I happen to be a soft-spoken sort. And when I don’t concentrate on deepening my voice, it tends to raise an octave or two. As a result, confusion often arises among those hearing me, and mistaken references to “Mrs. Stern” ensue. I’ve been called “ma’am” all too often for my liking, and the annoyance factor never grows old.
Admittedly, situations occur where my identity issues lend advantages. The utilities at our house are all in my wife’s name, for instance. Whenever I call with service or billing questions, the company representatives – whether male or female – always assume they’re talking to Sophia; and I don’t disabuse them. She doesn’t have to bother adding me onto any accounts in her name anymore, given the circumstances!
My soft-spoken voice, combined with a slight build and absence of noticeable scars, apparently endows me with an unthreatening aura. Consequently, when I attempt acts of chivalry, women who ordinarily think twice before accepting help from a stranger typically welcome my assistance with open arms. I even recall one occasion not long ago where a lady I’d never met before let me carry shopping bags into her home, when no one else was there!
These days, where wack jobs abound, chivalry seems in danger of extinction. Some women won’t permit any unknown man to approach, for fear a seemingly sincere offer of help masks an impending rape attempt. Others apparently think that allowing a guy to pump their gas or carry their bags constitutes a figurative slap to the face of women’s rights.
Whatever their reasons, women who decline offers of chivalry promote the ultimate oblivion of the practice. Chivalry runs two ways after all; and like every contract, each offer requires an acceptance. If enough women reject aid from men, the guys eventually will stop asking.
Personally, I love the idea of old-fashioned gallantry toward women, and I hope it doesn’t go the way of the Dodo bird. I’ll do whatever I can to prevent such extinction too … like this morning, for instance. When I called a local hardware store to purchase four drums of epoxy paint for our basement floor, and the gallant manager proposed a special delivery of the heavy products to my home at no extra charge, rather than “forcing a young lady like you to carry them,” I graciously accepted his chivalrous offer.
– a dying practice!