Throughout the centuries, traditions have come and gone. Except for one, a single code of honor that has survived where others have died. Even during the radically changing world of the 1990s, chivalry has remained strong. And more or less intact.
Once upon a time, according to Webster, chivalry stood for "the noble qualities that a knight should have, such as courage, honor and loyalty. To seek always the path of right, unencumbered by bias or personal interest, and a readiness to help the weak and protect women."Today, "Chivalry is trash," according to Spencer White, 18. "It's a poor excuse for a girl to get what she wants from a guy." A far cry from its original purpose.
In its modern form, most of chivalry's knightly qualities have been forgotten, and what remains is usually applied to dating etiquette. "Chivalry means that you should be polite and courteous to a girl, especially on a date," said Ryan Moeller, 17.
While it may no longer entail standing up for truth and justice against vast opposition, chivalry still allows the men to flex their muscles for the women, while playing the "nice guy." Many young men admit they'd jump at the chance to help out a damsel in distress, whether it be by lifting a heavy box or doing a math problem (even if they don't know the answer).
And women are savvy enough to encourage men to follow the new code of chivalry. "I like it when a guy opens the door for me. It makes you feel special! Who wouldn't want to encourage that?" asks Elizabeth Jolley, 16.
Women understand that because of this tradition, they have an able-bodied work force of men at the snap of their fingers. "Thanks to chivalry, I get to stay in the car while the guy scrambles outside in the rain to make the umbrella work," says Michelle Lyman, 17, while grinning evilly. "But there is a point when chivalry gets too silly. If a guy ever put his coat down over a puddle so I could walk across, I'd smack him for being stupid."
So both sexes actually gain from the modern form of chivalry. Knighthood it's not, but men get to show off their manly qualities and virtues while the women hardly ever have to pick up the tab.
Of course, there are always those radical zealots who take it a step too far. These would-be knights often don't comprehend the right time to show off their gentility, or they push it to extremes.
"Some men would rather trip a girl flat on her face than let her get to a door and open it first," says Naomi Abraham, 17. "I happen to know a couple of them."
"I have a friend," says Krisy Whitley, 17, "who insists on opening the door for girls no matter what. One time when we went out with a bunch of friends, he kept trying to open my car door and I wouldn't let him, so the next time he made sure to lock the door just so I'd have to wait for him to unlock it and open it for me."
"I expect a date to always be considerate on a formal date, but if he insists on always paying, always doing everything for me, I'd begin to feel inferior," says Elizabeth Jolley.
"Chivalry is male dominance!" says Sarah Jensen, 18.
Sadly, some men confuse the principle of chivalry with power and control. If it weren't for enforced laws, men of this type would probably prefer to skip our modern dating rituals and simply club a woman over the head with a large bone, and then drag her back to the cave.
Chivalry is still with us, even if in a considerably lighter version, simply because its such a darn useful tool for both sexes. As long as the more expensive forms are kept buried in the past, chivalry fits in its niche ideally. Keep in mind, slaying dragons may seem gallantly heroic, but a thoughtful and attentive gesture can be just as meaningful.