James, a 39-year-old software engineer in London, doesn’t let his overnight guests suffer the panic and indignity of waking up to a low battery alert. “I have a USB hub with Mini USB, C and Lightning connectors in my bedroom for romantic guests, and also in the spare room for non-romantic ones,” he tells me, explaining that initially this was because his partner was staying over often, and he thought it was silly for her to have to remember her charger every time. “After we broke up, I was seeing a few people much more casually, and having to do the same song and dance every time they stayed the night became annoying,” he continues. “So I just gave each bedside table the same setup of Android, iPhone and Kindle chargers.”
For James, having this smorgasbord available to overnight guests is a bare-minimum courtesy. “It seems like a kind of minimally considerate thing you can do for someone if you’ve ever woken up with only 15 percent of your phone charged, which I definitely have,” he explains. Josh, a 29-year-old advertising strategist in Australia, agrees, “I have multiple phone chargers for people who stay the night, including iPhone, Micro USB and USB-C. It’s like offering a glass of water — it’s the minimum.”
Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to dozens of people who keep multiple chargers in their homes for overnight guests, as well as guests on the receiving end of this courtesy, some of whom rave about the practice. “People who do this are the one-night stand equivalent to an Airbnb Superhost,” is how Bridget, a 23-year-old Canadian, puts it. Meanwhile, Izzy, a 24-year-old student in New York who spent the night with a guy who did this, tells me, “It was like the nicest Uber ride of dude’s beds that I’ve slept in, if that makes sense.” (It makes perfect sense to me.)
Several people describe the provision of extra chargers as “chivalrous,” which is interesting, given that it’s been common to blame technology for chivalry’s decline. “Technology has almost entirely destroyed chivalry,” one online article stated in 2017, and in a 2010 article about people proposing online, CNN wondered in the style of Carrie Bradshaw: “With these nontraditional methods of courtship, can we help but wonder: Is chivalry dead?” Yet it’s clear, speaking to James, Bridget and Izzy, not so much that chivalry is dead, but that there are new rules and expectations — ones that are no longer hemmed to ancient ideas about knights, warfare and traditional gender roles.
Being considerate to an overnight guest, whether they’re a casual hookup, partner or friend (with no benefits), now seems to involve not just analogue courtesies like water and a T-shirt, but technological ones as well. In other words, we’re living in an age of technological chivalry.
Of course, having multiple chargers in your house isn’t necessarily a romantic gesture, nor does it necessarily indicate that much thought has gone into the arrangement. Michael, a 33-year-old project manager in Ohio who keeps an array of chargers in his house and car, says some of them just accumulated organically over time, and that keeping them wasn’t necessarily because he had sex on the brain. “I don’t know if I ever made it a specific consideration for hookups versus just being a good host anytime I have folks over,” he explains.
However, it’s clear that some hosts are doing this to make a hookup extra smooth, memorable or pleasant. “I spent the night with a guy who had several phone chargers and gave me one to use. In fact, he was super good about getting me anything I needed, like water, a shirt, etc.,” Izzy tells me. “It definitely wasn’t his first rodeo, and it made for a really smooth night.”
For some, though, the level of premeditation and smoothness involved in having multiple chargers for guests — in other words, the “not his first rodeo” effect — is more uncomfortable than impressive. Rachel, a 21-year-old student in Massachusetts, says that she slept with a guy who “had extra iPhone chargers and didn’t even own an iPhone,” and that this concrete reminder that he was probably sleeping with other women wasn’t a great feeling, even though she was okay with it on an abstract level. Audrey, a 32-year-old antique consigner in New Jersey, adds that she felt like one hookup’s abundance of chargers was “the ghost cords of lovers” before her: “I believe they were all from girls that left them in a rush after sleeping with him, and I stole one out of respect.”
Obviously, charger chivalry isn’t something all men do and not something only men do — and maybe not even something straight men are especially good at doing. Michael, who’s a cis, gay man, suspects it’s more common among queer folk than straight couples, and several women tell me they were surprised when straight men showed this level of consideration — likely because there’s such a low bar when it comes to straight men and their bedroom furnishings (recall the recent wave of flat pillow and mattress on the floor jokes at their expense). “I stayed with a guy who had nightstands on both sides of the bed with crisp white chargers ready to go,” says Kalee, a 27-year-old clinical assistant in Portland. “It blew my mind after hooking up with mattress-on-floor band dudes for so long.”
Whether technological chivalry is charming or a little dystopian depends on your point-of-view, and also probably on how far the host takes it. One woman tells me she’s “currently hooking up with a guy who provides an iPhone charger, fresh glass of water and a packet of ear plugs on the bedside table,” and I can only wonder about the logical next steps: Pre-printed cards with the Wi-Fi password? Thank you notes containing the host’s Instagram handle?
Tobi, a 29-year-old tutor in New Zealand who was at the receiving end of this kind of hyper-attentive technological chivalry several years ago, shares my mixed feelings about it all. “At the time, I thought was very impressive, but now that I’m a little older, it strikes me as very presumptuous, like it was a move or part of a routine,” she says. “It’s also a bit like a hotel room — like, ‘Welcome, valued guest!’”
“It’s thoughtful in a lot of ways, but also kind of impersonal,” she adds. “Although I guess it’s preferable to the One Thin Pillow Man.”