When we think of what it means to be a lady in the 21st century, how many of us can truly answer this? The lines have become blurred as gentlemen, from what I can see, don't treat ladies as ladies in most day to day situations, with feminists believing people like myself are attacking them by showing courtesy is how the act of a gentleman is becoming an extinct one.
What does it mean to be a lady? The title lady is a civil term of respect of a woman, specifically the female equivalent to a gentleman or Lord and in many contexts is a term for any adult woman. Once confined to usage when specifically addressing women of high social class, race, community and status; over the last 300 years, the term may now be used to refer to any respectable adult woman, the word comes from old english hlǣfdige.
The old meaning "mistress of a household" is rare except for the term landlady and the phrases "the lady of the house." In English, the word "lady" has for centuries been a correct term of address in the plural, which is also the same for a gentleman. The usual English term for politely addressing a woman is Ma’am.
So what is the etiquette for a lady? Quite simply, as a lady don't be offended if a gentleman wants to show you respect and offer assistance. As with Royals, ladies are the most senior person in the room if there is no Royal presence. However, depending on the title depends on your ranking in the room. Of course regardless of title, ladies should be treated as ladies. Therefore, if a gentleman appears before you then it is your duty to offer your hand for the handshake first. Remember, it is the right hand and if you are wearing gloves then you are permitted to keep these on, however a gentleman must remove his before shaking the lady's hand.
A gentlemen must never presume to kiss a lady's right cheek, this is up to the discretion of the lady and must be avoided upon the first meeting. If you are happy to accept a "social kiss" from the gentleman, then you would turn your face offering your right cheek, both cheeks touch gently and let's not make "mwah" sounds or air kisses which are pointless. One kiss on the right cheek is sufficient, however if the lady offers the left cheek in the French style then of course you are permitted to kiss her in the same fashion as the left. The Queen is often seen with Prince Charles kissing her right hand, this is a lovely old tradition which few practice but at one time, ladies did this as part of the introductions.
As a lady, remember your posture when walking, sitting and standing, imagine a piece of string from the top of your head attached to the ceiling above. This is taught and will keep your head up and will elongate your neck. Remember to you’re your shoulders back and down and push your chest out slightly as this will also make your back straighter and you will appear taller. This will also get rid of those aches and pains if you suffer from bad posture. Ladies, remember when sitting and getting in or out of a car make sure to keep your legs together. When sitting you are permitted to sit with ankles crossed or at a slight angle and never cross your legs in an official setting and never ever cross at the knees; this would just look very unladylike!
When you walk into a room or stand to leave a room, a gentleman should stand for you, even when dining it would be polite for the gentleman to stand and the one either on your left or right that you are conversing with should stand up and help with your chair. It would also be polite for a gentleman to open and close a door for you but only if he is near the door. On the subject of the doors, it is indeed polite for a gentleman to hold doors open for ladies when entering or exiting shops etc, however even though a gentleman might walk in front on the lady to hold the door open, he should always let a lady walk into the room before him and exit before him.
When walking along the street a lady should always be on the side away from the road with a gentleman walking on the side closest to the road in order for his sword hand to be free and to protect the lady from splashes and other unpleasantries from the road.
I recently ran a poll on Twitter where I asked the question: “In the 21st century do you feel Ladies have become an extinct species?". We had over 410 people take part and the results were:
This sadly shows that a large number do believe ladies are an extinct species but now we must together ensure that they never become a thing of the past, but the future.