I mean, I get it: he is my father and so Daddy is going to be an absolute gentleman to his little girl—make me feel special and protected and respected and loved, in that order, at all times. It is what he does. What’s he’s always done. And it never, ever gets old.
Still, as a grown woman with two daughters of my own, I notice it more—his opening the car door and building doors, too. How he gently leads me by the elbow when I’m tottering on my highest stiletto, and how he pulls out the chair and slides it close to the backs of my knees when I sit at a table. With him, I buy nothing. I don’t pump my own gas. Car trouble is his worry, not mine. And when I announce a want out loud, Daddy makes it happen in double time. Nothing outrageous. For example, just last week while visiting my father, I pushed “send” on my 22nd book and announced, “We need to celebrate—where’s the chocolate?” And within a half hour, the man produced a chocolate cake.
I love him with abandon.
He loves me the same.
This makes me giddy. It also makes me extremely sad and a wee bit unnerved. I’ll explain: My father is from a generation that believes in being gentlemanly. In his circle, those old school manners are like Gators and well-tailored suits, Marvin Gaye and Cadillacs. Classic. Ingrained. Deliberate. And, for those of us on the receiving end, quite endearing—a reminder of a time’s past when black men revered their women and did everything within their power to put us on a pedestal, particularly because they knew no one else could be bothered. I’m not saying every man from that era did the right thing by their ladies, or were masters at etiquette. But I do know this: I’ve yet to come across a man aged 60 and up who isn’t as thoughtful and attentive as my daddy and my Uncle Berk and my father-in-law and all the other older men in my life.
What makes me sad about this? My girlpies are being reared amongst a bunch of kids who get their etiquette cues from Lil’ Wayne, 2 Chainz and A$AP Rocky—a gang of little boys who display through word and visual deed that women are meant for poles, not pedestals, and respect is not an option. Rather than pay for the meal, they toss dollars; rather than escort a lady by the elbow and open the door, she brings up the rear and gets ignored until it’s time for her to “service” him. Of course, I don’t know if any of those men are like this in real life, but they sure do make that impression in their art.
How does this translate in the real world, with a generation of teen girls and boys trying to negotiate the social etiquette terrain with the opposite sex? It turns into black mothers trying to explain to their daughters why black boys talk about their asses and make comments about their breasts and chase them down school hallways, yelling the lyrics to “Bandz A Make Her Dance” and “Tap Out.” (True story, as relayed from a dear friend of mine who recounted her daughter’s summer camp experience with some black boys.)
Not that I’m suggesting for a minute that every black teenage boy is a heathen who disrespects his female counterpart. I’m sure there are some respectful boys out there. I know a few of them. But my God, what a reward it would be for our girls if the boys in their lives got a little bit (rather, a LOT more) of my Daddy’s generation in them—if they saw the reward in respecting our daughters and reclaiming the ways of the gentleman. I want my girls to know what it feels like to have a boy be kind to her—genuinely kind—without being told to do so, and with pleasure, because he knows my girls deserve it.
What a wonderful world this would be.
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3. Herman Cain & His Forgetful Hands: The Importance of Teaching Boys R.E.S.P.E.C.T. For Girls & Women
4. Gang Rape in Texas: When Will We Stop Sacrificing Girls In Defense of Black Boys?
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.