Yesterday, while departing the gym I use for my now required workouts (insert mental image of very stern cardiologist), I saw and heard something that both brought a smile to my face and helped restore a bit of faith in the belief that the world has not entirely gone to hell in a handbasket.
On my way out of the gym, there was an older gentleman (the very appropriate term to use here) walking with his grandson ahead of me. As we approached the door to the facility, there was a woman and her daughter coming from the other direction and the older gentleman stopped and told his grandson to “hold the door for the ladies.”
The boy did so, but looked up at his grandfather and said “Why, Grandpa?”
To which the gentleman smiled and, then, very correctly and very distinctly said: “Because it’s what men do.”
I saw and heard this, stopped, looked heavenward, and mumbled a very heartfelt prayer of thanks.
You see, while growing up I (and all of my male cohorts) were taught a number of things that, in current times, seem to have somehow fallen into disuse.
I and my friends had many teachers. Our mothers and fathers. Our grandparents, uncles and aunts. Our pastors. Our teachers. Our Boy Scout troop leaders. The owners of the corner grocery stores. Our neighbors. Our friends’ parents. In short, our teachers were everywhere and they all read to us from the same “textbook.”
We were taught to work hard, to stick to things we’d started, and not whine about the problems we faced. We were also taught that manners and proper behavior were a major part of a man’s character. Fail here and (in New Orleans) you became known as “no-account” which was only a short half-step above “trash.”
Among other things, as young men, we also learned how to behave in the presence of women. To address them as “Ma’am” and to never use foul language in their presence (see: “no-account“) or toward them (see: “trash“).
We learned to open doors for them and let them go ahead of us in line. We learned to offer them our seats if they were standing and to hold their chairs while they were being seated.
We learned to take heavy packages from them and carry such packages to their cars or wherever.
We learned to offer them our arm on slippery sidewalks and to walk on the street side of them to give them “protection.”
We learned to stand whenever they came to or left the table and to remove our hats when speaking with them.
We learned to let them enter cars first and exit last so as to be able to assist them should they need it.
We learned that if a woman was hurt or being hurt, we were to drop whatever we were doing and go to her aid.
These (and many other) lessons were drilled home endlessly — along with the warning that young ladies, whose approval we would soon be seeking, were being taught to expect precisely such behavior.
And, none of it had to do with any idea of “weakness” or “less ability” in women. Nope. It all had to do with the idea that women were not only our equals but also, a very vital and important part of society and, thus, were to be treated at all times with respect and dignity.
In short, we were taught that “It’s what (real) men do.”
And, having just heard that lesson being taught again, I smiled all the way home from the gym.
Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds.