Contemplating contemporary chivalry on campus


While chivalry may not be dead according to the young men dressed in fedoras and bowties, elbow-patched pastel suits and formal trousers who held open the doors to a Marshall Student Center chambers, the art of being a gentleman in the 21st century is one certainly rife with new complexities and nuances.

Ranging from texting etiquette to how to wear one’s T-shirt, the Monday night event, sponsored by the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Lambda Theta Phi fraternity and Progressive Black Men, Inc., prepared the contemporary Casanova for these situations and others.

More than 600 rules for being a gentleman played across a projector, ranging from “Cufflinks. Always,” “Occasionally, sing to her,” and “Kiss the back of her hand” to messages of gentleman empowerment such as “Allow your lady to walk ahead of you, not all over you.” 

But many guests who attended, split almost equally between males and females, said the situations they encountered were more akin to the skit put on by organizers.

John Mullings, a senior majoring in business, re-enacted a scene that organizers said was a common sight around USF.  

Spotting a girl he deemed attractive, Mullings approached the student volunteer, Ashley Bell, with little restraint.

“Dang!” he said. “Good lord, you got a big booty! Excuse my manners, but what’s your name? You’re beautiful.” 

When Bell appeared to show little interest, telling him she had a boyfriend, Mullings persisted. 

“I’m sure you’re looking for friends, though,” he said. “Can I get your number? Instagram? Twitter? Or nah?”

While guests laughed, many female members of the audience said they had experienced similar situations. 

Zachary Thomas, president of Kappa Alpha Psi, said the face of the gentleman has evolved.  

“Being a gentleman has definitely changed dramatically over the years,” he said. “I’d say in the past 100 years or so – you don’t see people holding out chairs, opening doors, dusting off seats anymore. The game’s really changed up.” 

The tips offered Monday night addressed everything from what it means to pay for a woman when out – and the increasingly nuanced meaning of what it signifies if she accepts or declines to be paid for – to how long is appropriate to wait before responding to a text message.

Darrell Gibson, secretary of Progressive Black Men, Inc., said he tries not to respond too quickly to avoid seeming “thirsty” – a term applied to seemingly overeager men and women who reek of desperation.

“I count out 60 seconds and then it takes another 10 seconds to type the text and like another 10 seconds to receive it between your phone and her phone, so it’s a good amount of time,” he said. 

Gibson also recommended starting to text around 2 p.m. – a time not too early or too late.  

Others asked how far back in one’s Instagram feed is appropriate to like or comment on photos, the general consensus settling around one and a half months is the threshold on what is deemed “creepy,” though Gibson said exceptions to the rule can be made. 

While the texting v. calling debate seemed to be one with little resolve – Gibson said calling shows commitment because it requires “sweating bullets,” but Bell said she would prefer to deal with texts, at least initially when conversing with someone new. Other elements of romance seemed to find more general consensus among audience members, such as “Netflix at the crib” being less romantic than dinner and a movie out. 

But the role of social media has also changed the landscape for the Don Juans of yesteryear. Most guests at the event admitted to looking up a potential romantic interest on Facebook to find out more about them. 

Many check looking for signs of a significant other – guests were reminded it was more gentlemanly to be a lady’s man than a ladies’ man. 

“I check to see ‘why are you talking to me if you got a girl,'” Bell said. “‘Are you doing something you’re not supposed to?'” 

But others said social media has “ruined” the art of courtship and getting to know someone genuinely. 

Erica Ramos, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary social sciences who attended the event, said social media allows individuals to present themselves however they choose, but real life encounters with people who are more introverted or extroverted than they present can pose challenges, and gentlemen, guests were reminded, should never lead a woman on to believe something that is not. 

“You don’t want to be catfished,” Ramos said. 

But Ramos said certain elements of courtship – such as good grammar – would never change, regardless of evolving mediums.  

“If you get the ‘yours/you’res’ wrong, we’re done talking,” she said.  

While the event also featured a best pick-up line competition, in which members of the audience were asked to present Ramos with their best “pitch,” based on the tips they learned (attempts included “If you were a Pokemon, I’d Pik-a-chu,” and “I like your shirt. Do you like me and stuff?”), ultimately, Gibson said being a gentleman had little to do with the outwardly gestures. 

“He can be the hoodest hoodrat of all hoods, but at the end of the day, if he treats a woman with respect, he’s a gentleman,” Gibson said. “A good man is a good man.”