The last person to open a door for me was not a knight in shining armor, in fact it wasn’t even a guy clad in the requisite bow tie and blazer. No darlings, my door was opened by a Sweet Briar woman standing all of five foot nothing and wearing a filthy jersey. I for one don’t chalk this up to proximity; there has been many a visiting male on this campus that has let a door slam in the face of me or my friends as we walk into Prothro. Perhaps even more egregious, they have let the door fall closed on the girl they are there with- something that particularly ruffles my metaphorical feathers.
You know who has never let a door close on my face? A lesbian. Yes, we know them well- whether they be butch or femme or anywhere in between, since coming to Sweet Briar I have found that those practitioners of the love that dare not speak its name are some of the most genteel, chivalrous individuals I have ever met.
Now don’t get me wrong, my beauties, this is not to say that ALL of the men who visit the Briar are grunting, thuggish Neanderthals.
In fact, a great many of the boyfriends or lovers or whatever you choose to call them that visit are stars among men- polite and kind and wonderfully well mannered. But I cannot help but notice the staggering consistency with which the lesbian couples I know practice acts of chivalry on a day to day basis. The easy affection, yet structured convention of it all is at once impressive and deeply interesting.
Why does this seem to be happening? Is chivalry now the primary cultural property of the Sapphic sisterhood? And how did this phenomenon occur?
One of the chivalrous acts that is most evident is also the simplest- the act of visiting. Now one may consider this minor, but the willingness with which my best friend’s girlfriend trekked across campus in the pouring rain to see her at the end of the day was in my opinion, noteworthy. I have frequently heard girls lament the fact that their boyfriends refuse to come to campus, in a warm, dry car no less, from fifteen minutes away.
Visiting was once a part of the package when you were dating someone, particularly if you were the female. Do you think the Vixens of 1932 had to pack into a car with 16 underclasswomen in the dead of night to spend one night in their boyfriend’s corn chip scented man cave of a dorm? Doubtful.
In addition to this willingness to commute come other hallmarks of chivalry. For one, the date still exists in the world of the chivalrous lesbian. So far as I can glean, the current state of the date in the majority of the heterosexual world has been reduced to an extended hangout session in one person’s dorm watching Hulu and debating takeout options. While this is definitely a component of the lesbian dating repertoire, there are also the long-lost traditions of movies and restaurants and sometimes even picnics (an activity I thought was reserved for romantic comedies with Reese Witherspoon). And perhaps most notable is the free and open exchange of affection, compliments and spoken love are no longer taboo, but rather celebrated and plentiful.
There are many reasons why this sudden phenomenon could be occurring. On the one hand, it could merely be the conventions of gender being reflected in a same-sex context- meaning that one person functions as the more “masculine” presence and thus feels the obligation to act in purportedly “manly” ways. Another possibility is that in light of increasing rights for gay couples, these acts of chivalry are a means of expressing the public displays of affection that were once taboo for same sex couples. Or perhaps it is even simpler than that; perhaps in the light of day, women are just driven to be more romantic and less pragmatic by nature, and this chivalry is merely a reflection of that tendency.
Regardless of the reasoning, in the eyes of the chivalrous, it is quite simple. As put by W., my best friend’s girlfriend “I don’t think I could date another girl after her. I hope she’s it.” And perhaps that optimistic romanticism is enough.
So remember, my darlings, on days when the world seems dark and unromantic, look to the girls holding hands in the corner of the library and remember that chivalry isn’t dead.
Contact Miss C. at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.