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Friday, May 3, 2013
My resolution this year is to be a "better man." I committed to this objective in January because I felt I had several basic areas I needed to work on, mainly on the chivalry front.
Eight years ago, when I moved to Southwest Virginia, my wife informed me that there were many legendary regional etiquette traits here we could possibly learn from and incorporate into our everyday manners. I believe this was her usual very polite way of telling me there were many things I could work on that would help smooth out my rough edges. I do not know how she knows this stuff, but she does. I have noticed, however, many copies of Southern Living scattered about my household.
I have spent the past several years observing the local culture, trying to adapt it to my personality. I have a friend who exemplifies the term Southern gentleman. I have not informed him I am using him as my mentor for this major personality makeover, but he will know whom I am speaking of when he reads this.
For example, he always opens the car door for his wife or pulls out the chair for her when being seated at a restaurant. I do such things only when I remember to and only if I am positioned correctly. Up until this year, if I was not standing on the correct side of the car, it was not going to happen.
Now committed to being a better man, I "spontaneously" bring roses home at random times instead of just Valentine's Day. My wife, delighted, wonders what suspect activity I may be trying to distract her attention from. I am also concentrating on not making every conversation all about me, like describing for her every single shot I made during my most recent round of golf. I am learning my wife has very interesting things to say when I really listen to her.
And boy, am I opening doors, not only for her, but for everyone, everywhere I go. I recently spotted a woman from across the parking lot who can be physically described only in terms that have apparently become politically incorrect. But my wife stopped me from racing across the lot to open the door for her. I guess I crossed the chivalry boundary at that point.
Lately, I have been wondering how I am doing on this better man quest. I have noticed many entities ask their customers to rate their most recent experiences in transacting business with them. I thought employing a similar system with my wife might provide me valuable feedback for my evolving better-man quest. On the other hand, I do not want to annoy her, as I personally find this latest rage of sending me a survey every time I purchase something far too pervasive.
On a recent business trip, I received an email from my airline with the subject line, "How was your trip?" I told the airline I was thankful that the number of take-offs equaled the number of landings. I receive similar emails from the hotels where I spend my nights and always wonder if it truly matters if I tell them the alarm clock in the room was still set at 5 a.m., presumably from the previous guest who wanted to wake up at an obnoxiously early time.
But, nevertheless, I decided to construct a survey entitled "How am I doing so far?" and present it to my wife. I left out the questions inquiring of my age, sex and income level and went straight to the heart of the matter.
On a scale of one to 10, where 10 is exemplary and one is downright awful, I presented her with questions like: Are you enjoying the made-over me? Were you pleased with the timing of the most recent bouquet of roses you received? Please rate the quality of the roses. How has my opening the car door affected your appreciation of my presence in your life? How much did you notice that the gas tank was full in your car? Is it important our yard is almost free of dandelions? Is trying really hard to get the towels folded and placed perfectly back on the rack - although they never are - important to you? How much are you missing my descriptions of my most recent double bogey? Should I be reading Southern Living? Overall, how am I doing?
Her answer surprised me!
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