We may not have had Ward and June Cleaver for parents, Mike and Carol Brady, or Cliff and Claire Huxtable. Our own parents may not have resembled any of these ideal TV parents from our childhood televisions, but we can still draw from these iconic examples. The same is true for pulling inspiration from generations past.
Consider the generation of the 1950’s and 1960’s, who had just come back from the war happy both to just be alive and to be reunited with their brides. My own grandpa was one of them, and he wooed my grandmother with old-school Fifties-style romance. It may sound like a picturesque fantasy from a long-gone time, but it worked — I know, because I saw it. And hopefully you can find something of the old school in your own modern self.
He would hold her door. Now, before you get the wrong idea here, let me assure you that my grandma was not a prima donna. She graduated from college, worked as a school teacher, raised five children and volunteered for a number of organizations. Needless to say, she could open her own doors…but around my grandfather, she didn’t have to. He opened doors for her with a gentle grace. He was a gentleman and saw to it that she was treated well, and she responded with the fluid grace of a woman who was one half of a couple in step with one another, but without any haughtiness or sense of entitlement.
He would pump her gas. Being a gentleman is in the details, like filling up a lady’s gas tank so she never has to worry about such things. It’s a small, but thoughtful gesture. Could you imagine what it would be like to never have to worry about running out of gas?
He would write her letters. War isn’t very romantic…but for those who fight, it creates a very real sense of longing and yearning. There is a very real chance that you might not return, so you tell those in your life that you love them, and why. In those days, my grandfather communicated his thoughts with beautiful handwriting on nearly translucent stationery, and sent them on their own journey across the ocean into the hands of his loved one…and the one he loved kept those testaments in a special box in a special place, safe from harm. She kept these postmarked keepsakes of his love for her to treasure, and to pass on to their children.
He danced with her. I know they danced together regularly before he left for the war, but I’m certain they circled the dancefloor with a much lighter step once he returned. They both enjoyed the music of their day, which was often big band and orchestras at a supper club. They had friends that would join them, and they would share a table, talking, laughing, and enjoying one another’s company. They knew each other on the dance floor. By the time I came along, they moved together as though they had never moved apart — without thought, with a natural grace, and with contentment.
He played cards with her. They had five children together when they were a fairly young couple. Money was tight, but they managed to have fun together no matter the circumstances: inviting friends over, play cards, talking and laughing until they cried. They would play for chips and bragging rights. Games would get heated, as the women would chat and the men would ask if they were going to actually play cards or just exchange recipes. And games were just that: games. I can never recall a time when games turned into arguments. Pinochle, bridge and gin rummy were just another reason to have friends over, to be social and to enjoy one another’s company, no matter the budget.
While times are different nowadays, in a lot of ways they are still the same, and we still search for romance. It wasn’t just one thing, but rather the sum total of small gestures, that made men like my grandpa true gentlemen. The next time you are on a quest for romance, I challenge you to ask youself, what would grandpa do?