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When dating goes medieval

Rose Cora Perry and Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | Opinion | September 14th, 2009

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
Last week, before departing on yet another adventurous trip home to Oakville, I (Ivana) stopped at a gas station to fill up my ride. As I was pumping, a much older gentleman, two rows over, yelled at some random boy beside me, “Hey buddy! Why don't you get your lazy ass out of your pregnant girlfriend's car and pump the gas yourself? Or you can just sit there…”

I thought to myself, “Wow! This grey-haired fellow, who was equipped with pump in hand while his wife sat smirking in the passenger seat had, in his few brief words, whether intentionally or not, made a valid (moreover topical) point.” Some things (for better or for worse), among them chivalry, have definitely gotten lost in translation over the years, as we've moved forward into the modern technological “convenience is everything” age. While the youngster in the aforementioned story thought nothing of his behaviour, in a different time, and a different place, it would have been seen by the general populous as anything, BUT appropriate. All of this left me asking why such niceties are all too often neglected by our own generation? What followed was an interesting discussion between fellow Interrobang writers.

Throughout the Middle Ages across Eastern Europe, the idea of chivalry held significance and was championed as the standard code of conduct for gentlemen in the court. While today's men, much like the knights of the past, are still capable of occupying respectable places in polite society, acting courteously towards others, being kind-hearted, well-spoken, intellectual and the like, these attributes are allotted in a very different way. In other words, while men can (and do) possess these traits, said possession does not necessary comment on their actual character (ie: who they are, as people, on the inside). Case in point, we've known several so-called “gentlemen” that have played the whole “hold open the doors, and pull out the chairs” routine just to get women into bed a little quicker, and it usually doesn't take long after the fact for their true colours to be revealed. The point we're trying to make is that truth be told, your girlfriend ain't embellishing when she claims that it's difficult to find a genuine man. BUT…this article is not intended to be taken as a piece about male-bashing. In fact, we'd argue that finding “marriageable” women is likely just as hard.

So what happened? Can we blame it all on MTV and the other media programs that promote promiscuity and the “live fast, die young” mentality? To a degree, but it's also worth noting how much the influence of religion (the source from which all morals, ethics, and a great deal of our laws regarding human rights originated) has waned since even just our parents' generation. This of course not only affects views on marriage, but as well, changes entirely the ways we approach and formulate our perspectives on subjects such as sex, dating, romance, and courtship.

Another factor that has undoubtedly played a part is the change we have undergone in our recreational activities and forms of entertainment. It's not exactly like feudal lords and ladies attended nightclubs and grinded with random strangers in the hopes of coming across Mr. or Mrs. Right while also, we might add, consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Rather, courting was typically a long drawn out highly formalized process usually associated with initial meetings taking place at royal balls. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the rules of engagement have dramatically been altered since King Arthur's heyday!

We obviously can't rewind time or try to reinstitute all of these archaic traditions, but we do believe that in today's society (specifically in the realm of dating), it shouldn't be too much to ask to see a resurgence of the rules of etiquette and decorum. So, with that in mind, here is what we advise:

For the Gents:
If you are sincerely looking for a quality lady in hopes of establishing a long-term partnership, the most important thing (and we cannot stress this enough) is being honest and upfront about all of your feelings, especially including the not-so-nice ones. Sociologically speaking, men have traditionally been taught to hide their tears as they're considered (at least among machismo-types) a “sign of weakness,” and to bottle up their feelings, until one day it gets to be too much and they explode. Neither of these tactics are healthy psychologically, and honest to God, women appreciate men who aren't ashamed to demonstrate their vulnerability. While the “we need to talk” discussions may not always be pleasant experiences, they are important to women for two main reasons:

1) they are a way for women to gauge a man's sense of commitment/loyalty to a relationship (most of us are somewhat insecure and require reassurance every now and again)

2) beyond sex, having intimate and self-disclosing conversations is one of the best ways to strengthen a bond between two people

In the end, it's always the little things that matter, and as far as women go, most of us are firm believers in the expression that, “actions speak louder than words.” With this in mind, buying your lady unexpected gifts for no particular occasion, memorizing her favourite meal so that you can order for her when you go out to dinner, and lending her your jacket when it starts to get chilly outside are all tried and true ways to win a girl's heart. Such valiant efforts, however, should not just stop there. Treating ALL women in your life (moms, grandmas, sisters, aunts — you get the picture) with respect, courtesy and a sense that they should be protected will get you very far indeed. Take our word for it — your actions will NOT go unnoticed or unrewarded.

As for the Dames:
To reference a rather vulgar analogy, “no one's gonna want to buy the cow, if you're giving away the milk for free.” While we understand we no longer live in an age where women save themselves for marriage, letting one's hormones get the best of you before any semblance of a relationship has been established, is certainly not the way into a man's heart, at least not from a respect point of view. It's a fact…Men love a challenge, and trust us on this one, making them wait will definitely be in your best interest not only from an emotional point of view, but as well from a physical one (ie: there are a lot of scary diseases out there, and you really can't trust that a man's only had so many partners if you've just met).

Whether we choose to admit it to ourselves or not, the vast majority of women (at least the ones I know) can't do the whole one night stand thing, without being burdened shortly afterwards by a guilty conscience. We are maternal and caring creatures by nature, and so, all too often find ourselves taken advantage of in relationships. We've seen far too many women willing to give all of themselves into something, long before the man has even attempted to prove himself worthwhile. If you get nothing else from this read, please take away this: it is NOT your job to fix anyone, and no one can love you, until they have learned to love themselves. Set your standards high and for god's sake, stick to them! Relationships are supposed to be about want NOT need. If someone says they need you, it's obsessive, and my dears, that is not a healthy union that you should be pursuing.

A Few Words on Loyalty:
Perhaps it's the hot weather or general lax in responsibility, but summertime seems to be a testing ground for the strength of relationships. A popular time for marriage, and likewise a popular time for extra-marital affairs, the only absolute true test of love is that of a couple's loyalty to each other. People change, feelings fade, but I'm sure few would disagree that cheating is ever appropriate, irrespective of the unhappy circumstances. If you've committed yourself to someone, regardless of the length of time between you two, you owe it to yourself and to the other person to end things in a forthright and honourable manner. I've heard the excuses — “He didn't fulfill my needs. I wanted to regain her attention. I needed to know he'd be jealous. She didn't put out enough,” -- and none of them are justified, so don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise.

On the other side of things however, we will say this. A relationship should never be forced, and if a man has the decency to be upfront with you in saying that he's not ready for something serious, ladies, don't think that following Cosmo's advice on how to manipulate him into a commitment will work. Even in the best case scenario, let's say you managed to trap your man, do you really want to be left wondering if he's only with you because you employed some sneaky mind-game? No, we didn't think so either.

While our views, by some, may be considered antiquated, as much as we love today's globalized village, it is of our opinion that we've lost some very important societal notions of class and merit as a consequence of our focus being circumvented by technology and progress. It remains true that it is the random acts of kindness — the courteous gestures — that say the most in the slightest way.

While we cannot (and absolutely do not) expect men to revert to donning codpieces, nor do we propose that women should remain virginal and chaste until their wedding nights, we do believe a revisitation to the code of chivalry would be a much welcomed, if not needed, change to our modern dating behaviour. Below we've included an outline of the “Twelve Trusts of Chivalry” to get you all started on the right track. A girl can dream can't she?

The Twelve Trusts of Chivalry

1. I will develop my life for the greater good.

2. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth.

3. I will never boast, but cherish humility instead.

4. I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word.

5. I will defend those who cannot defend themselves.

6. I will honour and respect women, and avoid sexism in all its guises.

7. I will uphold justice by being fair to all.

8. I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship.

9. I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them.

10. I will be generous to the poor and those who need help.

11. I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven.

12. I will live my life with courtesy and honour from this day forward.

(The Twelve Trusts listed above came from the following website:
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