Thursday, March 31

Benchmarking

[Benchmarking]

I have a friend who is a sports-loving rugged boy, but is scrupulously clean and impeccably groomed. He's a beer-drinking man's man, but is manscaped.

In the beginning of our relationship, I found it curious and shocking to watch him interact with people. His behavior was just so different from that of the men I was accustomed to being around.

He always holds the door open for the person following him — regardless of whether he's with that person, regardless of that person's gender and regardless of that person's age — provided that person is within six-or-so seconds of reaching the door.

He always gives up his seat on the train to someone who ostensibly needs it [on a related note, I almost got into a fight a few days ago when I asked two young women whether one of them was injured or impaired and that was the reason they weren't giving up a seat to the elderly woman standing near them].

As for his relationship with me, I have never opened a door when unless he was carrying something heavy; he has never failed to help me with my coat; I have never gotten into a car that he was driving when he didn't open my door first; he generally pulls out my chair for me at restaurants. He seemingly effortlessly does all of these things for all the other women around him as well.

My early feminist training encouraged me to believe that such actions were the marks of misogynists, that they were [at least signifiers for] control mechanisms and we should always be wary of those who act this way.

But I'm older now, and I have points of comparison. And, I can tell you that I know that he's not a misogynist — and I've been around a few blocks and can identify many varieties of those including the gen-x and hipster breeds that work so hard to pretend that they're not.

I realized today that knowing him has affected the way that I judge other people. I realized that — for good or ill — when it comes to what I consider polite behaviors of a certain type, I hold the actions of others against that benchmark.

Of course, I have other benchmarks too: as smart as, as tall as, as hung as, as attentive as, as talented as, as kind as, as whatever as. But, I didn't realize that I had this one.