Southern-style romance has always had a touch of chivalry—but Mama thinks we're slippin'.

Southern-style romance has always had a touch of chivarly. Mama thinks we're slippin'.
| Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Getty

Mama was channel surfing recently, looking for an old movie to get her into the Valentine's spirit. Her favorites are Gone with the Wind, The Way We Were, Roman Holiday, and Tammy and the Bachelor. Instead, she stumbled onto an episode of that other bachelor—The Bachelor—no Tammy in sight. And Mama almost had to be resuscitated.

"What woman of sound mind would subject herself to such nonsense?" she demanded. "The very idea! Throwing yourself at some so-called bachelor. Any hen worth her feathers can make the rooster come to her.That's just basic animal husbandry."

Mama continued her tirade about the dire need for more chivalry in this world, more dating rules for women and for men. "Rose ceremony, my hind leg!" she said. "Of course, there's beauty in a simple rose, humbly presented by an admirer. But for some would-be suitor who's way too big for his britches to toss you a flower he probably bought at the grocery store and expect you to melt? I think not. In my day, if somebody like that bachelor had swaggered up to me and handed me his rose, I'd have looked him square in the eye and said, ‘Where are the other 11?'

Does Mama have more dating advice to offer the 21st Century South? You'd better believe it. Listen up, singles. (And if you know what's good for you, don't even think about looking at your phone while Mama's talking.) Here we go:

1. Who makes the date?

He does—in person or with a personal telephone call. No texting. If he thinks all he has to do in order to spend time with you is type? No, sir, little mister.

2. Is it ever okay for a Southern girl to ask a potential gentleman caller for a date?

If she's going to a Sadie Hawkins dance, yes.

If she wants to invite a boy from a different high school to her prom, yes.

If she's inviting a promising Sigma Nu to her sorority formal, yes.

Otherwise . . . no, ma'am.

3. How should Southern girls dress for a typical date—say dinner and a movie?

Dress in a way that projects how you expect to be treated—and that's good dating advice for men, too. Have some pride in your appearance. No wrinkled jeans. No slouchy T-shirts. (It's called an iron. Look into it.) If you could go straight from your date to the gym without changing clothes, you need an intervention, bless your heart.

4. Must a gentleman caller always come to the door to pick up his date—and meet her family if she still lives at home?

Of course.

5. But if he's in a hurry, he can just pull up in the driveway and honk his horn, right?

Only if he wants to leave alone. And he'd better hope Daddy's not home when he tries it.

6. Who pays for the date?

He does. Next question.

7. How do I know he was raised right?

[Here Mama is speaking to Southern girls, but what she says is just as instructive to the boys.] Pay attention to the little things. Does he open every door for you (and that includes the car, the theater, and the restaurant—unless, of course you're going to the ladies' room)? Does he listen more than he talks? Does he speak fondly of his family? Does he tell you he'd love to see you again tomorrow night, but he's volunteering for the children's ministry at his church? All good.

On the other hand, does he talk over you and assure you that you'll love Hellish Blood and Gore as much as he did the first three times he saw it? Does he insist that you see a matinee to save money? Is his idea of "having dinner" splitting an order of nachos in the food court? Does he ask you to help him push his 1980 Ford Pinto down a hill to get it started? Bye-bye, now—and don't let the screen door hit you in the backside on the way out.

Anything else?

To summarize: Look nice. Smell nice. Be nice.