For those of you looking sceptically at this headline, then at the news, then back to this headline again: we know Covid (regrettably) hasn’t disappeared. But the UK is an undeniably — and, some would say, irrevocably — different country to the country it was before the pandemic broke in March 2020 (as Josh Glancy found out earlier this year). So the question, then, is that age-old question we keep returning to — with a new, unignorable caveat. What does it mean to be a gentleman; and what does it mean to be a gentleman in a post-Covid world?
It was a difficult enough question to answer, even without the Covid stipulation: because no one can definitively define exactly what a gentleman is. To be a gentleman is to embrace a way of life, embodying certain characteristics and personality traits as you do so — and Covid has certainly put its own viral spin on what, exactly, that way of life should look like. So we’ve decided to clear up what constitutes gentlemanly behaviour in this new era once and for all, with our list of non-negotiable post-Covid gentlemanly qualities. This will be your Bible, gents; pay close attention. (Plus, see how many qualities you can spot from our original, pre-Covid list. No cheating, mind. Cheating’s not very gentlemanly.)
1. A gentleman wears a mask
We bet you saw that one coming. But it’s a non-negotiable one, really. If you were thinking of throwing off your mask for good when 19th July (or Freedom Day, as it’s more popularly known) dawns, we’d advise you to think again if you want to be a true gentleman. As we all know by now, masks are about protecting others — so do the gentlemanly thing, and strive to protect those around you as best you can.
2. A gentleman carries hand sanitiser
On much the same theme, hand sanitiser has, regrettably, become one of those items a gentleman should never leave the house without. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. Hand sanitiser? Check, check, check. It’s not very gentlemanly to assume that others will always provide hand sanitiser for you; but in our new hypervigilant society, it is gentlemanly to sanitise one’s hands whenever the need arises.
3. A gentleman keeps a respectful distance
‘From who?’, we hear you ask. Well, from everyone, really. Don’t cramp others on public transport; don’t sit right next to someone in a park if there’s a perfectly good empty bench a few metres away; wait for the next lift if the current option is looking a little too crowded. Social distancing may not be an official guideline much longer; but in this new world, many will be cautious and concerned about being in close proximity to others. A gentleman knows and respects that, and behaves accordingly.
4. A gentleman never goes in for the kiss (without asking)
That’s a pretty general one, really — Covid or no Covid. A gentleman should never, ever lunge for a kiss without first ascertaining that such a kiss is welcome — but in our new landscape, it’s more important than ever for a gentleman to check whether his advances would be appreciated or not.
5. A gentleman allows for flexibility at all times
We’re not talking about yoga (though yoga is certainly a gentlemanly hobby…); we’re talking about the need to adapt to plans changing at a moment’s notice. If you’d planned a gentlemanly dinner party, but more than a few of your guests are concerned about mingling indoors — you may need to relocate to a handy park. And so on. Adaptive flexibility is the gentlemanly way.
6. A gentleman asks permission before shaking someone’s hand
We’ve always been advocates of a firm handshake; and we’re certainly not suggesting that such a handshake isn’t a gentlemanly characteristic. But a gentleman always asks whether the other party is comfortable with the idea before diving in and grabbing someone’s palm. We’re well and truly in the era of the elbow bump, gents; there’s no getting away from it.
7. A gentleman dresses as well for a Zoom call as he would for an in-person meeting
No more Zoom sloppiness; no more of an ironed shirt on top, and boxers on the lower half. A true gentleman is meticulously well-presented at all times, whether he’s chairing an in-person meeting or taking minutes on Zoom with the camera off. Just because no one can see the whole ensemble doesn’t mean the ensemble can slide.
8. A gentleman maintains impeccable personal hygiene
Again, this is one that should have always made the gentlemanly cut, with or without Covid. But we live in a time of germs, transmission and those ever-present Covid-19 particles, personal hygiene can’t be overstated enough. Keep scrubbing those hands; and stay minty fresh and fragranced to deter any lingering clinical whiff of hand sanitizer. And if you want to soap up in style, we’ve got you covered with some of the best soap dishes around…
9. A gentleman always RSVPs
Those of you who’ve done your homework will know that this made it into our original selection of qualities that make a man a gentleman; but RSVPing is even more important in a post-Covid era. Planning a gathering of any sort is a nightmarish social hell at the moment, with restrictions doing their restrictive thing and guests having to isolate at the last minute. The least a gentleman can do to help the proceedings is to RSVP.
10. A gentleman never boasts
This is a big one. Boasting is never gentlemanly; arrogance and superiority are frowned on by the gentlemanly gods. But it’s even more important to stay humble now. After so many have been furloughed or made redundant, holidays have been cancelled and weddings postponed yet again — it’s distinctly unbecoming to boast and brag when things go well. Celebrate the good things, of course; but in a respectful, gentlemanly manner.
11. A gentleman knows how to cook
Well done: another point to you. This was indeed in our original list of gentlemanly qualities; but it’s taken on a new relevance in our new ‘working-from-home’ normal. If you’re working at home more than at the office (or even if you’re back to the office full time), you’ll want to brush up on those cooking skills. A gentleman has multiple delectable, sophisticated recipes he can whip up at a moment’s notice; and if you need some inspiration, we can certainly assist with that…
12. A gentleman isolates when advised to isolate
Trust us when we say there is nothing gentlemanly about going out and about when the Test and Trace app has indicated you may want to stay at home for a while. That’s just inconsiderate: and a gentleman is never inconsiderate.
13. A gentleman makes eye contact
Another gentlemanly quality that’s as old as time: any gentleman should always look everyone directly in the eye, rather than gazing distractedly over someone’s shoulder or shiftily down at the ground. But eye contact is more important than ever in our mask-wearing era. With so much of your face covered, it’s all in the eyes, gents; so make those eyes count.
14. A gentleman has his WFH set-up in good order
Will we ever all return, en-masse, to full-time office working? That’s a matter for another day. In the meantime, though, a gentleman should ensure that his WFH set-up is up to scratch. Feng shui is everything, as is good lighting, a well-organised desk and a positive atmosphere. Luckily, we know of a few house plants that could be a good starting point…
15. A gentleman never judges
Yep, you’ve guessed it again: we’ve cautioned against judgement before. A gentleman should never judge, no matter which era he lives in: but in a post-Covid era, it’s more important than ever. Everyone’s adapting to the rapidly shifting circumstances (lockdown, no more lockdown, lockdown again, one household, two households, masks, no masks) in their own way: a gentleman understands that his friends and acquaintances may not always respond in the same way he does. He understands it, and he respects it — what he doesn’t do is judge it.
16. A gentleman knows how to dance
We couldn’t resist throwing this one in. Those who know their Gentleman’s Journal stuff will know that we’ve waxed lyrical about the need for skilful dancing before; but, as with so many things, a gentleman should take a look at what it means to be a good dancer in the post-Covid era. A gentlemanly dancer is a thoughtful dancer: someone who would never pressure his partner into dancing if they didn’t feel comfortable with the proximity (or comfortable full stop), but who can demonstrate skilled footwork when the need arises.
17. A gentleman appreciates what he’s got
If we’ve learned anything over the past year or so, it’s that we should count our blessings. So many have had their lives pulled out from under them; all around us, people have lost jobs, health and loved ones. In this environment, the most ungentlemanly thing a fellow could possibly do would be to complain, rant and moan. Instead, a gentleman appreciates everything he’s got; and reflects on his luck every day.
18. A gentleman is selective with what he puts on social media
In much the same vein as boasting, splashing your long-awaited holiday all over Instagram isn’t particularly gentlemanly. If you’re one of the lucky few who’s managed to escape our rainy Isle recently, we’re thrilled for you: but a gentleman remembers that not everyone is as lucky, and limits his social media posting occasionally. No one likes a show-off.
19. A gentleman treats women with unfailing respect
To be honest, respect is respect: regardless of the state of Covid. But we felt it was worth including here, as the need for respect towards women is one thing Covid hasn’t been able to snatch away from us. By ‘respect’, we don’t mean treating women as inferior individuals who aren’t capable of opening a door; but we do mean walking a woman home at the end of the night, and treating her with the courtesy she deserves.
20. A gentleman puts others before himself
This is the one, gents. The one we’ve been building up to — the great humdinger, if you will. Every point we’ve raised so far all comes down to this: a true gentleman puts the needs of others before his own, no matter how inconvenient or tiresome that may be. Wearing a mask; RSVPing to events; thinking twice before he posts on Instagram: it all comes down to this one salient point.
Look at that: it turns out you can define what it means to be a gentleman, after all. Who’d have thought?