It’s no secret that Mr. Darcy was a proud man, for he had good reason to be proud. With his handsome countenance, 10,000 pounds a year, and pleasing manners (when he wanted them to be pleasing), Mr. Darcy received all the blessings of fortune. All of these things and more made him an ideal spousal candidate for one of the Bennet sisters–all of these things but his supposed fault of pride. Can we really judge him for being proud?
Though it’s unclear in the discourse of the 2005 adaptation if Darcy considers pride to be a fault or a virtue, did his pride ever blur the line with entitlement? Take his first appeal for Elizabeth Bennet’s hand, for example. Austen writes that even though Mr. Darcy hoped for Elizabeth’s acceptance, “she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.”
I believe that Mr. Darcy demonstrated pride rather than entitlement. I truly love his character, but the man did have his faults–though, entitlement is not among them. Entitlement feels like a harsh word, but perhaps an unwavering confidence in his inevitable success? For who could guess that a woman of such low connections and little fortune would ever refuse such a great man? I bring up Mr. Darcy only to efficiently contrast how I believe men should behave with how they do behave.
I’ve had a few particularly severe experiences with entitled men. As you spend more and more time working in the country club circuit, you pass more than a few nights waiting on drunk, handsy golfers. I can handle the drunk–hell, sometimes it’s even fun dealing with them; you can be sarcastic, and they won’t even remember in the morning. It’s the handsy part that I don’t particularly appreciate.
Two experiences stand out in my memory. The first occurred with one of my supervisors at work. I was a hostess, and one night when we were hanging out waiting to close, he came over and started chatting with me–there were still a few customers loitering around even though it was pretty late.
My supervisor had been complaining all day about some pain in his neck–it didn’t help that he had coached high school soccer before coming into work for the closing shift. He pulled the restaurant’s keys out of his pocket, and while sliding them into my hand, he said, “Why don’t you close up, swing by my apartment after, we’ll have a beer, and you can give me a massage. Then you can go.”
Did I mention I was 16? And that he was married? Oh, and he was always telling me that I should never get married because it basically ruins your life. How that couple is still married is a mystery to me.
Now, the second story: I was cocktail waitressing at the same country club for a big wedding event. I walked up to a table with a few middle-aged men and one woman. I asked if they wanted anything to drink. One of the men, stockier and balding, put his hand on the small of my back and whispered his order in my ear.
I literally could not get out of there fast enough. As I scurried back with their drinks, avoiding eye contact, my stomach was in knots. As I approached the table, the balding man ran his eyes up and down me, and said, “There’s my girl,” with a creepy smile tacked on the end of it. I dropped the drinks off and avoided that side of the restaurant for the rest of the night.
I later found out that not only was his wife present at that party, but that he used to work with my father. I got home and mentioned the encounter, not thinking a ton of it at the time, and discovered he has a daughter who isexactly my age. How would he feel if some old guy his age was treating his daughter the way he was treating me? Probably not great.
The worst part about each of these experiences is that none of my managers or supervisors ever came to my defense or remedied the situation. Each encounter clearly tampered with the line of sexual harassment, but a certain level of harassment is almost expected with positions in food service–or maybe that’s just the places I’ve worked.
Working at a country club, your clientele stays the same day to day, so it’s vital to maintain a decent relationship (for the sake of tips, at the very least). This means that I’m required to tolerate our creepier frequent flyers. My favorite part of the harassment is casually working my age into whatever the conversation is. There’s nothing funnier than a middle-aged man realizing he’s hitting on a girl that is younger than his daughter.
Following these stories, I want to be clear that I know Mr. Darcy would never,ever behave in such a manner; he was a gentleman, and acted as such. Clearly, the men in my stories are not. I bring up Mr. Darcy in this conversation to demonstrate how far men have fallen. Austen’s men are filled with chivalry, while many of the men I’ve experienced today are filled with alcohol and innuendoes.
I’ve run into this problem ever since I started working at the age of 15. For some odd reason, men feel okay with saying whatever thing–no matter how sexist or creepy–pops into their head. I’m so tired of it.
I will admit, I’ve met some spectacularly nice guys–I don’t mean to diminish their amiable efforts to be chivalrous and kind in a time where dating has been reduced to apps like Tinder. Nice, sweet guys are out there, and it is not my intention to lump both the nice guys and the not-so-nice guys together into one category, because not every person is made alike. I simply want to share experiences with these lesser men in hopes to inspire everyone to hold these sorts of men accountable for their scoundrel ways.
I want to feel comfortable calling out a guy who places his hand a little too low on my back without fear of potentially losing my job over it. I want a man to behave respectfully. I don’t want to go for a run and have to worry and the guys yelling at me in the passing car. I want to feel safe walking alone to my car after work.
These stories reiterate why I’m looking for a Mr. Darcy–not a Wickham. A Wickham is the boy yelling from the car. A Mr. Darcy is the man walking you out to your car to ensure you make it home safely.