- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000

Men are pining to be gentlemen these days, poring over the well-pressed rules and mannerly strategies of the scrupled few who make the role seem effortless.
Ah, but the role is subject to interpretation.
There are complex gentlemanly guides for executives, grooms, he-men, manipulated men and those who revere classic cocktails. Etiquette and chivalry are being reinvented to a point.
But sometimes things are not all that they seem. The Web site www.thegentleman.com, for example, peddles a device that automatically lowers the toilet seat in male/ female households.
Plumbing issues notwithstanding, Gentleman's Quarterly has proclaimed that the "elegant man" has returned. This month, GQ dictates that sartorial demeanor contributes much, but "a sense of humor, a sense of honor, a knack for making kids laugh" and a hundred other things really make the man.
The magazine would not kid the would-be gentleman. A half-dozen serious young men peer out from the pages in tailored, pinstriped suits, which are, notes designer Miuccia Prado, "the emblem of a gentleman."
This should comfort males who confront what fashion will soon spring upon their gender.
This week, Milan fashion shows revealed new menswear collections that included jeweled slippers, leather booties, shimmering "techno" suits, gold medallions and rhinestone-studded T-shirts.
GQ will have none of it, insisting that three-piece suits and cashmere sports coats are the mainstay of the closet.
Then there are those "hundred other things" that constitute gentlemanly mien.
Shine your shoes every Tuesday, GQ notes. Find a boss whom you can lie to. Always RSVP. Spell-check your e-mail. Invest in a haircut that costs more than a round of drinks. Learn how to make a good cocktail. Burn your futon. Open her car door. Don't make your dog wear a T-shirt.
These and 90 other axioms account for a gentleman, and for heaven's sake, the editors conclude, buying lingerie for one's significant other is sexy. Buying her appliances is not.
The folks at California-based www.iVolt.com, meanwhile, have their own ideas.
The new on-line journal is meant as a man's manual for "living and entertaining." A gentleman here seems to be an updated version of the Renaissance man.
"American men have emerged from the dust of a series of backlashes to redefine the true gentleman as the all-around guy," said Managing Editor A.L. Foster.
"He can do Friday night with the guys but can also orchestrate a fabulous Saturday night for his girl. He knows how to change his own oil, but he also knows he doesn't have to," Miss Foster said.
Gentlemen also seem deft at juggling the interesting polarities in their lives.
"He has season tickets for the Lakers and the summer season at the symphony, too. His cocktail of choice has no more than two ingredients, and he knows where to go to get one made well. He wears a seat belt but actually uses the four-wheel drive on his SUV," she added.
A gentleman in Miss Foster's book gets married at an older age "because he's taken the time to define himself, to understand himself, to be a better gentleman. It isn't just how he looks, it's what he thinks, and how he lives. The definition of a gentleman has matured just like the gentleman himself," she said.
Etiquette maven Letitia Baldrige, meanwhile, notes that first and foremost, "a gentleman is considerate of ladies."
Gentlemanliness "is not a question of wealth, but rather character."
Grooming helps, Miss Baldrige says, and the gentleman "never uses strong language unless he is alone in a room talking to himself, with no one within earshot. And finally, he has at least passable table manners."
Others believe the road to gentlemanhood is a tactical, and occasionally sneaky, route.
"The Gentleman's Guide to Life" is described as a primer for "living large, loving well, feeling strong and looking good," among other things.
Author Steve Freidman thinks the well-rounded man can reach nirvana by asking the right questions: How do I move up without selling out? How can I bluff my way through a wine list? Do I really, really like her?
If the answer isn't readily apparent, the canny gent simply does a little bobbing and weaving around the situation, be it a dinner party or a marriage proposal. But such tactics may backfire.
"This book defines a gentleman as a person who can effectively mask his lack of taste and knowledge," wrote one critic.
"This advocates lying about one's life as a means to convince others that one is actually a well-mannered, educated, broad minded individual. I am disgusted," he concluded.

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