The young Catholic man is taught – perhaps even more than most – to open doors for women. His mother demands this of him, knowing that chivalry is a wonderful virtue to practice. His father demands the same, knowing that his son is going to need all the help he can get to attract women, wondering only vaguely what happened to all his family’s good-looking genes. This all goes to prove the point that virtue is at once desirable and practical. It offers both heavenly and earthly reward. This fact is seen in the practice of Patience; it will obtain for you both that Great Heavenly Peace and a little peace amongst your more obnoxious brethren. Hope gets a man to God and through the day. Likewise, the practice of Chivalry helps a man gain both Heaven and heaven-on-Earth, namely, the warm embrace of an attractive woman. And why not? After all, if virtue was all pain and no gain, we’d be Puritans. And – judging by those liquor cabinets – we’re not.
So we awkwardly out-walk women to the door. I am of the belief that this action is entirely representative of a higher willingness to sacrifice ourselves for these enormously good-looking things. We grab the handle, wrench the door open triumphantly and assemble our face into features that say, “Today a door, tomorrow my life!” or something equivalent. We are aware – believe it or not – that women are capable of opening doors. Some of us – writers, poets and other degenerates – have the more unfortunate awareness that these same women could put us on our backs and mace us on the way down. But we pretend and they oblige, because it’s not the thing itself; it’s the symbol, as any good Catholic schoolboy knows. Thankfully. As Chesterton once said, and I paraphrase here: No one likes Puritans.”
But there are dangers associated with chivalry, as St. George will testify to. Let no feminist laugh off our noble door-opening as unable to rectify thousands of years of oppression. It’s a dangerous business, opening that darn door. Especially when you’re on a Catholic campus. I give you then, my list of things that can go terribly wrong: Not a common symbol, I know.
1. The Accidental Door-stop. This is truly humiliating, especially if the girl in question is one you have the hope of making a breed of legitimate children with. There you are, you and Anne-Marie Elizabeth O’Connor, approaching the door. You remember your parent’s warning; you slip in front of that gorgeous woman and open it. She passes through. Life is good. And then a crowd of waddling rugby players – seeing your noble act – decide to take advantage. They follow tightly behind Anne-Marie Elizabeth, giving you acknowleding grunts, cutting you off from your beloved. This, of course, causes a jam, and another crowd joins behind them – you still holding the door, the delicate Anne-Marie Elizabeth half-way down the hall. You gaze at her, you make eye contact; all is lost. You have been degraded from a man to a door-stop. It is almost worst that she stands to the side and waits for you. You know what she is thinking; here’s a man who the world can pushover, who will run screaming at the first sight of childbirth. You know it. The bright ‘thank you’s’ of the girls who mistakenly think you are holding the door for them do absolutely nothing to comfort the despair in your heart.
2. The Locked Door. You approach, brimming with confidence. You are, after all, a member of the male species. You have rugged good looks, a high sperm count, and a firm belief in the virtue of hard work. The door handle gleams. You place a ruddy hand firmly on the cold metal. You yank, strongly, desiring nothing more than to impress Mary-Clare behind you with the sweeping arch of the door. You dislocate your shoulder. While you bite back pain, you manage to say, “Oh, haha, I didn’t realize…” while Mary-Clare – biting back something else – quietly inserts the key. You resolve to punch yourself in the face later that evening.
I’m telling you, life is hard. It’s situations like this that lead to intense confusion in the adult male.
3. The Non-Compliant Female. There’s always one. You thought you knew her – Catherine-Clare Robinson – you really did. She is Grace Kelly, you Jimmy Stewart. You thought she was one you could share your life with, stay up late discussing the more romantic points of the doctrine of pre-destination, you learning to love Jane Austen, she learning to love Jack Daniels, etc. etc. So you approach the door filled with hope, with anticipation of future joy. You open it wide, her solider and servant. “No, go ahead!” she says happily, gesturing towards the open door. You stop. You are confused. Why is life not progressing onward to the Jane-Jack future of your dreams? Why has she stopped? “Go on!” she says. You are stuck. Is she a radical feminist? Is it a test? If it is, is she looking for a man who will insist open her advancing first, or the man who will oblige her instantly? You don’t know. You try to read her mind. She sighs with impatience. You think: That means I should just go. You step in front of her. Unfortunately, that particular impatient sigh of Catherine-Clare Robinson means, ‘never-mind’. So your step forward cuts her off. She slams into your back. She sighs impatiently. Your life is over.
4. The Long-Distance Relationship. You have no plans to open this door for anyone but yourself. And why? Because there is not a single member of the desire-of-your-heart sex within sight. So you open the door. Walking through you catch a glimpse of something reflected in the doors now-swinging window. Could it be? It is. Cecilia Mary-Margaret – the reason you were put on this earth – is approaching. How could you not have noticed her? She cometh! Or does she? You stop, and turn around. No, she is walking past. You let the door slam. Dammit, nope, she’s coming back. You run back and open the door proudly. You wait for her to arrive. And wait. She sits down on a bench outside the building and pulls out the Imitation of Christ. You slowly, slowly, attempt to close the door without her noticing your amateur mistake. It clicks. She looks up. You run.
5. The Double Door. You and the incredibly exotic Francesca Maria Guiseppe approach the building. ‘Nubile’ – you believe – is the word to describe her, but you can’t remember what it means, and whether or not to complement her with that word. So caught up are you in this question that you mindlessly open the first set of doors for her. Then you see it. A second set. She is already walking through the first. You have a moment to act. Time slows. You could rush a step ahead of her and open the next door, but that would involve pushing her aside to allow her through. An inherent contradiction of intent. You could perform the splits and reach out with your fingertips, just far enough to give the door a push, but that would involve ripping apart your tendons. What, a voice cries, don’t you love her? You could stall her with witty conversation – “Wait! Francesca! Before you open that door! Did I ever mention how nubile your hair is today?” – and subtly move in front of her. You could – the door opens. Another boy, Marcos Johannes Paulos has opened it for her. Their eyes meet and you know, in that instant, that you are finished. Your life is far, far from nubile.
So there you have it. Let no man tell you virtue is easy. But practice it nonetheless, for this life and the next.