Read time: 5 minutes Sophomore year of high school we had Chivalry Week. This was an extension to applying modern twists from lessons in literary classics we read in AP English. Every guy and gal was paired up to experience noble pleasantries. The assignment was simple: demonstrate acts of kindness however you liked. The teacher wanted us to refine our idea of “game” and consider traditional, wholesome and romantic gestures for one another. You could write poems, do a small deed for your person, make a gift or pick some flowers. It was very open to creativity. The following week, we would spend two class periods presenting on our chivalrous behavior to the class.
There were more girls than guys in our class so things got a little polygamous. My friend Nicole and I were paired up with Jacob. I still remember my concern, how I cringed with disappointment about getting Jacob as my partner. He was loud, loved to quote Family Guy as sentence finishers and was the kind of smart that the teacher barely understood. For whatever reason, Jacob was in a detention period in the classroom next door and did not know about his new assignment. I was skeptical about his lady game that was now about to be quantified as a letter grade.
Fortunately, we had a couple days for us to plan and execute our first chivalrous act. Meanwhile, my silly boyfriend of a whopping three weeks broke up with me through AOL Instant Messenger, the like bravest knight I knew. He just didn’t feel it anymore and ended with “Well, I gotta go. I need to make homemade peanut butter cups for Chivalry Day tomorrow.”
I was devastated and wished our relationship had been a letter grade - he would fail because I never got homemade anything.
As I sulked into late hours of the night, I sewed Jacob a pillow. I added beaded accents around the corners and ironed on “AC/DC” letters because that was his favorite band.
English was my last period of the day. People shuffled into class with eight hour old cookies, handmade cards, and flowers upon flowers. People got up and said wonderful things about one another- it was all very sweet.
When Jacob stood up, he had two large pink drawers in his arms. One was for me and the other for Nicole. On the top of the drawer, it had an anagram of our names and each letter was a positive word to describe us. Inside, was an array of goodies that only teenage girls understood and appreciated: post it notes in the shape of our names’ first letter, teddy grams, different colored pens, a miniature stuffed animal, my favorite candy and I cant even remember the rest because it was all so over-the-top-thoughtful compared to everyone else’s gift.
The second day he brought us vases that held trimmed flowers and a pink crown hugged the vase. On the foam crown were glued on gems and my name written in green glitter. Green is my favorite color.
Jacob understood that Nicole and I were girly, we liked to carry excess “necessities” in our purses, we liked snacks, we liked cool colored pens and we were obnoxious. He said his mom had helped him and it was nothing. But we both knew he tried, he cared and he wanted to give us what he thought we wanted. It wasn’t that every other girl in the class was now jealous of us but more that Jacob understood the lesson that Chivalry Week was supposed to teach us.
You grow up learning that you should treat others the way you expect to be treated but that doesn’t work. People have different needs. People expect love and compassion in different forms. If you care about someone the way you’d expect to be cared for, it does not have the same effect. Treat others the way they expect to be treated – this is the Platinum Rule. Jacob understood this and that it trumps the Golden Rule in all instances and relationships.
The pillow with his favorite band was a half-assed effort at my end. Yes, it’s his favorite band but absolutely no, does he want a frilly pillow. Had I made a funny shirt with Stewies face, then that would maybe be on par with his thoughtfulness. Jacob’s righteous acts and generosity dismantled my teenage heartbreak. When we follow the Platinum Rule, we keep each other happy, remain sincere and ultimately keep us at peace with different relationships we hold in our lives.
Divorced couples, married couples, this chick I sat next to on a plane and best-selling authors make this concept sound revolutionary. It was a concept Jacob understood which helped me during a pivotal moment in my understanding of romantic relationships. Be there for people the way they need you to be there. Jacobs are the type you marry, the ones that take the time to understand you, and make you want to be a better you and make you feel like you lucked out in life or on your assignment.