It is my hope that I am raising gentlemen who are charming and polite. It is an even greater hope of mine that they will learn to treat women with the utmost respect, and even though it seems to be increasingly out of fashion, I hope they will employ chivalry into their treatment of women.
I realize that most of my sons are still in the stage where they pretend that girls are gross and weird. Currently they don’t seek them out as friends nor do they really interact with them much. I would like to change that. I think that it is valuable for them to be able to relate to and talk to girls at this stage of their lives. This is only going to greatly assist them down the road when they begin to date and start their search for their (hopefully) life-long and eternal companion.
I am writing this post mainly for their benefit. I wish I could say that I have been a better example for them on how to be a gentleman. Even at their age there are ways to treat and not treat a girl, whether or not they have a crush on them. I would like to use the following life story on how NOT to treat someone you like.
It was our first Sunday attending church since we had moved to Norway and I walking just ahead of my family and up the front steps of the church house when I saw her for the first time. She sparkled in the sunlight! Just like the vampires in the Twilight book series (which I may or may not have read). She was so unbelievably pretty that I literally froze mid-step. With a slack jaw and eyes as big as monster truck tires, I gaped at her for a moment or two and then turned tail and ran back to hide behind my mom because she was so cute she scared me to death. Instantly, I had the mother of all crushes on this little pixie. I was absolutely bewitched.
As my great fortune would have it, not only did she attend my same church, but she also went to the same American School as me. I was starting the 6th grade and she was in 5th. Shortly into the school-year, during recess, I was handed a note from her (written on paper not texted) asking me to “go” with her. Go where? Sure let’s go! The moon? Pretty sure I was already there. There were even the classic check boxes on the note: YES – NO – Maybe. With a shaky hand, yet in my best penmanship it took me like 2 hours to check yes perfectly and to quintuple check that I didn’t accidentally check “no,” I marked the “yes” box.
My “going” with Rebecca did nothing to ease my paralyzing fear of her. I never dared utter a word to her during our “courtship”. I actually took great pains to avoid her at recess. I had a real fear that if she were to get to close to me that I was going to barf on her. Thus, we only communicated through letters given to each other by our mutual friends. One of my favorite letters from her friend went something like this… “Dan, Rebecca (name changed) thinks you are cute! (exclamation point dot made with a tiny heart – this was getting intense!) Look at her during lunch and she will look back!!” Did I look at her during that lunch? Heck no I didn’t! You kidding me? I was too busy concentrating on not regurgitating my hot-dog at the thought that we might actually make eye-contact in such close proximity.
If she only could have seen all the work I was putting in behind the scenes, she would have no doubt been in a constant swoon, but I just couldn’t put all my practice into play. I memorized all the New Kids on the Block songs (all girls loved NKOTB in 1989). I also started to use my Speed Stick deodorant with the religious zeal of a Tibetan monk. I pegged my pants to perfection each morning. I learned how to do the Running Man dance move, (thanks MC Hammer, no girl can resist the Running Man), combed my hair to look like Tom Cruise (I was his 6th grade doppelganger), and had audible role-play conversations with “her” in my room, by myself, in which “she” (me in a higher pitched voice) always ended up dazzled by my wit and charm. Where nobody could see me, I was truly a flawless romantic.
She also ended up in every one of my 6th grade journal entries, which were as deep as the ocean and positively dripping with romantic prose. Here is a classic example. “Today it rained. My mom made cream of wheat for breakfast. I stinking hate cream of wheat, but… I LOVE Rebecca Pedersen (name changed)!!” Thank goodness my progenitors will feel of the inward torment I had with my mother’s choice of breakfast foods in such brilliant contrast with my undying “love” for my 6th grade infatuation.
Our relationship came to a beautiful crescendo at the Christmas Dance just after my birthday in 1989. I had envisioned us doing the running man, and running woman side by side for 2 hours solid but alas… my continual fear of her overrode my ability to function. Instead, I watched her from a barf-safe distance. That is, until the final song. Some blessed soul hooked it up that we would dance together during the last song of the night. Our song will forever be “Time of My Life” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. It may very well be the worst slow dancing song spawned by the 80’s… but not for me that night. Those 3 minutes where I was close enough to smell the Pert Plus (shampoo plus conditioner!) in her hair transported me to Tween paradise! Furthermore, I was able to quell my gag-reflex for the entire song! Truly we were turning the corner on our beautiful relationship!
She dumped me the next day.
Remember book 2 of the Twilight book series, which I may or may not have read, where Bella agonizingly lamented over her sparkly, departed vampire for like 85 pages? Yeah, that was pretty much me for the next 2 years. I even drew a picture of Rebecca (in Napolean Dynamite fashion) to memorialize my infatuation for her. It took me like 2 days to get her eye-brows right and even then my portrait of her was as beautiful as a train-wreck.
My boys must be better than this. They must not let the Rebeccas of their life languish as mine did. Look, I get it, overall I was nowhere near mature enough to “go” with a girl at that age, neither do I advocate tween romance,but I didn’t have to learn the lesson of how to treat a girl the hard way. I can help my sons. I can turn them into budding Casanovas, I just know it.
My Plan for Grooming Casanovas:
#1 – I will teach my boys that girls and women are to be spoken to and about with undeviating respect. Using terms that degrade women and girls will not be tolerated.
#2 -Teach my sons how to have a conversation with girls without using the word “dude”. I have heard them call girls they are talking to “dudes” for the last time.
#3 -Let my kids know that it is ok to admit they have crushes on or think girls are cute. I had crushes on girls starting in 1st grade but was too scared to tell my parents about it. I will encourage them to talk to me about who they may like and I will refrain from teasing them about their crushes (this is gonna be tough – I am a natural tease).
#4 – I want my kids to know how to cut a rug. I really want them to learn how feel comfortable dancing. I resolve to teach them the running man first and then eventually, after they have mastered this dance step, get them into some basic ballroom and swing dance classes. It will make their future dances 1 million times more enjoyable. Death to the “Frankenstein” or “Bear-hug” slow-song dance move!
#5 – Have them make the effort to open doors, pull out chairs for, and pay sincere compliments to all girls. If you think their hair looks nice, tell them for heck’s sake. If you enjoy the smell of Pantene Pro-V why not let them know… “Hey, is that Pantene Pro-V? I really enjoy the way that smells!” (Actually, I may need to re-think that advice, my wife thinks it’s creepy.)
#6 -If you like a girl then be their friend – that’s just fine. If you really like them… be their friend. If you have the holy-high-fairy-godmother of all crushes on a girl BE THEIR STINKING FRIEND! Leave it at that for now. No point in “going” with or being someone’s specific boyfriend at this stage. Want a nearly guaranteed disastrous end to a potentially awesome friendship with a girl when you are between the ages of 12-16 (perhaps stretch that out even two more years)? “Go” with them.
#7 -Be prepared for a girl to not like you as much as you like them. That’s ok. Mom and Dad still think you are the most handsome and charming kid in school even if she doesn’t, plus remember goal #6. Girls are fickle, they may like you today and not tomorrow. If someone doesn’t return your adoration, don’t spend weeks drawing portraits of them trying to get the shading of their cheeks just right.
#8 – Do listen to New Kids on the Block or get to know the boy-band du jour. Find something mutual you can talk about with a girl. In many cases, this might not be sports.
#9 – Enjoy being a kid or young adult. Enjoy the feeling of getting so whipped that you feel like you are going to barf just being around your crush. Life is a roller-coaster and some of the most breathtaking highs are when you are infatuated with a girl.
So there is the advice. Now how am I going to show them? The only way I can show them how to treat a girl respectfully is by how they see me treat the true love of my life, Deanne. They need to see me practice what I preach. They need to see me love her, cherish her, dance with her, respect her and talk to her. They need to see us laughing and teasing each other. They need to see us working side by side. They need to see me serving her. They need to see me show sincere interest in her interests and passions. They need to see me put her above myself and treat her with much of the same fascination and adoration as I did when I first started dating her. They need to see the doors opened, chairs pulled out and tired shoulders rubbed. They need to see me take the fussing child from her arms and see me keep them away from her so she can take that much-deserved hour-long nap on Sunday. They need to see me check my emotions and speak calmly towards her when we are in a disagreement. They need to hear me compliment her several times each day. They need to see me making her my priority. They must know that she is worth sacrificing for. They must see that nothing is more important to me than her. If they see this from me, then it is very likely that they will learn, in time, how they are to treat those they like, deeply care for and someday will fall in love with. I will know if I succeeded by the way I see them treat the girls and women in their lives.
So sons, be the next generation of gentlemen. Treat girls in a way that will give you the right type of reputation. Be the boy that every mother wants their daughter to fall for. My promise to you is that if you take my advice, you will maximize your chance for love and satisfaction in this life.
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