Tag Archives: Arlene Dahl

Second Thoughts on Chivalry

I think I might have figured out part of the reason Chivalry is dead–because some men, (you can spot them because they’re usually wearing a fedora or a bow tie; the more romantic among them might sport a ruffled shirt or floor-length leather trench coat) use it as an excuse to lash out at women when they don’t bend over on the spot.  These guys (often referring to themselves as “gentlemen” or “nice guys”) believe that if they hold a door for a woman or pay for dinner, she “owes” them sex at the end of the night.  This is bunk, and women are sick of it. No wonder we get weirded out when people don’t hold doors!   There are men out there I wouldn’t let hold a door for me if it was leading into a room filled with bunnies where Walton Goggins and Clive Owen and Ewan McGregor were all there holding plates of tiny finger food to feed to me while I lounged on a soft couch watching 30 Rock.

So how about this, everyone.  How about we ALL hold the door for other people?  How about we pay for dinner if we know a friend is a little short on cash, and we help carry a pal’s luggage if it looks heavy or if the person is clearly burdened with packages.  If we get to the table first, we pull out the chair.

And everyone else, let’s try to say “hey, thanks” when other people perform nice tasks for us, hmm?  It’s 2013–let’s remove the gender politics from politeness.  And quit expecting things from other people.  Do good deeds from the heart, not because you think you might get something out of it.

 

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At Your Service, M’lady

“Women complain that chivalry is dead.  Maybe we have helped kill it.  A little patience on our part can revive it.  If you want to be the woman men rush to pull up a chair for, give them time to get there.” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

My friend Ari & I were traveling to NYC over the weekend, meeting my friend Matthew & her husband, Pav.  I’ve known Ari & Pav since college; I attended their wedding last year and they’re both some of my dearest friends.  Ari is an actual genius and scathingly funny; Pav has a sweet face that is almost deceptive about his quick, wicked sense of humor.

When we got off the bus, Pav met us and immediately offered to carry my vintage red suitcase, which was sitting on the ground next to where we were waiting.  “How come you didn’t offer to carry my bags!” Ari joked.

Pav’s answer was priceless.  “I didn’t want to insult you,” he said.  “After that talk we had about gender roles.  I know you’re strong enough to carry your bag.”

It was a perfect example of both chivalry & love.  He respected her enough to know that his offering to carry her bags might be considered an act of disrespect for her strength and position as an independent woman.  But because I am their friend and in her company, it was a show of respect for me for him to offer to carry my bag, the same way a young man in love might offer to buy his girlfriend’s friends a round of drinks when he meets them for the first time.

I thanked him, but carried my own bag out of respect for their marriage.   But I do love it when a man carries my bag; Matthew does it whenever we’re together and Ian, who was raised by a fiercely independent mother who taught him that all parties carry what they packed, picked up my suitcase when I arrived at the train station at the end of the weekend, without me even clearing my throat and awkwardly pointing.

Scents and Sensibility

“Into my underthings…I tuck a cotton ball scented with my favorite perfume” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man (although Helen Gurley Brown recommends it too)

I approached this one with some trepidation–after all, it required me to wear a bra, which I hate doing and because I was worried about being that girl with the stink cloud of perfume, setting off allergies and smoke detectors wherever I went.  But I went ahead and doused a cotton ball with Love’s White Vanilla, crammed it into my bra, and went off smelling sweet.

And boy, did I smell sweet!  It was nice to have that little whiff of yummy just under my nose.  Especially because, in my race to get ready on time and smell lovely . . . and this is so embarrassing . . . I forgot to brush my teeth.

So it was gum and perfume all day, and I’m happy/disappointed to report that no one commented on either.  But hey, I liked smelling nice!

Kiss and Make Up

“Whenever we went shopping, we bought “on approval”–my father’s.  What he didn’t like went right back to the store immediately!”  Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

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I was also going to have big hair and fight crime, of course.

This is where two stunts collide.  When I was a kid, I swore that the minute I turned 18 and my mom couldn’t tell me what to do anymore, I was going to wear NOTHING but crop tops and hot pants, because the 90s were never going to end.

Well, I turned 18 and I got jobs and I really kinda never went back to the whole crop top/hot pants thing.  Until now, because the 90s actually kinda never went away.  Charlotte Russe had a TON of crop tops, all to be paired with high-waisted shorts, so I, feeling nostalgic, grabbed a whole bunch and tried them on.

When I came out of the dressing room in my striped crop top and my high-waisted shorts, everyone ooh’d and ahh’d.  Sales clerks, moms, everyone there stopped and stared.  One woman told me I looked like a pinup.  I felt pretty damn hot, especially since I was approximately 15 years older than all the other girls in the dressing room.

Everyone except Ian, that is.  He wasn’t rockin’ the high-waisted shorts, and told me so.  He said they made my area look “square.”  I tried to explain that they were sort of a necessity to prevent looking like a hooker with muffin top, but he wasn’t having it.  So back they went, and I was glum.  Not only had we argued (without raising our voices) but I felt like, as is a side effect of this whole project, that I wasn’t allowed to make my own decisions.  I resented having to ask his opinion on what was going on my body.  And I thought back to my ex-boyfriend, Aaron, who constantly told me he was “embarrassed” by how I dressed.  I worried that, had I bought the shorts I wanted, that Ian would have looked at them with his disappointed face (I hate that face) and whenever I wore them, I would know that he didn’t find me attractive in them.  I resented the 15 year old girls and their slim, sleek bodies, that they could wear crop tops whenever they wanted to because they never had to interview the mayor.  It all came crashing down, and we argued all the way home.

The next day, I went to church, and Rev. Mark, as he so often does, knew just what to say.  And I realized that, as with most arguments, I was bringing too much baggage to the table.  So Ian didn’t like the high-waisted shorts, no biggie.  If I had bought them, it wasn’t going to cause a divorce.  But his encouraging me not to buy them shouldn’t cause a fight either.   Too many arguments aren’t about what’s at stake–they’re about a thousand other things, past neglects, old hurts.  

I don’t believe Arlene is suggesting we be absolutely passive about everything.  But before we do fight, we need to figure out what it’s about and approach it with honesty and respect for the other person.  Ian apologized for hurting my feelings.  I apologized for hurting his.  And since then, we’ve made strides to communicate better and be sweeter to each other.

But next time, I’m buying the shorts.

(Non) Fight Club

Not picking fights with a man means not picking fights with ANY of the men in my life, which is harder to do than I thought.  Take, for instance, this morning.  My friend/writing partner Matthew’s first novel Nightlife debuts in October. This has caused a lot of contention between us, mostly because I think his agent got him a shoddy deal.  But yesterday, on Twitter, he posted the cover, and I was annoyed that he hadn’t shown it just to me first.

But because it’s the week that it is, I’m not going to say anything about it (also, he doesn’t read this blog, so this isn’t some passive-aggressive way of telling him my feelings are hurt).  Instead, I tried to figure out what it was that was bothering me about it and decided it was a combination of wanting to feel special (i.e. total entitlement) and the continuing fear that this means he’s in a different world than me, as a published novelist, and that he no longer needs me as a friend and a partner. He’s got the whole world to show off to, so my fear is that he no longer needs me.

These are small, petty things, I understand.  But if I were to tell him, he would freak out, probably snap at me, and then we’d have this hour-long argument.  So I’m taking Arlene’s advice to heart on this matter–just keep my lips zipped and try to be as supportive as possible.  He can’t read my mind, and I don’t blame him for wanting to tell as many people as possible.  It’s awesome news, and I’m proud of him.  He’s worked hard, and he’s earned this.  And when it debuts on Oct. 21st, I want all of you to buy a copy.

In not arguing with him, I found that I was able to 1) Sort out my own dumb feelings and 2) Remind myself that he really is important to me, and that instead of trying to drag him down to how lame I feel, I should be lifting him up in his moment of glory.  George Saunders preached kindness to the 2013 Syracuse University graduates at commencement earlier this year, and that’s what the world needs more off-not petty bitching over little things because we are each the centers of our own universe and everyone else’s lives revolve around us.

PS: This doesn’t just apply to men, BTW.