Sunday, January 10, 2010

Published 6:01 PM by with 1 comment

In Praise of (Gentle)Men

The movie "Mary Poppins" has been one of my favorite Disney films ever since I was a child. Even more than the movie, I loved the songs. My mom (to whom I am eternally grateful for raising me with music in the home) bought me several cassette tapes of Disney songs before I was five years old. The two I remember the best were "Oliver and Company" and "Mary Poppins". Being so young, I hardly understood what the lyrics meant even as I sang along with them; "political equality, and equal rights with men" in the Sister Suffragette song, all the talk about investments in the bank, the cockney accents of the chimney sweeps, class division of the servants... so many things make more sense fifteen years later.

In the scene where the main characters magically jumped into the chalk picture, I always particularly loved the song that Mary and Bert sang to each other.

Ain't it a glorious day,
right as a morning in May,
I feel like I could fly!
Have you ever seen
the grass so green,
or a bluer sky?

Then Mary takes a turn to sing about Bert:

Oh, it's a jolly holiday with you, Bert.
Gentlemen like you are few.
Though you're just a diamond in the rough, Bert,
underneath your blood is blue!
You'd never think of pressing your advantage,
forbearance is the whole mark of your creed;
a lady needn't fear when you are near,
your sweet gentility is crystal clear.
Oh, it's a jolly holiday with you, Bert,
a jolly, jolly holiday with you!

When I listened to this song, I used to wonder why Mary Poppins seemed to imply that the majority of men in the world were bad. To me, most of the guys I saw in my little sphere were "good" in the sense that they weren't cruel towards anybody, that they strove to be honest. At least they opened doors for women and had common decency. Then the real world hit...

Who wouldn't agree with Mary now that "gentlemen are few"? After four years of college, I'd say there is maybe one true gentleman out of a thousand normal college males, perhaps even less. The dictionary qualifies a "gentleman" as "a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man", and further defines these attributes:

Chivalrous: giving special attention and respect towards women; brave.

Courteous: polite, respectful, or considerate in manner; having manners fit for a royal court.

Honorable: being worthy of honor by concerning oneself with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

How many men do you know that fit these qualities? I've been disillusioned many times by naively assuming that any fellow I meet is automatically a gentleman. WRONG. But why should I expect young men to behave in a certain way when they have never been taught to do so, when gallant conduct is not encouraged or rewarded, and when in our society nowadays females insist on being treated the same as their counterparts, which effectively negates all sense of deferential propriety?

But I didn't want to write this to malign men. Its intent is to praise the few who still adhere to the higher standard that used to be the norm. There are several men who I'd like to acknowledge for being true gentlemen in my interactions with them.

1. Mozart-Man: I've written so much about him recently, so I'll try not to go on about all his amazing characteristics : ) I love him so very much. He treats me with deference and kind words and actions.

2. My step-dad, Sean: Watching how much of a gentleman he is towards my mom, both Mozart-Man and I are humbled. Sean very much has a servant's heart, looking to my mom's needs, questions, and wants before his own. There are many things in my mom and Sean's relationship that Mozart-Man and I hope to emulate in our own marriage eventually.

3. Matt: An old friend who I've known from the time I was eight years old. We were home schooled together until we graduated from high school. I loved him like a brother, and for a long time we were best friends. I haven't been good about staying in contact with him, but I will never forget how kind he always was to me. I don't ever remember a single mean-spirited word from him.

4. Alec and Xander: My youngest friends. At sixteen/seventeen, they are both well on their way to becoming quite honest and warmhearted young men, who are very gifted musically. I'm looking forward to seeing what they plan on pursuing in college. I've been especially happy to be included in Alec's family life over the past few years. I wish I was able to see Xander, but he lives in California.

5. Jim: The husband of my first guitar teacher, Kelli. He has never been anything but kind to me. I have admired him so much for fourteen years. He and Kelli have a wonderful marriage relationship that is good to see.

6. Kevin: Guitar educationist extraordinaire, he took the time to help me get on my feet as a young performer and then a teacher. His careful attention to the people he directs is inspirational to see. Consideration of details, both in human temperaments and in his work with music, is one of his specialties.

7. Peter: Last, but most certainly not least, this young man (and his entire family) has been in my life since we met at guitar camp almost seven years ago. The phrase in the Mary Poppins song, "sweet gentility", fits him perfectly. He is one of the most energetic, intrepid, driven guys I've ever met, but also one who exhibits the most courtesy. I saw him and his sister Ellen the other night and realized again how blessed I am to have Peter as one of my greatest friends.

The more I see of the caliber of men in the world, the more I realize how important it is for everyone to do what they can to motivate gentlemanly behavior. Parents obviously have the most effect on the next generation of males, with teachers and mentors as a close second. Friends can have a large influence on the men in their lives, too. But this lack of comportment and noble mindset is not just the fault of men... women are in on the blame.

Maybe I'll write another blog about the degenerate female state sometime.


Janette said...

This was a very sweet post. I heartily agree with you and am grateful, too, to have such a gentleman as my husband. May your future hubby treat you with as much respect and honor!

BTW, you should delete the chinese comment. It's spam - and not very nice spam, too :(

Love you.