13 October 2009

My value is romanticism!

You may recall from a few posts back that I'm a 'hopeless romantic.' Due to my preference for time period extending from the 1800s until the end of the Industrial Revolution, I've picked up some mannerisms. For instance, saying 'excuse me, [gents/ladies]' as passing someone in the hall.

I said this the other day as I was passing in the hall, and a small kid (4-5 year old) asked me what a 'gent' was.

That opened a whole can of worms for me. It was a very good question indeed.If you can't tell where this post is about to go, I fear I shall have to be more specific: What makes a gentleman a gentleman?And more relevant to me, what makes a lady a lady?

Historically speaking, the terms 'gentleman' and 'lady' were used to describe a specific class of people in England... Today's usage, however, is what I am more interested in. Surprising as it may seem, the present day use of the term 'gentleman' was used back during the time its other use was common.

For example, in 1386, Chaucer said thus: "Certes he sholde not be called a gentil man, that... ne dooth his diligence and bisynesse, to kepen his good name." In plain English, "Certainly, a man should not be called a gentleman unless he endeavors to keep his good reputation with diligence." This is only a mediocre definition, so I shall provide a few more.
William Harrison, during the 16th century, writes that "gentlemen be those whom their race and blood, or at the least their virtues, do make noble and known." In other words, gentleman are those widely known as noble spirited either because of their noble birth, or their virtues.

My favorite one, by far, though, is General Robert E. Lee's "Definition of a gentleman." :
"The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly--the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others." This is such a lovely definition, I shall do nothing to explain it.

So to sum, a true gentleman is a 'gentle-man' - one who treats everyone with respect, and does nothing to push others into decisions unless it is for the other's good. The list probably could be expanded, but I sense my shoulder editor has something to say.

This may be all well and good, but it isn't it a little demanding of you, B, to expect others to be gentlemen but leave no responsibilities for yourself as a lady? Good point, editor.

The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S's: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy, and Serenity. - Emily Post

"And now when everything is made as simple and striking as possible, there probably is no time to develop such a complicated characteristic as "being ladylike" (in its former soulful meaning). ... the former concept "lady" meant also beauty. Not the beauty of features or clothes, but a graceful behavior coming from self-control. A lady is not loud-voiced, her laughter is not shrill, she moves freely and peacefully. Everything in her is beautiful even when she is homely. ...

In the era of competition the ideal of woman has become somewhat hard and "efficient". Perhaps this will be once overcome when a real lady steps forwad, in her refined and composed brilliancy." - Kersti Bergroth, Finnish writer

A lady is a woman who makes a man behave like a gentleman. - Russell Lynes 

Sometimes I look at the list (sincerity, simplicity, sympathy, serenity, grace, self control, thoughtfulness) and feel a little overwhelmed. I notice that the phrase 'sarcastic' is tellingly missing from the descriptions of ladies.  Actually, that's been bothering me a bit the past week or so. While it can be validly argued that Christ was sarcastic on occasion, the scriptures only record a few examples of Him doing so. So my argument that being sarcastic is being like Christ, something He ordered us to do, I can't justify my continual use of it. Christ only used it to point out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and didn't use it in every day language. The conclusion I am forced to is that my over-use of sarcasm is not a good habit to possess.

Oh, the struggle it is to be a lady, to be kind, charitable, and to ignore my inner cynic.

"Thoughtfulness for others, generosity, modesty and self-respect are the qualities which make a real gentleman or lady. "- Thomas H. Huxley

Praise to you if you stuck through that long and rambling post. End part 3


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