By Poorna Shetty
As a little girl weaned on a diet of Cary Grant, Charlton Heston and a father who wrote poetry to win the heart of her mother, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume this is how the world worked. Men wooed in the manner of amorous birds, seeking to impress a member of the opposite sex with displays of attentiveness,thoughtfulness and good behaviour. After many years on the singles circuit it became apparent that this clearly wasn’t the case anymore; cue many nights spent waiting for the phone to ring, mixed messages and boozy chat-up lines in bars.
While I’m willing to agree with Contributing GQ Editor Kevin Braddock that the old rules no longer apply – hence the blurred boundaries of social behaviour – the emergence of ‘flirt schools for women’ seem to undermine the rules of courtship altogether. Following an article in The Guardian that charts a female journalist being taught how to flirt (essentially it boils down to eyeing up men in a bar), it sums up everything that’s wrong with the current state of affairs: when did men stop trying to woo women?
A close male friend of men says that because women have become more empowered, both parties have to bring something to the table, not just the man. Clearly then the rules of courtship need to be redefined, just as the 2008 publication of Debrett’s Guide For The Modern Gentleman attempted to address and define the new status of the 21st century gentleman.
So what’s the solution then? Men, says Kevin, are hesitant to use the old rules for fear of being batted off by the woman, who might think they’re being creepy. Women, I feel, want to retain their sense of empowerment but still need to feel as if they are actively wanted by the gentleman. As I see my friends go through the turmoil of trying to figure out whether a guy likes them, deciphering every last word of text right down to the punctuation, the word that springs to mind is ‘confused.’
Rather than Debrett’s, woman are bombarded with self-help rule books such as He’s Just Not That Into You and The Rules, which seem to peddle mind games rather than codes of behaviour. Flirt school, as I see it, seems to say: I’m doing something wrong, and that’s why men aren’t approaching me.
What we need is a compromise: Gentlewomen, when he’s being vague about contacting you, he might be looking for signs of encouragement so that he doesn’t lose face. Gentlemen, remember that Peter Pan dies alone, so take a leaf from the old school and treat the woman like a lady.
first posted February 11, 2010