Single people of a certain age will tell you dating has really changed over the years. Even in the 10 years since I was single, it’s become almost unrecognizable.

Back then, there were no hard rules, shifting power dynamics, manosphere, or hatred for the opposite sex. There was feminism and equal rights, but for the most part, it was mostly fought in the workplace and not applied to dating.

Back then, men were supposed to be assertive and pursue; women were supposed to be feminine and receptive. Men approached, women responded. Both flirted. Sparks flew, and numbers were exchanged. It was a charming ritual that got the job done.

That’s all changed.

First, people hardly meet in real life because it’s all done on screens. Second, men don’t approach women anymore, which I understand. We’re living in a post #MeToo world with the need for boundaries and consent. There’s also heightened awareness of women’s trauma and their need for self-protection, which is also understandable.

For too long men have oppressed, dominated, and taken advantage. Now women are mad as hell and aren’t taking it anymore.

They’re making the first move, taking the initiative, and asking men out, and I don’t mind one bit. Women are more empowered than ever and that’s a good thing for dating. What I do mind though, are the women who are so mad as hell, and so entrenched in their outrage, that they confuse being a gentleman with toxic masculinity.

With so much anger and confusion in the dating world, I don’t know how people connect. Everyone’s either on high alert, walking on egg shells, or afraid of each other’s shadow. If you ask me, there’s been way too much overcorrection on both sides. Read why here.

A word to the ladies: Stop getting your feminist knickers in a knot! Old-fashioned chivalry isn’t an insult to your gender, and someone acting like a gentleman doesn’t take your power away. Being courted isn’t condescending, and old-school dating etiquette isn’t offensive. Show me where I’m wrong and I’ll shut up.

Now a note to the men: If it’s been a while since you’ve dated, or if you’ve been living under a rock, or you’re too young to know what being a gentleman means, consider this a primer and a refresher:

There is no excuse for bad behavior. That includes harassment, abuse, and other forms of mistreatment. Don’t give women a reason to man-hate! Times are changing, so is the dating culture, and so must you. Being a man doesn’t give you license to be a dick. That’s toxic masculinity.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s what gentlemen do:

  • They hold doors open.
  • They walk on the outside of the sidewalk to protect you.
  • They pick up the check if they ask you out.
  • They come to the door to pick you up.
  • They pay for your valet parking.
  • They walk you to your car after a date.
  • They help you out of horse drawn carriages.

This is not toxic masculinity. Or oppression. Or the patriarchy. It’s called being a proper gentleman!

But don’t take just my word for it, take it from writer Zaron Burnett III. His article, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Dating,” was inspired by Cecil B. Hartley’s book “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness,” which was published just before the Civil War (around the same time I was single LOL).

Along with women taking the lead, here’s some other new rules of engagement:

  • A gentleman should always ask a woman if his presence is welcome.
  • Never initiate physical contact with a woman first. Always allow her to be the first to do so.
  1. Touching is flirting.
  2. Let her touch you first.
  3. It’s creepy if you don’t.
  • Learn how to take “no” for an answer. Don’t give her lip, don’t be a smart ass, don’t be nasty. Deal with rejection like a self-possessed man. She may blow you off, don’t let it ruin your fragile ego.
  • Just because a woman showed interest yesterday, doesn’t mean you should expect anything today. A woman always reserves the right to change her mind. She doesn’t owe you anything.
  • A gentleman is elegant, respectful, and graceful.
  • Be clear in your approach and intent, and always keep your words and actions above reproach.
  • When dating, ask permission, not forgiveness.
  • May I sit here?
  • How are you today?
  • Take your damn time. She’ll appreciate it, and you won’t regret it the next day. Slowness is sexy; mystery is hot. Taking your time not only makes everything deeper and more interesting, it has the effect of clarifying any potential confusion (note: this point is so important I put it in my book).
  • Especially in the age of #MeToo, there is protocol.

Don’t ever risk being misinterpreted as a creep, harasser, abuser, or worse. Gentleness is way more powerful than conquest.

Men are primal, but that doesn’t mean you should be a caveman.

More than being a mind reader, be intuitive. Use your intuitive sense to scope out the situation. Is she smiling, laughing, making eye contact? Is her body language easy-going and comfortable? Does the vibe feel mutually effortless? Is there the occasional friendly touch on the arm?

There’s a reason we call you “Gentlemen.” Be gentle!

As a dating coach, former long-time single who’s now married (to a total gentleman, I may add), and someone who’s old enough to remember dating before it turned into open warfare, I can tell you with much certainty that being a gentleman never goes out of style, and neither does old-fashioned dating etiquette.

Men, give it a try. Ladies, don’t be mad if they do.

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For more dating tough love advice and guidance, pick up a copy of my self-help memoir, “Done Being Single: A Late Bloomer’s Guide to Love,” available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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