okay by me, but I’m currently running a neutral-masculine Paladin. (I think this metaphor got away from me? I am okay with this.)

I like being a gentleman. What do I mean by saying gentleman instead of just decent, polite person? Some things that are probably old-fashioned and Neolithic. I like opening doors for people and offering to carry things for them, etcetera. I occasionally go out of my way to do these things. I’ll give you an extreme example of the sort of thing I mean. When I was eight or so, I carried another kid my age (named Leia. I just thought you ought to know.) through a swamp after she got tired and sulky on a hike.  And I felt great afterward. It was a ridiculous thing to do – kid could have walked just fine. But doing this for her was 1) extravagant 2) unnecessary 3) and implied that I was a person with strength. I like doing nice things that have those connotations, though obviously it’s generally a bit more subtle than that.

Pictured: Subtlety.

Pictured: Subtlety.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/starwarsblog/512401447/

In general, when I’m being polite or particularly gentle, I want to be perceived as a muscular kind of polite, if that makes sense. One where people understand my behavior as an act of control and see that I am striving to be a good curator of my potential to do harm. People often do the ‘wrong’ nice thing for me or react oddly to my polite gestures because this is not the paradigm they’re looking at me in.

As far as doors and heavy boxes go, I’m not sure there’s much moral weight on whether you hold them or have them held for you. Someone needs to go through the damn door first and I’m not silly enough to insist that people act like every human being has biceps of equal size. But as it happens my biceps are pretty capable, it makes me feel good about myself to carry my own things, and delivering small gallantries gives me pleasure while also being useful. I also like it when these actions are regarded as, you know, a touch of dashing politeness instead of  as something mildly incongruous.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to a bus door at the same time as a man and had us both awkwardly stand there, gesturing for the other to go. I genuinely want to be polite and let them go first–I’m not trying to be weird or make a point per se. I just feel vaguely virtuous doing it. But sometimes, more often than you’d think, the man in question actually won’t go until I do. It’s a game of chicken–who feels awkward standing here first?

One way or another, we both need to get on this bus.

One way or another, we both need to get on this bus.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/superwebdeveloper/4141564307/

Sometimes it’s me. Sometimes we both try to concede simultaneously and bump into each other, making it worse. And you can always read on their faces; why is she making this awkward? Why doesn’t she know the unwritten rule that she goes through the door first? I’m trying to be polite here. Well I am too, and I like expressing politeness of this kind. Who knows why. I’m etiquette-masculine. (Another candidate for the Altlandia hanky code? Maybe I could write my character stats on my shirt?)

I’ve been told by a friend of mine that I talk about my masculinity more than most men he knows. This is probably true (keeping in mind this is also probably skewed by the kinds of men we tend to know). Separate -or maybe not, I don’t know- from whatever secondary sexual characteristics I’m sporting, I have a very masculine personality and I enjoy that. I grew up reading a lot of mythology and 19th century boy’s own stories. I have some truly old-fashioned ideas about the kind if person I want to be that I’ve worked hard to try and make play well with my modern, liberal beliefs. But when I think about self-improvement and the habits of daily life, I think about how I want to be like Edmond Dantes, Robin Hood, Diomedes, or some other classical old bastion of Roman Virtue. I’m aware this can be problematic and try to avoid those bits accordingly (yes, I’m also aware it’s a somewhat silly). But I like being a little chivalrous, and I guess on someone with ladybits that ends up being subversive. Which makes me more okay with it, actually.  It’s just that sometimes I’d like my behavior to be taken in the spirit it’s meant.

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