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Chivalry isn't dead, it's just on hold

14 November 2011

I met a man last week. When I parked my car outside my house, I looked across the road to see a man leaning under the hood of his car, playing around with something or other. As I struggled with lifting my walking frame out of the back seat of the car, I looked at him and asked if he needed some help. I didn’t see the irony at the time, I was just following my gut instinct. 

He offered me a smile as he rejected my offer. We swapped a few jokes about me not knowing much about cars and I wished him good luck before I wandered into the house after a long day at work. 

That moment passed and I forgot all about it, just another incident along the journey of life. Little did I know that I would meet him again a week later. He was walking passed as I was taking the frame out of the car. He offered to help me this time and I rejected him. He mentioned how he felt bad that he hadn’t offered to help the last time and I just laughed and said that most men do. He laughed back and went on his way. 

Having a chronic illness and a disability you get used to being dependent on others, heck, you get so used to it that you become passive and wait for someone else to take the initiative. And I am one of those people I suppose. But, I am fiercely stubborn and independent when it comes to a few things. I like to have control of some things in my life for as long as I can. One of those things is lifting my frame in and out of the car (no wonder I have such amazing arm muscles!). 

This has become an issue over the last year. When I go out with men they often walk me to my car because that’s what most men seem to do. They make sure the woman makes it safely to the car or they are dragging out the goodbye for as long as they can. Whatever the reason may be, after we exchange goodbyes they stand there as they watch me lift the frame into the car. I notice from the corner of my eye that they look around and shuffle their feet, unsure what to do. Do they offer to help me or do they stand there as they look like a jerk (in their eyes)?

After I finish some of them say sorry for not offering to help and the others say that they are sure passerbys think they are horrible. I know we are meant to be in that feminist era where we are supposed to strive for equality, same wages, etc, etc and I know that I have that whole independence thing going on, but I can’t help but feel like maybe I should let them help. 

By letting them help I am allowing them to take away my independence but on another level I am showing them that I trust them and feel comfortable with them. I am even showing them that I am willing to let go of my principles for them. 

But if it starts with helping me with the walking frame, where will it lead to next?