A Southerner's Guide To Being A True Gentleman In Today's World
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I was born in Kentucky, raised in Virginia, went to undergrad in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and grad school in southern Louisiana, and currently work in downtown Los Angeles, California. I’m 29 years old, the youngest of three boys, engaged to be married to a beautiful woman, and don’t have any children. I played Division-I baseball in college and am just a few short months away from receiving my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I recognize that all of these things, among a variety of others, have played an integral role in the man I am today and have instilled in me the core values of kindness, loyalty, humor, and general courtesy.
Although I may not have a son at the present time, if I am so fortunate to one day have a boy that I can call my own, I would want him to practice the following. Call them rules for life, words of advice, rigid beliefs, or just simply morals — call them whatever you would like, really. Just know that the following 50 rules for life are based on my own personal life experiences and observations of my fellow man over the years — nothing more, nothing less. It is also important to note that the following rules are not intended to be viewed as unrealistic expectations for others’ behavior, nor do I claim to be the first person to offer said rules. To put it simply, I adamantly believe that if I have a son one day and he lives his life according to the following rules, not only will he be successful, but above all else, he will be a good man (i.e. a man’s man).
As a disclaimer, I fully recognize that there are undoubtedly shades of gray in nearly all situations, but for the sake of clarity and space, I have taken a stance and identified the following rules.
1. Always carry a handkerchief and a pocket knife.
2. Dress nice for flights. Commercial air travel seems to have lost its appeal in recent years, and is no longer considered the great privilege it once was. Respect aviation.
3. When asking a woman out on a date, always do it face-to-face or if absolutely necessary on the phone. Do not ask her via text message. Break-ups, however, should always take place in person.
4. Always insist on driving, unless you’ve been drinking.
5. Speaking of drinking, there’s nothing a $12 dark pale summer winter’s ale can do for you that a Natty Light can’t.
6. Always carry a minimum of $20 cash in your wallet.
7. Hold your woman’s hand on all car trips and flights, if only for a few minutes.
8. Open and hold doors open for everyone, but especially for women. While on the topic of doors, always unlock and open the passenger side door of your truck for your girlfriend, fiancée, wife, etc., and when an elevator arrives to your floor and the door opens, pause and allow everyone else to exit first before proceeding.
9. Don’t be afraid to go in for the hug when saying goodbye to a friend you care about.
10. Begin every conversation, every interaction — whether it’s with the one you love or a complete stranger — with a greeting.
11. If you see an elderly person crossing the street slowly, there is no need to ask them if they need assistance. Simply walk even more slowly, a few steps behind them, and watch for oncoming traffic.
12. Call your mother regularly. No matter how old you become and whether or not you think you still “need” her, she needs you.
13. When picking a woman up for a first date, always go to her front door and introduce yourself to her parents. Likewise, always walk her to her door when you return from your date, and if you had a nice time, it’s OK to go in for the kiss — just keep it short.
14. No good can come from being out after 1:00 a.m. Well, for the most part, anyways.
15. Always send a “thank you” card when someone gives you a gift or just shows you a good time. Make sure it is handwritten, too.
16. Tips should never be less than 20%. If you’re bad at math, then move the decimal point one place to the left and multiply by two. Unless, however, you’re at a bar. Then you should always give the bartender $1 for each drink, every trip to the bar.
17. Never blame others for your unhappiness.
18. If you are with a woman and make a quick stop at a gas station, buy her something thoughtful. Even something as small as a cherry Ring Pop will suffice.
19. Ties are always required for weddings, graduations, and funerals. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
20. Always walk on the street side of the sidewalk when with someone else.
21. Turn off all the lights in your home, power down your cell phone, and light some candles every once in a while when staying in with that special woman in your life. It’s astounding what you will learn about each other when all you have is conversation and a faint flame to spend your evening by.
22. Fill up your woman’s gas tank regularly. Check the oil in her vehicle too, while you’re at it.
23. Always offer guests in your home a drink, and if you get up and go to the kitchen, ask if anyone needs anything.
24. Have refreshments out when you have company. It doesn’t have to be ornate — chips and dip, or a simple bowl of cashews will do.
25. If you are miserable due to your job, quit. If you are miserable as a result of your relationship, break up. If you are a miserable person, look in the mirror.
26. Flowers aren’t reserved just for special occasions.
27. Always introduce your girlfriend, fiancée, wife, etc. when among a group of people she has never met.
28. Every introduction should be accompanied by a handshake. Never underestimate the power of a handshake and other nonverbal cues (e.g., consistent eye contact) on first impressions. Now, keep in mind that an overbearing, forceful handshake can have just as much of a negative impact than a tenuous one. Likewise, there is no need for an awkward, prolonged handshake — make sure it is strong and keep it brief. It’s not a competition.
29. Play a sport. Whether it’s baseball, cross country, tennis, surfing, or academic quiz bowl, all that matters is that you are part of a team.
30. If another couple invites you over to their home for dinner, drinks, to watch a game, etc., never show up empty-handed. Bring something, anything (e.g., wine, flowers, a $5 foot-long).
31. Ask your grandparents about their lives every time you get the chance.
32. Always offer to pay the bill after a meal with friends. If you’re on a date then there is no question, you pay. If among friends or family and you hope to preempt the seemingly unavoidable “group reach for the wallet” gesture when the bill arrives, ask to be excused to use the restroom and settle the bill with the server on your own.
33. There’s no need to brag to your friends about your sex life and disclose all of the intimate details. Act like you’ve had sex before, guy. Not to mention, it is incredibly immature and disrespectful to the one you shared those moments with.
34. Use your full name (first and last will do) when introducing yourself. Also, don’t forget No. 10 and No. 28.
35. Dance like no one is watching, but only when alone within the confines of your own home.
36. Irrespective of what you might think at the time, the model of car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the way you style your hair has no effect on your dating life. I drove a 1987 Ford Taurus, wore a bandana and no fewer than three necklaces at a time, and spiked my bleached blonde hair with cheap gel in high school, and I did just fine with the ladies.
37. Be sure to do something positive anonymously every once in a while. Not so that you will feel good about yourself, but so others will benefit without feeling the need to reciprocate, and possibly feel loved as a result.
39. Despite what I just said, make an effort to arrive 15 minutes early to everything. However, if you do happen to be running a few minutes late, I assure you that it will be okay.
40. Take plenty of pictures, but try to not miss out on fully experiencing the present moment.
41. If your friends have a flight to catch, insist on driving them to the airport. Similarly, offer them a ride home upon their return as you drop them off at the terminal.
42. If others treat you like sh*t, take a look at your own behavior first.
43. If you have friends over to your home and drinking is involved, at least offer to let them spend the night.
44. Make a genuine effort to attend every wedding you're invited to.
45. If you drive a pickup truck, you have an obligation to offer friends assistance if they’re moving across town.
46. There is a difference between being assertive and being a dick. Also, not every situation warrants an assertive response. Sometimes it’s best to be passive.
47. If you don’t want to do something, there is no need to lie and make up an excuse. Excuses just leave the door open for further questions and future invitations.
48. Mental health days constitute sick days from work.
49. If you’re upset with another person because of what they said or did, sometimes it’s how you interpreted their behavior that may be responsible for how you feel, not their actual behavior.
50. Silence speaks volumes.
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