Be a gentleman

Published 5:26 pm Friday, September 4, 2009

The Suffolk News-Herald has been running a series of stories this week on teen pregnancy. And the bulk of the attention has been directed towards the young mothers.

The other side of that equation is the young fathers that are created from these scenarios.

When I reached that age of maturity and making a child at a young age seemed like a very real possibility, my dear, departed mother had the presence of mind and wisdom as a parent to give me the best and shortest advice a young man can ever receive: “Be a gentleman.”

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When I first heard it, I was a little confused by what she meant. As I got older and life presented more of its hardships and responsibilities, I began to learn just how wise my mom was.

But as I talk to young men these days, I sometimes feel that what it means to be a gentleman has faded to archaic lore, and no young man can define what it means anymore. So, I’d like to reintroduce the concept in the hopes that my mother’s sound advice can impact others.

First of all, in case this needs saying, “No” still means no. I don’t care how you are reading the signals. If a young lady says no, hit the cold showers and wait kindly for better, more mature days.

Second, a baby, in this or any day, is not just the “girl’s problem.” It is a responsibility for both parties involved, not a mess for your parents or other loved ones to clean up. Being a gentleman doesn’t just mean admitting you’ve made a mistake, but having the backbone to be a significant part of the solution.

Third, women are a precious resource on this planet, worthy of every ounce of respect you can give them. As a gentleman, treating a lady with respect might just mean putting a young girl who may not know what it means to be respected on the path to feeling like she deserves it. And a girl having respect for herself can go a long way in her decision-making process.

Finally, being a gentleman means having some respect for yourself. Building a life for yourself is tough to do. It is even tougher when you go into parenthood before you’ve had a chance to pad a nest for a child. Moreover, the stigma surrounding the teen father can have a significant effect on getting a good education and a good job and, thus, having a decent life.

So, it’s not just opening doors and saying all the right things to a young girl that makes you a gentleman. That’s only the shell of it. Being a gentleman means owning your mistakes, which we all make, and having what it takes to fix them.

It may not always be the easiest thing to do, but nowhere is it written that life is easy. The one thing I can guarantee, young men, is that making the right choices at those critical moments can definitely make your life more enjoyable.

So, be smart, be respectful. Be a gentleman.