With the release of the footage of Ray Rice knocking his fiancé out cold in an Atlantic City hotel elevator and the resurrection of the 911 phone calls from the Greg Hardy incident, I along with everyone else (minus Ray Lewis) have been cringing the last month. Sometimes I’m truly amazed at what guys think is acceptable behavior towards women, and each new bout of celebrity violence seems to push the envelope. No, this isn’t some pro-feminism rant but more of pointed a reminder that we need to not just be better guys, but be better men in how we treat the people around us.
Last fall a group of friends stayed with me for the Notre Dame – USC game in South Bend. I was finishing up my last year of law school and my apartment had become the default place to crash for my undergrad friends. After closing down our favorite bar, one of my female friends decided to go home with a guy who graduated with us in 2011. He and a group of his friends had rented a house near downtown South Bend for the game. Around 3:45 AM a phone call from my friend woke me up. Apparently the guy my friend went home with didn’t want her sleeping over. His tactic for getting her out of the house was to simply disappear, while another guy renting the house came upstairs and told her to leave. They didn’t call her a cab, they didn’t offer her a ride or even offer to let her wait inside till someone could come get her. No, they thought throwing a girl out in the rain at nearly four in the morning in a dangerous part of town was acceptable behavior. I know most of you reading would never dream of doing something like this, and I commend you for that. But for those of you who saw nothing wrong with what these guys did, I suggest you take a walk around the block and grow up. If you haven’t kept up with the news this month, the University of Florida is currently has a citywide manhunt underway for someone who has been sneaking up behind girls walking alone and knocking them unconscious during the early morning hours. While this may be an extreme example, these kind of things can and do happen. I know readers of Jezebel and Mother Jones are going to jump down my throat for this one, but it’s hard to argue against that fact that women are generally easier targets for criminals.
As much as I hate to admit it sometimes, college is over. We can no longer chalk up of our cringe-worthy behaviors to being “college, man.” It’s time to start acting like an adult, especially during the workweek. It’s fine to throw politesse to the wind when you’re with your close friends every now and again (I’m a big proponent of this) but it’s different when you are with people besides your college buddies. You may think I’m a little old fashioned and pretentious, but believe me when I say that people notice your manners and etiquette. And the types of people who take notice are usually those who are in a position to better both your professional and personal lives. If you don’t think the girl you’re out on a date with isn’t paying attention to your table manners and general etiquette throughout the night, I’m going to go ahead and guess that’s why you’re logged onto Tinder at 3AM trying to convince a soft 4 to come over.
Below is a short list of some everyday situations we will find ourselves in, and how we should handle them as men. Some of these are pretty common sense, but you would be amazed at the number of guys I see that act like they went to the Fred Flintstone Finishing Academy.
Interacting with Women
- First Meeting: The safest and correct way to address a woman who you do not know is either Ms. (pronounced miz) or ma’am (for older women). I usually switch from Ms. to ma’am for women who are around 40-45 (ma’am can be offensive to some younger women).
- Hold the door: Especially for a woman carrying packages, with a stroller, disability, etc.
- Walk her home: Make sure she gets home safely. This doesn’t matter if she’s a friend, relative, date, or your significant other. This one is a no brainer and should ALWAYS be followed. If you are walking, walk her to her door. If you’re sharing a cab, drop her at her place first. If it’s a first date use your judgment as to how the date is going. If you think it’s going south you should still offer to walk her home, if she declines or takes a cab then you can simply say “I would appreciate it if you let me know you got home safely.”
- Elevators: Women are always the first ones on the elevator and the first ones off. The only exception is if the elevator is so crowded you cannot easily shift out of the way.
Interacting with Professionals
- Senior People: If they are higher up than you in the company, or you are trying to have them help you with obtaining a job use Mr. or Ms. unless they direct you to refer to them on a first name basis.
- Help: If they help you with something that deserves thanks, send them a thank-you note. E-mail has become acceptable for small favors, but if they have gone out on a limb for you (or after an interview) a handwritten thank-you is a must.
- Lunch/Dinner: Choose something that is easy to eat and wont make a mess. Salads are always a safe bet, but if not something that you can cut into small pieces and eat with a fork also works.
- Booze: Know your limits and your tolerance. One to three drinks is where you should draw the line. You want to look like you’re social, but you also don’t want to look like a raging alcoholic. Plus this approach has the added benefit of helping to keep you from saying something you shouldn’t in a drunken stupor. If you aren’t drinking, for whatever reason, a good fake out is club soda with a slice of lime.
Others Worth Mentioning
- Meeting Significant Other’s Parents: You never get a second chance at a first impression and the most important step after winning someone over is winning over his or her family. If you’re at this stage you should know what their parents do for a living, so address them as Mr. & Mrs. (or Dr. & Mrs., or whatever their titles are). I’m a big believer in this for the first few times you meet them (even if they say you can call them by their first names), until it’s clear you and your significant other are serious and you’re a regular guest in their home. At the very least it helps take some of the stink off of the fact that you are violating their son or daughter’s innocence on a regular basis.
- Doormen, wait-staff, house keepers, etc.: Hellos and pleases and thank yous are always a nice gesture. Most of the time these people are flat out ignored, and being nice to them usually costs you absolutely nothing but has the added benefit of making you look like a classy individual. If you’re being a dick to the waiter on a date, your date is going to notice. I’m a believer that the way we treat people who are inconsequential to what we are presently engaged in reflects on the type of person we truly are deep down.
- Language: Creative cursing is an art form I’m particularly fond of, but Mr. & Mrs. Parent sure won’t appreciate you yelling about your f****** c***-s****** ass-hat client in front of their 4 year old. Be mindful of the people within earshot before you spout off.
- Paying for Things: Don’t be cheap. Ever. If there is one reputation you do not want, it’s being a cheapskate. I realize money is a sensitive issue for a lot of guys, especially at this stage in our careers when living paycheck to paycheck is the norm. If you ask someone out on a date, be prepared to pay for the both of you. Even if you sense the date is going nowhere and probably won’t result in going out with them again, be a man and pick up the tab. the It’s different if you are asked on the date or it’s dinner with someone you are dating or you’re out with friends. But in those situations always pay your fair share.
- As an aside to this, if you have a friend who is between jobs or you know is struggling financially be decent enough to buy them a round once in a while or take them out to dinner. Don’t make a spectacle out of it (they’re probably already embarrassed enough), but you also don’t want to punish a good friend by making them sit home every night while the rest of the group is out having a good time.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of things you should do, nor is it a list of things you should start doing all at once. If you’ve been a douchebag the last 20+ years of your life and people know you as such, you suddenly flipping the switch will look disingenuous and your efforts will have been for nothing. Instead, slowly add some of these to your daily routine (maybe 1-2 a week) and keep practicing till they are habit. Before you know it you will have successfully navigated the limbo of post-college life and emerged a better, more polished version of yourself.