Thank Goodness Men No Longer Need to Walk on the Right to Keep Their Sword Arm Free

For some reason, it persists among (some) men that to be chivalrous, they need to walk on a particular side of a woman when walking down the street. Historical reasons cited for this include:

  • When knights existed, their right arm was their sword arm and thus is needed to be available to defend the lady.

  • When people used to throw garbage out the window, the woman needed to be on the building side of the street so it wouldn’t hit her.

  • The man needs to be on the street side of the sidewalk in case a car splashes water.

  • Having the lady on the wrong side implies she is a prostitute

This often results in some ridiculous running around the lady to get to the correct side creating awkwardness all around. From a quick Google, men’s dating sites are strongly encouraging this practice though it should clearly die out. The fact of it is there is no really good reason for the man to be walking on the street side, danger is just as likely to come from the other side.

Granted, most old etiquette books (right up through Emily Post) do instruct the man to take the curbside position (or the married lady should take it if walking with a single lady), but they all also say that a gentleman should always defer to a lady’s preference. This means no pouting like a petulant child if a woman refuses to let you act the gallant.

There are any number of acceptable chivalrous practices that you can participate in if you wish to feel like a knight in shining armour:

  • Hold doors (but don’t insist she wait in the car while you run around to open her side!)

  • Offer your jacket (but only because it is likely you are wearing a long sleeved shirt and she is not)

  • Hold the umbrella (because you are likely taller)

  • Go to the door to pick her up instead of honking (or calling/texting) from the car

  • Give the lady (or anyone!) a hand or elbow if they are unsteady on their feet from illness/drunkenness/ill-advised heel heights