Monday, December 10, 2012

Fifty-Four: Courtiers

I was brought up always to be polite, always to be courteous, always to remember the social graces. That's a regional and generational thing, and one that's stayed with me.  I was taught, too, that courtesy and the forms of politeness are key parts of any courtship, of any date, of any seduction. I've always admired the eighteenth century style in these things, of course. I do admire the forms of politesse, and I like the idea of social ritual. Well-done social ritual makes things easier for everyone. The structure of the ritual lessens having to worry about things, lessens having to feel insecure or uncomfortable. The ritual carries you along. You have to think less, to worry less. That's quite an achievement in human societies.

Needless to say, social rituals have their critics. The rituals have always been held suspect as "inauthentic", and as class markers. Those attacks go back at least to the Romantics. There are other attacks, too, these days, and ones even more bitter than the old Romantic or Marxist attacks on politesse. The gender warriors have happened upon social rituals and declared them a marker for evil.

There's a current designator for evil in the gender wars--- "nice". To be called a "Nice Guy" is to be tagged as evil. "Nice" is not just "inauthentic", it's regarded as yet another element in "rape culture".  After all, the argument goes, being "nice" is a a seduction tool, a way to undermine girls' resistance and make them feel obligated to offer up sexual favors.

There's this much truth in that, that "nice" has its tactical side. I'd never deny that. ("Nice" may well also be what one has as a fallback plan, when one lacks physical beauty or social status) I was brought up to believe that one was always polite and attentive and courteous on a date because those things made it more pleasant for a girl to be around you. (I'm old enough to have been taught to carry mints or gum that you could offer to a girl on a date.) The equation seemed obvious enough when I was very young. If you want someone to be around you, make the experience pleasant for them. And, yes, one is "nice" as an enticement. To be polite and courteous and attentive is a signal that someone is worth your time and effort. A signal, then, and a clear one. It's not that you'd be rude or harsh if you weren't interested; you'd just be neutral in that case. To be seen paying attention is to signal that you're paying court. I have no idea how that came to be seen as evil.

I suppose it's all about the idea of paying court, about the idea of trying to evoke a response. The gender warriors dislike the idea of "nice" because it's about offering up something to a girl in the hope--- or the expectation ---that she'll respond according to the ritual. There's a deep hatred for any ritual that evokes a response, where the point of the ritual is to bring someone in to the dance. Is that based on the idea that ritual is intended to obligate, and that any social obligation is bad? Or is it simply that the gender warriors see all courtship and seduction as inherently corrupt and evil?

I was brought up to believe in ritual and formality, and to believe in social obligations. I was brought up to believe that whatever one's physical flaws, politesse goes a ways towards remedying that. Yes--- these things are tactical. But a mannered and formal way of paying court, and of making someone feel at ease in your company--- how is that ever evil? And how is it evil to create rituals to bring someone into the dance?


1 comment:

That Girl in Glasses said...

This is so accurate. Throughout college I have babysat in my spare time. Now, a lot of those kids are teens in high school and they have started the dating game. It's interesting to watch, because they go for the same type of guy, and will complain to me and describe him as a douche bag, but they feel that this is honest or authentic. But they require a certain amount of "sweet text messages" or "good kisses" or little nothings to make it okay. "He's a douche, I know, but he's just so sweet."

If a guy practiced classic wooing, I don't think it would even "work" anymore. Maybe it would.