By Adam Drake
When our editor, Jamie, asked me to write an article about being a gentleman in today’s society, I thought she was joking. Surely, there was someone better equipped to handle this topic. I spent the better part of last night naming my farts. I can lose hours in a day simply watching videos of people falling down stairs. I thought long and hard about what makes a gentleman, if I am one, and how to help others become one.
The simple fact is: gentlemen are dead. The concept, as defined by Jane Austen and aristocracy at the turn of last century cannot possibly exist in these times. However, we can all aim to have gentleman-like qualities. And without further ado, here goes.
Always be a decent guy. Have you heard the way some guys talk about women? It’s reprehensible. You were spurned in a bar? Best call the girl a “bitch,” rather than spend some time reflecting on how she may have rejected your advances because she simply wasn’t into you. Most women I know don’t find it appealing to have a strange guy in a bar grind up on her. Instead, try engaging in a conversation, get to know her. Ask thoughtful questions. Find a non-physical connection. Always think about how you would want someone to talk to your sister or female best friend, or, hell, even your mom.
Always bring flowers on a first date. Old fashioned? Yes. Slightly cheesy? Perhaps, especially if you buy her carnations. (Do not buy her carnations) Showing up with flowers means you were thinking about her before you showed up at her door. It’s a classy move they won’t soon forget. When I showed up on our first date with flowers, my wife said she knew then that I might be a keeper.
Also, clean up your bathroom. No one, male or female, likes to get within 10 feet of an unclean toilet. Clean the sink too. Those tiny lines of hair left over from shaving prove that while you may take care of your appearance, you don’t care for much of anything else. Also, make your damn bed. I don’t want to sound like your mother here, but you’re a grown-ass man. You can spend the two minutes it takes to tuck a few sheets in. Which reminds me: wash your sheets at least every two weeks.
Finally, call her the next day. Don’t text her. Don’t email her. Even if the date was a failure, taking the time to call her and tell her you appreciated her spending time with you will work wonders. It may not have worked out with her, but she may have friends who she can set you up with.
Hold doors for everyone. Seriously, everyone. Look at your server in the eye and thank them. The second you yell at a waiter or waitress, you are seen as nothing more than a self-righteous prick. It does no one any good. Did you get bad service? Quietly ask to speak to the manager. There’s no sense in belittling someone who has been on their feet all day because the filet was undercooked.
I was also told, once upon a time, that you can tell someone’s personality by the way they drive. Not using a turn signal signifies that they’re careless. Tailgating indicates selfishness and a lack of respect. Texting or talking on a cell phone while driving is a sure sign that someone is an idiot.
I always make a point of being overly courteous to the staff at hotels and restaurants. More often than not, I’m rewarded with upgrades, drinks, and food. Even if you don’t get results from this, you may have improved someone’s day just a bit.
You can go sleeveless at the gym, or if you’re engaging in a gladiator-style tournament in ancient Rome, but not anywhere else. Sleeveless shirts on men are the cultural equivalent of eating spaghetti without a fork. Are you threatened by the heat conductive properties of sleeves? If so, try finding a sleeved shirt made from a lightweight breathable fabric. While you may miss the experience of spraying armpit sweat on your plate of nachos, the rest of your group will thank you.
Buy a nice tailored suit. Buy one and wear it outside of job interviews and funerals. A suit empowers the hell out of you, makes you stand out, and gives off a sense of confidence. Feeling casual? Grab the jacket and throw it around a printed t-shirt with jeans. It’s an amazing piece of clothing that not only improves your appearance, but builds self-esteem.
When traveling internationally, I can always spot the Americans. They’re the ones with voices several decibels above the rest of the crowd. To counteract my countrymen, I make a point of speaking in hushed tones with my travel companions. Talking loudly has the exact opposite of the effect you’d want. Need someone to pay attention? Speak quietly and they’ll lean in to hear you, creating an engaging bridge between you two.
Read a few books a year. I’m not asking for a book report, but reading will make you sound more intelligent. Soon enough, you’ll be speaking articulately and using new words. As a plus, you’ll gain intelligence and will be able to speak on a host of topics. Reading is absolutely one of the best things any gentleman can do for himself.
Please, for all that is good and right in this world, learn to use “literally” properly. Hearing someone misuse “literally” makes me figuratively want to rip my ears out. Also, if you talk in abbreviations: don’t.
The classic idea of a gentleman may have expired with the decline of the steam engine, but we can all aim to bring back the most enticing of the gentlemanly notions. The easiest way to do this is to be genuinely nice to other people. Treat them with respect, care about their feelings and who they are as a person, and more than anything don’t name your farts in public. It’s just un-gentlemanly.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.