Q: I keep hearing women want chivalry, but then I get dirty looks sometimes when I hold doors or offer help. What’s the deal?

A: I’ve had many a male complain to me about chivalry, not knowing how to navigate it anymore. “It’s dead, and women killed it,” one guy bitterly told me not too long ago. Ouch.

I get it. I really do. We ladies probably seem impossible to please, because everyone’s got a different idea of what’s acceptable now. You’ve got those complaining you’re less than gentlemanly one moment, and then another set chastising you for not taking them seriously as independent women the next. You’re either the sexist jerk for lending an unprompted hand, or the inconsiderate jerk for not doing so. How do you win?

Well, you can’t win. At least not all the time. Chivalry all depends on the woman. I know that answer is the worst, but keep listening.

Sometimes, you’re going to offer to help with those bags she’s carrying and get a biting glare. And yes, the chauvinistic judgments will no doubt shine through that stink eye she gives you, but please—ignore it. Truth is, women are wired to expect chivalry. We don’t need you to stand up when we leave a table or get every door, box and tab. But deep down, we still appreciate when guys to treat us like ladies. Get our car when it’s raining. Hold the door. Step in if we get hassled by some drunken idiot on the subway. (We hate that.)

Why? It’s a litmus test. It’s how we weed out the good guys from the toxic ones. Chivalry takes effort. Effort means investment. Most women want to know you’re invested in them as human beings from the start of dating, straight on through the phase when we settle into the relationship. But don’t just listen to me. “I still believe chivalry is alive and well,” says dating and relationship expert Julie Spira. “Don’t get discouraged by a few dirty looks. Keep acting like a gentleman. You’ll stand out in the crowd and will find a lady to appreciate you.”

So, the bottom line: We don’t need you to be the infallible knight in shining armor—but when you try, we literally melt into a little puddle of smitten goo.

About the Hot Girl: Claire Austen is a 20-something freelance writer, sports enthusiast, and polka-dot-lovin’ everygirl trying to bridge the gap between what men know about women and what women wish men knew. She gives smart, super-honest advice about your biggest dating and relationship conundrums.