The definition of a gentleman has changed since it was first introduced back in the 12th Century. No longer is it just about a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities and conduct which conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior.
Today, it describes men of any social class or condition —often used in a courteous reference. What men say may not always reflect what they are really thinking. What they do can tell us more. But what they are really thinking is revealed over time.
First, let’s examine two common colloquial applications of the word gentleman and decide if it means what we think it means.
“Gentlemen Prefer Blonds”
Anita Loos wrote a 1925 novel that was the basis for this 1928 movie and 1949 musical but the story actually supports the notion that it’s not the hair color but the character of the woman that gains “preferential” treatment.
The history of Gentlemen’s Clubs started as a members-only private club of a type originally set up by and for British upper class men in the 18th century, and popularized by English upper-middle class men and women in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Now, some clubs are more accommodating about the gender and social status of their members. Many countries outside the United Kingdom have prominent gentlemen’s clubs.
Today, gentlemen’s clubs in the United States remain more prevalent in older cities, especially those on the East Coast. Only 12 American cities have five or more existing clubs: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. New York City contains more than any other American city. The Yale Club of New York City, comprising a clubhouse of 22 stories and a worldwide membership of over 11,000, is the largest traditional gentlemen’s club in the world.
In the United States, the term “gentlemen’s club” commonly is used to refer euphemistically to strip clubs. As a result, traditional gentlemen’s clubs often are referred to as “men’s clubs” or “city clubs” (as opposed to country clubs) or simply as “private social clubs” or just “private clubs”.
Today’s society has created many stereotypes for men. The movie and the video industries have done a fantastic job exploiting these stereotypes for profit. So how do real gentlemen in today’s society cut through all of this clutter and confusion to embrace their own true identity?
Justin Timberlake released his 2013 single Suit & Tie and emphasized the idea of men taking pride in their appearance and harken back to the original image of the English upper-middle class male. Although the lyrics are definitely pop-culture-strong (with Jay-Z’s collaboration), it does suggest a marriage in the third verse of the song lyrics. So it’s not easy to see what someone who looks like a gentleman is really thinking even in a 2013 popular video.
Two Lifehack articles (authored by very perceptive women) list many qualities that today’s gentleman embody. Please enjoy the insights of Ariel C. Williams and Tegan Jones and see if you agree with them.
They say that most intelligent men understand that women like to have romance in a relationship. Appearance, behavior, and language can all express romance.
But intent drives them all. A real gentleman values their relationships and they know who they are and what values are important to them. Trying to impress or “romance” a women by telling them what they want to hear without really meaning it is no gentleman at all.
A gentleman is all about the relationship. Women are equal and different in their eyes. Respect for life is all-important and every child that is conceived by a gentleman will be fathered by that gentleman for the rest of his life. He can be a friend to a women without wanting a sexual encounter with her. He understands the strength needed to be patient, kind, empathetic, intelligent, firm, and loyal.
He also can easily say three things without hesitation and when appropriate:
- “I’m sorry” (I guess I am human after all.)
- “I changed my mind” (…now that I know more about this.)
- “I was wrong” (What was I thinking?)
So a man in a tux may look like a gentleman, walk like a gentleman, talk like a gentleman, and even act like a gentleman (go here for 10 things a gentleman does). But all of those may not reveal his true intent. So just ask him about it and if he is a true gentleman, he will answer with sincerity and excitement. Your conversation from that point on should be truly amazing!
Featured photo credit: Man kissing womans hand via shutterstock.com