Left of the Mark

To be chivalrous or not to be…

Lock me up. Throw away the key. I’m guilty. I don’t believe I’ve crossed any unlawful lines intentionally, but the lines drawn in the sand by the hands of the ‘appropriate’ and ‘improper’ discrimination warriors have become shifting shades of grey.

I’m becoming fearful for the future and the chivalrous types, particularly anyone like myself that grew up following the guidelines set out by our thoughtful and respectful parents, grandparents and teachers. I was taught it was polite and respectful to offer my seat to a ‘female’ on a train, hold open a door for a stranger and do good deeds for community members less fortunate than myself.

A few weeks ago, during peak hour on a Melbourne train, I offered my seat to a standing female older than myself. A fellow passenger standing beside me, leant over and whispered, ‘offering your seat these days is considered sexist and discriminatory. I didn’t see you offer your seat to a younger man like me.’ Dumbfounded, I quickly looked up the definition of ‘Discriminatory’ to ensure I was still on planet earth. Sure enough, my ‘Google’ search revealed the definition to be; ‘making or showing an unfair or prejudicial distinction between different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.’ Where am I? The planets of common manners and discrimination are not aligning.

If my instinctual act on the train was possibly becoming outdated and alien in 2018, I was certainly shocked when just a few days later I had unknowingly performed a second ‘discriminatory’ behavioural act. This time it was against a female work colleague. I offered to carry a heavy tray of drinks for her. My superior overheard what I considered to be a helpful and thoughtful gesture but instead I received a verbal warning that I was being ‘sexiest.’ Guilty again.

The following morning after my sleepless night of tossing and turning worried about my potential ‘unlawful acts, the then Lady Mayoress of Melbourne, Emma Page Campbell and her son came in to the restaurant where I work. Emma and myself are known to each other. This was the very morning before the NEWS broke in the media that allegations of sexual harassment were made against her husband, the now former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Over breakfast, Emma had proudly informed me of their family and work updates. Emma was extremely jovial and happy.

When I heard the NEWS the following morning I was baffled and, in some way, related the recent allegations made against myself (although very different) to those made against Robert Doyle. I played out scenarios in my head and realised that should I continue to behave in my chivalrous ways that could be considered ‘unlawful’ by policy and moral perception, I too may need to prove my innocence in the eyes of my family and peers.

When I posted my train incident dilemma on social media, I received numerous comments from persons that identify themselves as both males and females asking me not to change my behaviour. Mark Powers commented: “That’s the day and age we live in Mark. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, there will always be a long queue of people lining up to offer their criticism. Keep doing what’s right in your eyes mate.”

Embracing Mark’s and many other ‘friends’ encouragement and support to remain chivalrous, I’ll do the time for my future crimes because I refuse to identify as an emotionless and numbing member of society, a thoughtless neighbour, careless work colleague or disrespectful stranger that refuses to hold open a door for anyone. All aboard the guilty train?