The kindest man,
The best-conditioned and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies.
— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice III, 1
NOW, which man among men can be described as such? Kind, best-conditioned, unwearied spirit, and one who does courtesies. I learnt many things from my late father, M G Robinson, a lot by observation, and one great thing that I learnt was how to treat women.
I never saw my father exhibit any unkindness towards women, whether they be family, friends, co-workers or casual acquaintances. He always had a pleasant word to say to a woman, and he always said, "It's best to say a kind word and make her pleased, than an unkind one that will upset her."
I observed how he would compliment women of all walks of life, even those who others thought to be not attractive. "My, what a lovely hairdo.... your shoes look so stylish.... your perfume is alluring...."
Maybe you could call him sweet mouth, but he meant what he said. Women remember when kind words are said to them, just as they remember unkind words too.
I watched how he treated my mother, and never once did I hear him raise his voice to her. Of course, he wasn't perfect, as no man is, but he certainly knew how to treat women. I think some of that rubbed off on me, for not only do I love being around females, but I always have a positive word to say to them.
Naturally, as a lad growing up, my schoolmates could not understand why girls always gravitated towards me, a gangly schoolboy. Well, I did fill out and had the jock look by fifth form, but it was what I learnt from my father that stood me well to this day.
It's a trait that many men do not possess, as they continue to treat women any and any way. The right way is lost on many men, as we'll find out right after these letters.
Regarding your article on BFF, you are correct about the over usage and many times misuse of the term BFF. The younger generation, mostly among the female population, after meeting someone new and striking up a friendship, refers to the new acquaintance as their new BFF.
Real friendships are forged over time and sometimes even through some tribulations. I recall some good friends during childhood, and I also had a woman friend whose platonic friendship was developed while I was married. My wife did not seem to mind. At least she never verbalised it.
This BFF thing can be complicated, for even though I have a male BFF of my own, I cannot come to grips with my husband having any close female friends. I bristle when he calls their names, and I get silently angry if they call him in my presence. I do love him and also trust him, but I do not trust women.
Yes, it's a double standard, I agree, but I know that I am safe with my BFF. It's the female BFF that I am wary of. I've heard too many horror stories of best friends taking away husbands.
As I meander through this journey of life, I have noticed many things, one of which is, men do not know how to treat women. It always surprises me, as it came so natural to me to be nice to women. But I suppose conditioning and environment do play a major part in our development. Even now I still hear men call to women with, 'Psst...psst... hey, yu look nice, me waan deh wid yu."
Or, they approach women and dangle their car keys before them like a carrot before a donkey. And they really think that is the correct way to go.
In most cases, a boy who grew up in an abusive home, devoid of love and affection, will find it difficult, if not impossible, to exhibit love and affection towards other people in general, and women in particular. If he never saw or experienced hugs while growing up, it's hardly likely that he'll hug or kiss anyone in his lifetime.
Even now I know both men and women, married to each other, who never show any form of affection towards each other. Sure, they have kids, and sure, they're married for a long time, but I have never seen them as much as hold hands or embrace each other.
Some experts are pointing to this as perhaps one reason that there's an increasing abuse of women and young girls in our society. That's to be explored, but frankly I'm tired of the excuses that they give to these rapists, but that's for another time.
Women of yesteryear were treated differently than they are nowadays. And naturally, many will cite the advent of gender equality as a factor why civility towards women has deteriorated. Truth be told, I have heard women express that they want absolute equality, so, "Don't bother to get up and give me your seat, after me nuh invalid," or "Why are you holding open the door for me? I am quite capable."
That has turned off many 'old school' men. But guess what, it won't turn me off, and I will continue to get up to greet a lady, rise to give her my seat, and hold open the door for her. If she doesn't appreciate it, then that's her problem, as that's the way I was conditioned.
Up to recently I picked up a pen that a young lady dropped, and she simply took it from me without even a cursory thank you. I looked at her and said "Excuse me?" And only then did she get the message and say thank you. Maybe she wasn't used to being shown simple courtesies, and so didn't know how to respond, or perhaps she was a new age woman who felt that she had no obligation to express gratitude.
So call me old school, but treating a woman well is high on my list of priorities. That includes even uttering a simple compliment. But there's a risk factor involved also. What one should never do though, is separate the herd by complimenting some and ignoring the others.
Imagine my dismay to watch a friend of mine greet these two women and gush all over one, showering her with compliments, even as he totally ignored the other. He just didn't know any better, but it was such a no brainer. The withering look that he got from the ignored woman was only matched by the look of embarrassment from the woman that he complimented.
That was so tacky, but many men continue to fall into that trap. Even as a lad I knew that if you asked one girl to dance and she declined, you should never ask the girl beside her. Yet I have seen guys go down the line, only to be rebuffed by each girl in succession. Clown!
When I used the term 'herd' please don't take it as insulting, but accept it in the manner that it was intended. But it has been said that men should treat women the same way, that they treat horses. Now, before you get on your high horse please be mindful that anyone who knows people who deal with horses, knows that equines are treated with the utmost respect, love, care, and affection.
I would safely say that horses are treated better than dogs. It's often been said that even mounted police are more gentle and caring towards people. So in the same vein, women must be cared for, walked, taken for a canter, put through their paces, and pushed for a sprint now and then.
Naturally, she must also be fed and watered, plus groomed properly. Now, which woman wouldn't like that type of treatment? Ironically, many men treat their cars, the modern day steed, better than they treat their women.
When I observe couples dining, or at the movies or plays, I know that it's the man's way of treating his woman well. Women love to dress up and go out, and any man who ignores this is a jackass. And yet there are men who ignore this basic need in women. "Not even a matinee show at Carib the man would take me to.... talking bout say I must watch movie pon cable."
Hello, it's not the movie that she's interested in, it's the whole experience of putting on her clothes and going out somewhere, where she can see other people, and be seen by other people. That's one reason that the cinema is still doing so well, even with competition from DVDs and cable TV. Those cannot compete with the need to treat women well.
That's also why eating out is still so popular. It's not the food per se, but the dining experience, and it sure goes a far way towards treating a woman well. Society has dictated that men treat women well; just think of those dapper gentlemen of old, who would throw down their jackets on the ground so that a lady wouldn't have to step in a puddle.
Well, at least Sir Walter Raleigh did. Nowadays, throwing down your jacket means dropping the baby on the bed. How times have changed.
As in all things, though, there's a rub. What if the woman wants to assert herself and doesn't want to be treated well? I will daresay that woman does not exist, as even though they may put up a bravado, a façade, a wall of defiance, ALL women deep down want to be treated well.
What they loathe is weakness in men, and sadly, some mistake being treated well with weakness. Others take the man for granted and will even nyam him out and boast about it to her friends. Remember the reggae song, "See boops deh, mek we nyam him out."
Boops, of course, being an overly generous man who loves to spend on women. Apart from that, some men treat the wrong women well, and the Bible does speak of casting pearls before swine. If you treat her well and she doesn't appreciate it, move on, brother, and leave her to her devices. Maybe I should change the term to "how to treat a lady", instead.
Very often it's the little things, but it's incumbent upon all men to treat women well. It will make a difference. But who's going to teach the men? More time.
Footnote: The world is changing, but does everything have to change just for change sake? The Kingston College (KC) Old Boys Annual Dinner has been a fixture on the social calendar for countless years. I attend every year, and for me it has been the last refuge of male bonding. But my bubble has been burst, as for the first time in its history, the esteemed dinner is allowing women to attend.
Frankly I'm against it, and don't get me wrong, for I take my wife everywhere. But how comfortable would she feel among those brash KC old boys as they regale each other with tales of their past exploits, real or imagined? The dynamic has changed.
Why should women suffer through countless hours of school reports, head boy's reports and principal's message? And certainly, the 'in jokes' will be lost on the ladies. While I do welcome change, as well as I love female company, I feel a bit cheated, as my old boy's club has been taken from me.
I would feel the same way about going to my wife's old school reunion, so it's not a gender issue. Still, it's Fortis Forever.