Chivalry, sexism & androgyny
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I don't think of myself as sexist. Not that I thought of calling myself a feminist man until a gay guy told me I had considerable "feminine consciousness." But he was a moocher thanking me for giving him six cigarettes when he asked for one. Too long ago for me to discern if I have him extra fags (Brit.) out of ingrained politeness of indulging in noblesse oblige.
In earlier notes I've wondered aloud how much growing up in Savannah Georgia grafted into me, truly or delusionally, strong feelings about gentility, urbanity, politesse, chivalry - highfalutin words, chosen because anyone who invokes them must accept that they can easily swell up and pop in his face.
I was a na´ve kid. Steady economic decline or not in the back of my home city's mind was notions of itself as retaining the aristocratic qualities of the Old South. Pretty fancy feelings about the self-indulgences of slave owners. Child of just above white trash parents I may have absorbed some of those illusions. If I didn't get them from TV and movies.
On a crowded bus I'd always surrender my seat to an older person or a woman, never fail to open doors for either. My youth inculcated strong feelings that certain kinds of people merited special respect, treatment, homage. Even now I'll drop into Sir and M'am.
Not much to make a fuss about is it? You see, I had to unlearn some of it.
I was too unselfconscious a kid to be trying to be willful when I'd go up to a clerk and say, "Pardon me Miss, do you happen to know the time?" But a friend told me that I embarrassed him in doing that. In my late teens a female friend expressed surprise that I was always opening doors and letting her through first.
Perhaps through the kindness of social forces, my sense of distance from most of mankind, social blindness or simple clarity I never thought women were less capable than men, more prone to illogic or vanity. The difference was just biology. This is back in the day when self-respecting women who wanted to be allowed to have any job and at the same rate of compensation as men were often derided as "women's libbers."
My female friends have never thought that courtesy required the man pay for a date. None of my straight friends have ever been a part of that nutty social space John Gray has found so profitable with his Mars and Venus business. I suspect his silly books have done more to make heterosexuals comfortable with their stereotyping of each other as help straight couples.
One of the joys of discovering feminine gay men was an outlet for that buried chivalry. Tote that box? Sure. And I can open doors and pay for things, and indulge in gestures that no woman I've ever been a friend of would tolerate.
In an unapologetic way with a few guys who've allowed and enjoyed it I found expression for a fragment of my psyche that ordinarily would be best left forgotten.