A Question About Chivalry: Who's "Supposed" To Be The Lead Walker? (...And Does It Matter?)


Despite much consternation (and some cheer) about its demise, I'd argue that most adults, and even most teens, are at least somewhat aware of chivalry. Specifically, the parts that concern how a male and a female human in a romantic relationship should treat each other. The people who don't follow these rules of decorum either don't out of political principle (i.e.: a belief they're sexist and/or outdated) or don't because they just reveal in being a dick. Ignorance of them is a poor excuse.


Because even if you weren't taught how to be chivalrous, after a couple decades on Earth and a couple hundred thousand interactions with other Earthlings, you should have observed that if a man and woman are approaching a door at the same time, the man usually holds the door for the woman. And that if at a restaurant and with a woman, it's customary to allow her to order first. And that if walking on the sidewalk with a woman, the man should walk on the side closest to the street. And that the man should volunteer to sleep in the wet spot. Unless, of course, it's Wet Spot Wednesday — the weekly holiday I invented (in my head) four years ago requiring women to volunteer to…sleep in the wet spot every Wednesday. (It's not a very creative holiday.)

Again, whether you decide to follow these rules is your choice. But you can't deny they exist.

That said, there's one rule I'm still not quite clear about. And, after spending last week on a cruise and observing hundreds of couples while there, it doesn't seem like anyone else is.

In a perfect world and shit, if a man and a woman who happen to be in a relationship are walking somewhere together, they walk together; arms linked as they match each other's stride, ready to rule the universe and cast subtle sideeyes at men with boat shoes and tube socks. Because they're equals. And because they're equals, they walk equally.

But let's say, for whatever reason, they can't walk beside each other. Let's say they're in a situation where someone has to be the lead walker. (A crowded mall, perhaps?) Who takes the lead? More specifically, who is supposed to take the lead? Is it chivalrous for the man to walk first? Or, is it more "right" for the woman to take the lead and the man to follow?

Also, is this even a question of chivalry? Does the walking dynamic stand apart from the other, more well-known, rules of decorum? Basically, does this just depend on your specific relationship dynamic? Because maybe someone always takes the lead because the other person just has a shitty sense of direction. Or maybe someone has corns and can't keep up. Or maybe the guy chooses to catch the rear because it's easier to ass gaze and ass appreciate back there and not get caught.


Anywho, many questions. And I DON'T HAVE THE ANSWERS!!! Do you?

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



You let the woman walk first so you can watch dat @ss and catch any dudes looking at her.
Other odd chivalry "rule" I've never been on a date where the man sits with his back to the door. Never.