While I was on the B.A.R.T. today, I had a chance to read my current issue of GQ (October 2008 issue). It was packed full of goodies, but was most interesting was the article on “HOW TO BE A WELL-DRESSED, WELL-MANNERED, WELL-SPOKEN 21ST CENTURY GENTLEMAN.” The introduction/teaser immersed me into a lost art-form, almost. Its writing was cleverly witty with its spot-on description of what the modern man (and what he shouldn’t be) with its current state. Here’s the excerpt in its entirety. Enjoy!:
Something has happened to the gentleman. The very notion of the gentleman. It’s calcified, cracked, disintegrated. Blame it on women’s lib, and post-women’s lib, and post-post-women’s lib. Blame it on VH1, which gave us Flavor Flav, love guru. Blame it on the internet, which introduced us to a mass-scale intimacy at odds with the old meaning of the word. But it’s hard to think about the “gentleman” without thinking: Sir Walter Raleigh. Or something Will Ferrell would play wearing velvet pants. (What we’re saying is: Out of touch. Stuffy. Irrelevant.) In the real world, meanwhile, the continuum of acceptable behavior has changed. You can say bitch on TV now, or throw up on any number of Johnny Knoxville’s friends. There is hardly a restaurant in America you can’t walk into wearing a pair of fancy sneakers and a sports jacket. Society in general, and manhood specifically, has been casual-ified. It’s a mark of sophistication to speak casually, dress casually, behave as if you’re on a first-name basis with the world. Now, some of this new behavior is gentlemanly and some of it isn’t. And if there is a trick to being a gentleman now, it’s knowing the difference.
Being a gentleman in the twenty-first century means taking responsibility for how you behave instead of relying on a set of simple rules. It means the rules have gotten more complex. It doesn’t mean you have to behave as if BlackBerrys don’t exist; it means you should treat BlackBerrys as far less important than the people seated at the table across from you. It doesn’t mean you have to stand up every time she has something to say. (And it doesn’t hurt if you opened the door for her most of the time- some things haven’t changed). It means life requires a little nuance.
Yes, gentlemanliness is hard to define. But there is still a underlying super-structure that can be boiled down: Basic human decency prevails. The gentleman, in other words, may be many things, but he is never a dick.
So as the eponymous magazine for people who care, we feel it incumbent upon us to declare: The gentleman is dead. Long live the gentleman.