What is a gentleman?
Perhaps someone well-dressed, well-behaved, and even well-bred, whatever that means. Maybe someone who takes care of others, is always polite and of service?
A few years ago, I had the honor of serving as president of a gentleman’s club in Shanghai. No, not that kind of gentleman’s club, but a high-end wine and steak dinner club called Beefsteak & Burgundy, originally founded in Australia in 1954, and now spread around Asia.
We host monthly dinner events with, as you might guess from our name, beef of various types of fine wines. Men-only, in suit and tie, with a formal event structure, fines for many violations, and much fun.
Sadly, not all events go as well as we’d like. After one evening of great food and wine, things ended with an unfortunate series of events there were poorly handled by the gentlemen present. The details are not important here, but they reflected poorly on all of us. And thus, as president, I felt the need to write the following letter to members.
I hope you find it useful.
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Recent events appear to make it necessary to remind our current and prospective members of some mutual expectations regarding a few gentlemanly issues, especially as we are, and consider ourselves, the oldest, most formal, and traditional club of this type in this area.
First, we are a club of wine & food enthusiasts, enjoyers of the best our city, countries, and the world has to offer in these areas. This is, and continues to be, our driving force and mutual attraction of like-minded gentlemen. Of course, not every venue, nor course, will excel every time, but we learn and move on with new experiences.
Second, and perhaps more important, we are a club of gentlemen (and ladies), and as such, aspire to the highest standards of behavior, friendship, and comradeship, befitting our status as well-bred gentlemen. In particular, conduct unbecoming of a gentlemen reflects poorly on ourselves individually, on our club, and on the global organization in general.
While we do fairly well in these regards, even very well in most cases, it appears necessary to bear repeating, and I draw your attention to my opinions in three areas:
- Self-conduct — A gentleman’s primary responsibility is how he conducts himself, and especially to avoid burdening others or embarrassing himself, his group, country, or club.
- In the context of our club, this is perhaps most evident in the need to not get overly drunk at, or after, our events. We all drink a lot of wine, along with post-dinner beverages, but always with some degree of moderation, in particular always in control and able to maintain our standards of decorum, decency, and avoiding being a burden to others. This especially means being able to smoothly make your way home after our events.
- Comradeship — We, as gentlemen, have a responsibility to our fellow fellows to broadly take care of each other, as comrades-in-beverages. This especially means helping each other refrain from drinking too much, avoiding burdening those outside the club (e.g. venue staff & our spouses), and especially ensuring each others’ safe passage home after events.
- This critically means not abandoning our members or guests if they are too drunk to think, walk, or get home. Not a pleasant task, but not all of a gentleman’s responsibilities are.
- Sponsorship — Every member has one or more sponsors and good friends within the club. While not an overly strong connection, a sponsor is broadly responsible for their members’ behavior and reputation.
- While there are limits to this, failure to help their members adhere to our standards certainly reflects poorly on the sponsor, and I’d ask sponsors to address the failure to meet these standards with their members, including issuing verbal, written, and in-person apologies where necessary.
I hope you will join me in considering these issues important to being good gentlemen and club members, and if our thinking differs on these areas, perhaps we may chat about them over a suitable fermented grape beverage in the near future.
In your service as President,
Originally published at https://mushnet.substack.com.