The holidays can be a tricky and stressful time for lovers, especially those who are in fairly new relationships. How soon is too soon to spend the holidays together? Is exchanging gifts a good idea? Should a gift giving budget be put in place? What if he hasn’t mentioned spending the holidays together yet? Thankfully, we were able to catch up with Gentlewoman author Enitan Bereola, who answered some of the pretty common holiday dating questions. And of course, he opened up about his latest book, Gentlewoman.
First things first, what (or who) is a Gentlewoman?
I expressed in the book that it’s hard to translate it into words or a few sentences because the book took me two years to write and like 32 years of research and I still don’t know it all. From what I can gather, she’s definitely not monolithic or one-dimensional. You may catch her crossing the street and turning heads with each stride. You may catch her on CNN dishing some information. You can catch her courtside at a ball game. She’s comfortable in who she is. She’s classy. She exudes etiquette, but doesn’t make herself comfortable for others to be comfortable. She’s firm in who she is. She understands her worth. I think most importantly she’s a respecter of her neighbor.
I feel like we live in a generation now where the woman is coming into her identity and she’s really embracing independence. I think the movement is beautiful, but I think a lot of times people forget that other people still matter. You still have to coexist with others. And in the fight for independence, some folks have kind of gotten drunk on independence and they’re just like, whatever. I think a lot of people respect Rihanna because she exudes independence and does her own thing. But in that same token, I think that it’s important to keep in mind that your neighbor matters. We sort of live in a “I don’t care what you say, I’m going to do things my way” society. And that’s cool, but we still need to keep our neighbors in mind. There are still rules.
Your book is poetically written. It’s really beautiful. What was the inspiration behind it all?
Well, the first book that I wrote was for gentlemen. It’s the way I was raised. It’s who I am. I could write that with my eyes closed. But to involve myself in the marketplace of men who are attempting to give any type of advice to women is a sensitive marketplace to enter. You know, I don’t want to be taken as the guy trying to get a quick buck or the guy publishing a bunch of BS. There’s a lot of that in the marketplace…film, movies, music, books, media, whatever. A lot of my reluctance was not wanting to be involved in that. I didn’t want people to take it the wrong way because it comes from a pure place. I wrote it because I had to write it. I didn’t want to write it [laughs]. A pastor told me one time before I even finished my first book that I would write it. He said that it would speak to women and millions of women would read it. And I’m looking at him crazy like “What? That’s definitely not my task.” But it’s crazy how God works. That’s really just a part of my story. How am I supposed to just speak to men when I’m all about balance? How am I supposed to just speak to one side of the spectrum? I knew I had to speak to women and they were very supportive from the onset of Bereolesque. I wanted to give them something just for them, but it was difficult to make it just right. I don’t know if I made it just right, but I did the best that I could do. I literally poured myself onto that joint. I really did. When I finished I had a full beard, my skin was dull, my wife was looking at me crazy. I was looking crazy because I poured all that I had into it.
What do you say to skeptics who question whether or not you’re qualified to pen an etiquette book for women?
In the book, I give a long spiel about how God spoke to an ass. The source is irrelevant if the advice is applicable. I’m just trying to strip all opinions and preconceived notions. I just want people to look at it and read it from a pure place.
As far as my background, it’s just the way I was raised. We’re all about etiquette. My brand, the purpose of Bereolesque is to rebrand etiquette. It’s seen in a light that’s just stuffy and something our culture can’t subscribe to, whether we feel it’s above us or beneath us. You can be yourself, maintain your own identity and still apply these principles to your life. The fact that I’m a man doesn’t matter. If someone gave you a million bucks would you refuse it? It doesn’t make a difference if it comes from a man or a woman. The value remains the same.
So the holidays are approaching and in Gentlewoman, you speak a bit about gift giving. For those in new relationships, at what point would you say that it’s appropriate to exchange gifts?
I think it’s a conversation that should be had [between the two individuals]. There’s always that question of “When is it appropriate?” I think a lot of times we allow the discomfort of not knowing to prevent us from knowing. When the only thing standing between us knowing is asking. It’s so basic and so simple. My mom always used to say that if you don’t ask, you have 100% chance of hearing no. Just ask, “What do you think of us exchanging gifts this year?” Or, if you don’t want to be so blatant as a woman you can say, “You know, I know Christmas is coming up and I was looking at this watch. What kind of watches do you like?” Then a light bulb will go off in his head like, “Oh, we’re exchanging gifts. Well okay, let me get on it.” There are ways to ask questions without asking directly and finding out answers. I think the most important thing is just to ask.