He was on a flight to Denver for a work thing. As his plane reached the jet-way upon landing and everyone rose to prepare to exit, he noticed the youngish 30-something woman behind him struggling to get her luggage out of the overhead bin. He reached out to help her, commenting to ease any embarrassment she might have, “I have trouble with these myself sometimes.” She looked at him with a dismissive smile and answered, “I’m a woman, not an invalid” and continued to tug on her wedged-in luggage. My friend felt bad for having offended her and apologized for his gesture of help.
Few would argue, men or women, that it’s getting harder today to be a good man. Masculinity has come under, not only great suspicion, but direct frontal assault by many. If masculinity is toxic, the obvious remedy is to be something other than masculine. This assumption is hurting men, women, boys and girls because it is telling all of us that one half of humanity must learn to become something other than what it is. This means our collective humanity – our society and how we interact with each other – will be walking with a major limp because half of it is missing. What took place on that flight to Denver is just a small example. But good men help others, especially women and children when they are in need. Society is better when they do. And they don’t apologize for it. Imagine a world where men stop offering their help in such situations.
Is it good for men to open doors for girls and women? Offer to carry a box or help get something off of a high shelf for a lady? Pull out and scoot in her chair for her? Give her his seat on the subway or bus? Stand when a woman walks in a room? What about protecting them bodily from some physical danger like a falling ceiling? Are such actions a statement that women are not as capable as men, that they are delicate creatures who can’t take care of themselves?
They are not. Just the opposite actually.
Behaviors like these from a man are what we call manners and doing them makes you a gentleman. They are acts of respect toward women, not statements of weakness. Most women deeply appreciate such gestures and boys and girls should learn by experience and observation that good men are quick to step up and act in such ways. If a woman doesn’t want a man’s help in such instances, that’s her call. No harm, no foul. He can happily leave her to it. But a gentleman never apologizes for being a gentleman. A man’s genuine kindness needs no justification. It’s something his manhood requires of himself and owes to those around him.
This is a truth every man should know and live by, every boy should be taught, and every girl and woman can take comfort in. It’s one of the ways civilization works.