My father handed me my first beer and told me “don’t tell your mother.” He taught me how to throw a ball, and shoot a gun. He gave me half the clothes in my closet and taught me how to tie a tie. I know that the only time it is acceptable to wear cargo shorts is if you are serving the country, because of my father.
But as much as my father taught me, I am, and forever will be, my mother’s son. My father was always there for me. But this is America, and he worked a lot. He ran his own company and was busy, leaving my mother to take care of the house.
My father taught me how to be a man. My mother taught me to be a gentleman. There is an important distinguishing factor between the two that all well bred individuals understand. It goes beyond holding a door open for a woman, or knowing whether it is appropriate to rip or cut your bread at the dinner table.
It is because of my mother that I am a gentleman. My mother dressed me. She taught me how to tie my shoes and drove me to school every day. In those car rides she taught me about the world. Some days she would have a conversation about the Bible with me. Other times, she explained the concept of America to me and why we vote the way that we do. This was all before I knew my multiplication tables.
She talked to me about behavior and manners. Children who grew up in less fortunate situations than myself miss these lessons, unfortunately. They get thrown in the car seat and told to “behave themselves” while they are sitting there wailing. My mother never did that. She explained to me why it was inappropriate to interrupt her in the middle of a conversation at the grocery store, regardless of how much I thought I wanted some cereal. She told me the proper ways to insert myself into a conversation and for which reasons I was to do so.
These lessons progressed as I got older. I learned table manners, appropriate conversation topics, etc. as well as tricks to keep me from staring at Miss Kathy’s giant mole. These same tricks proved very useful to avoid getting caught by girls, while trying to figure out what was hidden under their training bras.
Ever since I turned 14, if it was just the two of us and my sisters at a restaurant, I was responsible for picking up the check. I had my father’s card, but it was my job to sign the bill whenever he was not around.
My father and mother both had conversations about women with me. My father taught me the importance of contraception and how only losers use pick-up lines. My mother taught me how to be charming, not overbearing, and all the little things that make a huge difference.
I have always and will always make a concerted effort to avoid using profanity in the company of a lady. I know what side of the road to walk on, and how if her pupils dilate a certain way, that she wants me to kiss her.
With all of these lessons from my mother, I am still a fraternity man. I still very much enjoy things like making fun of my pledge brother for bringing home a whale. I drink in a way that would make my grandfather proud. I bring home random girls home from the bar on a regular basis. However, the difference between myself and the average douche bag, is that I always know her name. Not because I necessarily ever want to see her again, but because I am hard wired to never forget a name. I am always honest with my intentions and avoid sharing every last detail with the entire student population. Of course, if something particularly amusing or strange happened, it will be discussed later in the house. The difference between the majority of my fraternity brothers and the average college student, is that we are gentlemen and know how to behave. For that, we all have our mothers to thank.