Before I knew a truly gentle man, I thought of a gentlemen as just one word – you know – fancy noble type people. But then I spent some time with a man that had gentleness in his core and I thought about how the notion of gentleman is somehow supposed to express, through various signals, a degree of culture and that cultural is meant to have a civilizing effect.
Being a gentleman has been a way of demonstrating that the animal within is under control, that gentleness has won over cruelty, that kindness prevails over aggression.
Unfortunately, the bulk of horrors performed by humans in the gentlemen years were in fact performed by gentlemen. There was some idea that putting on suits and following modes of conduct would make men behave with gentleness but instead, in some cases, they became crueler, more subverted, better at hiding and sublimating – the sort of person who would open the door for the Duchess properly but in private, do her no kindnesses, or any other woman neither.
So there are gentlemen, who perform the role of gentleman appropriately and there are men who are gentle in a suit or out of it.