Someone recently commented to me that I appear to be obsessed with charm, and charming men in particular. I couldn't argue, really, as they are quite right. What they said next rather stumped me, though. They asked what exactly I consider charming. I was a bit speechless, which is decidedly not a normal state of affairs for me. You see, dear friends, I've never really devoted a lot of thought as to what is charming. I've always just met men and either considered them charming or not, and not really thought about why. Over the last few days, though, I've given it some consideration, and here's what I've come up with.
For starters, lots of things can be charming. Places can be charming, some more than others (guess which has my vote?). Children can be charming (as mine is, I think), as can dogs (as mine is not, I'm afraid). A great pair of shoes can be quite charming, as can a fabulous purse. I suppose even women can be charming, although I am not a great judge of this. For myself, though, what I notice is men who are charming, and I always have. In fact I ended up marrying one, so that speaks volumes about what I think about charm. I am not an expert on charming places, children, women, or dogs, and while I can claim some expertise on shoes and bags I'm afraid my real area of knowledge is on charming men, so that's what I'm going to discuss.
Charm is an elusive, almost indefinable quality. I have a very dear gentleman friend who has excellent manners, and good manners are integral to charm. He is the only man I know who rises when a woman enters the room, and my best friend was delighted when they went out for a cigarette together and he lit hers before lighting his own (she commented that she didn't think men did that anymore - ever). However, my dear friend is charming for far more than his genteel manners. He is the sort to compliment me on my clothes, or tell me I look "magnificent" (oh boy, do I like that word!). When I returned from holiday he told me that I looked even more beautiful than before I had left. That, my friends, is charming.
Men who open doors for me have excellent manners, in my opinion. Those who practically run to get ahead of me to open the door? Charming. The one who once rushed up to open a door for me even though he wasn't going into the same store? Utterly charming. Made my day, in fact. Pulling out a chair for me (and not pulling it out from under me!), opening car doors, letting me get on an elevator or escalator first - good manners and, generally speaking, charming. I know there are dissenters on this, and those who will toss around words like chauvinism. Not me. I like being treated nicely, and think the world could do with more of it (and to be honest if I reach a door first I've been known to hold it open for whomever is behind me, including men).
I must admit I find men who can tell a good yarn charming, too. This may explain my weakness for the Irish, including my husband. They all seem to have had a good smooch on the Blarney Stone and thus can be incredibly charming. It's a trait I noticed in men all over Ireland, and even in men I've met here who happen to have Irish heritage. I'm sure some of them are not charming - I just haven't met any yet (well, there was that ranger at the Cliffs of Moher, but maybe he was just having a non-charming day). This ability to spin a tale, though, isn't limited to the Irish, and the ones who do it well, whatever their nationality? Charming.
I've thought about whether good looks are necessary for charm, and to be honest, they aren't. A handsome charming man (again, like my spouse) is a wonderful package, but even a man who isn't particularly physically appealing can be incredibly charming, and I've met several. A charming man is one who will make you feel good about yourself, who makes you feel special, and who has a way with words or actions that makes you think the world is a better place. That doesn't take good looks - it just takes a good heart. I've been charmed by a musician in Dublin who, at the end of a night in a pub, popped up and shouted across the table "You're gorgeous, you are!" at me. I was charmed by a Starbucks barista in Vancouver who, on my second visit to the coffee shop, noted that this time around I didn't order whipped cream on my coffee. I expressed my surprise that he recalled my coffee from the day before since he'd never seen me before, and he replied "I didn't remember the coffee. I remembered you". Simply, utterly, charming, my friends.
I must caution that there are things that are NOT charming. Grabbing any body part uninvited is not charming. Someone told me recently that this happened to them at a local nightclub and all I could think was that whatever man did that to me would be grabbing his own parts after my knee had connected with them. Making comments that are rude, overtly sexual, or more suggestive than the situation warrants isn't charming. It's just crass and frankly reeks of desperation, not charm.
There is also a dark side to charm, my friends. There are those who have learned to "be" charming, but who are not in fact charming at all. They use charm like a weapon to get what they want, and as opposed to using their charm to make you feel good they use their charm to pursue their own agendas. It can sometimes be initially difficult to discern if these ones are really charming or just using charm - but listen to your inner voice and you will know. If their charm seems to pump up their own ego before it even touches your own you have your first clue as to their charm quotient. I've had the good fortune to only ever encounter a couple of these characters, and the equally good sense to walk away.
So, there you go. I realize that not everyone will share my opinion on what constitutes charm. What one finds charming is going to vary a great deal from person to person, and I suppose there are people who don't find anyone or anything charming (which personally I think is a bit sad, but that's just me - a world without charm would be pretty dull in my opinion). I suppose I also find charm so appealing because if I know anything it's that I am not a charming person. I harbour no illusions about myself - I'm a pretty nice sort, can talk your ear off, and have a bit of a problem with shoes. What I don't have, though, is that ease with words and actions that is so charming, although I occasionally try (and end up looking a bit daft, I imagine). Often we find appealing that which we don't have in ourselves, and I guess for me that's charm. I've been lucky to have met so many charmers in my life, and I hope I meet many more. I hope you do, too, dear friends. They make the world a far more interesting, and, dare I say it, charming, place!