“You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
So. I will let you in on a secret about being a gentleman. It’s a secret that will require a later blog post. I will let you in on it at the very end of this one, I promise. (And, I fully imagine, you won’t like that secret one bit.)
Here are twelve things that we can do to begin our long process of becoming gentlemen. You won’t like some of these. I know I didn’t. But they help. And there will also be blog posts about most of these things later, I promise:
- Trim your beard, and cut your hair. You are NOT a hermit in the Russian Taiga. There is no need for you to look like one.
- If you smoke cigarettes, either quit immediately OR switch to a pipe/cigars. Both of those are classier, and smell better (and taste better, too. I know this from personal experience.). In the very long run, pipes are cheaper than cigarettes; cigars are about the same price. Also, smoke less. Try to drop down to once a day, if you can.
- Learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea. (Prayer and Chai solve all things.)
- Take a long, hard look at your wardrobe. Find out what colors look best on you, and focus on removing clothes that aren’t of those shades. You’ll look better. Sorry, but appearance IS kind of important. (Believe me, I didn’t like it either). Also: protip? Suspenders. Suspenders are classy. As are Blazers. You can probably find blazers that will fit you decently at your local thrift shop. (Or yard sales. I have gotten every single one of mine at yard sales and thrift stores.) Part of being a gentleman is dressing the part.
- On that note, trim your fingernails (and toenails too, while you’re at it).
- Learn some new hobbies that have nothing to do with church. Take up one of the following: Hiking, biking, birding, wine-making, home-brewing, map-making, writing poetry, painting (okay, you can take up iconography here), musical instruments, astronomy, carving, or rock-collecting/geology. All these hobbies have some tie-in with the main act of becoming a gentleman.
- Actually, for that matter, learn about beer and wine. Good ones. And good teas. And Brandy, I suppose. You can, at absolute worst, figure out the most awesome thing you can bring for everyone on Pascha. At best, plan a perfect picnic date.
- Read more books, specifically, long, classic works of literature, or very long non-fiction works. No, the Wheel of Time doesn’t count. (The Silmarillion does count, though, but my recommendation would be The Brothers Karamazov to start.)
- Learn how to cook/bake, and how to do it decently. (Not only will you eat healthier, but your hypothetical future wife will appreciate the help once in a while.) If you can, come up with some original recipes, or learn how to cook recipes which are traditional for your family. This way, you know them enough to pass them down the generations. If you have future kids, then you can teach them the recipes that your parents taught you!
- Pray more. This doesn’t mean spend every minute in church—learn how to pray outside of church. Pray more on mountaintops, in supermarkets, in the car, at work. Cultivate inner prayer.
- Make female friends who are just that—friends. Not potential spouses, not future wives, but just friends, plain and simple. This is important especially if you don’t have any sisters (which is the fact of the matter in my case). They can sometimes help you with things.
- If you look at pornography at all, stop. It’s more damaging to your soul, your eyes, and your brain than you realize. Just…stop. It cultivates an unhealthy view of sex and women.
What do most of these things have in common? The cultivation of patience, and training you out of the desire for instant gratification.
The secret is this: Patience is the key to becoming a gentleman, more than anything else, and the cultivation of patience is the biggest thing you can start to do, on this road. Well that, and trimming the beard. (Seriously. It helps. I don’t recommend getting rid of it entirely. Why would I ever do that?)