High up on my right thigh, I have a scar measuring about a half-inch wide.
I got it back in high school when a girl stabbed me.
Hang on. Although I’m sure there have been plenty of people who would have loved the opportunity to perforate my hide at some point or another, this wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
Cindy was one of the prettiest girls in our school. She had plenty of guys clamoring for the chance to be her boyfriend, so a gangly, socially inhibited kid like me wasn’t going to stand a chance to earn her attention.
That is, not until she stabbed me.
She’d picked up a shard of sheet metal outside our shop class one day and decided it would be funny to poke people in the booty with it. She’d walk up behind her unsuspecting victim and, with that sharp shard of tin, jab a hindquarter just enough to make the guy jump. Then she’d laugh mischievously before seeking another target.
She’d already gotten me twice before I decided to take action. While she moved around the crowd waiting for the bus to arrive, I practiced some stealthy maneuvers and got myself in position in her blind side, planning to disarm her at the first opportunity.
When the time came, I reached for her wrist, hoping to wrest the weapon from her grasp. Instead, I grabbed her arm around the elbow; she, surprised, reacted by trying to pull away. Her arm plunged downward, and her miniature sword jammed straight into my thigh.
She freaked. I freaked. We both stared at the metal sticking out of my leg as if trying to figure out how it got there. Not until the blood began showing through my jeans did we react. Dumbly, I reached down and yanked out the blade.
She screamed and covered her face. I stared, slack-jawed, and said, “Oh, crap.”
That very moment provided my first chance to perform a chivalrous action.
Had I walked back into the school to find the nurse, I’d have had to explain what happened. I could have played the victim card, and Cindy would have been in big trouble. I knew she hadn’t meant to wound me. I didn’t feel she deserved punishment for it.
Instead, I simply turned away and walked to the local hospital. I entered the emergency room with bloody shoes and pants and reported to the desk. Naturally, the receptionist called my dad. After they staunched the bleeding, the nurses told me I’d need stitches.
When Dad arrived, I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth. I made up a quick story about how someone had placed the metal with sharpened end sticking out of the fork of a tree. I leaned against it, I told my dad, and jammed it nearly to the bone.
I’m pretty sure Dad knew I was speaking with a forked tongue, but he didn’t press the issue. He just drove me home after the doc sewed me up, and that was the end of it.
Then came my reward.
First, I got to miss the next day of school. (I guess stabbing victims get that privilege.) Later that day, a car I didn’t recognize pulled into my driveway. Out popped Cindy.
She sat on the porch with me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I’d live. She wanted to see the stitches, so I showed her. She started crying and apologizing again. Then she said she deserved whatever the school was going to do to her: suspension, whatever.
I told her I knew it had been an accident and I’d lied about it, so nobody was going to know.
Cindy hugged me and kissed my cheek, thanking me for protecting her.
So basically, I traded a stab wound for a hug and kiss from a pretty girl. As a 15-year-old boy who could never even manage to talk to someone like Cindy, I considered it more than a fair trade. Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars …
For the rest of my life, chivalrous deeds have come much easier. Opening doors for ladies, carrying bags for them or just generally trying to act like the gentleman my mom raised me to be. None of my attempts since Cindy have resulted in bloodshed.
I keep hearing that chivalry’s dead, but I disagree. I still see its existence with other guys. The man with an umbrella who stood outside a door at a grocery store and offered to walk ladies through the rain to their parked vehicles. A young boy carrying his teacher’s bags down the hallway. Men of all ages opening the doors for ladies. Chivalry still lives.
Not every woman appreciates those gestures. There are those so bent on demonstrating independence they perceive such gallantry as an insult. When I once tried to help a woman load a large bundle into the back of her car, she snapped, “I’m not helpless. It’s not that heavy.”
I raised my hands and backed away before she could stab me. I bet she’s one of the very ones griping about the demise of chivalry.
I’ll offer this opinion: When a man attempts — however feebly — to perform an act of kindness for a woman, it’s probably because he’s a nice guy. We were taught to treat ladies like … well, ladies. I don’t open my truck door or carry grocery bags for my wife because I think she can’t. I do it as a sign of my esteem. It’s the least I can do for her. I bet she, like other girls, dreamed all her life of a knight in shining armor, like Sir Lancelot. Instead, she got stuck with a rusty knave. Bubba Works-a-Lot.
Ladies, please give us guys our meager attempts at showing respect — and, when appropriate, our love. The flowers, candies and cards at Valentine’s Day are mere tokens. You deserve more. We know that.
But considering the number of people today too focused on themselves to render thoughtfulness to others, those little acts may be chivalry’s last chance.
Chivalry’s not dead. It just got stabbed a little.