Miss Manners: Holding Doors in the 21st century

Anyone who knows me, knows I have strong opinions about holding doors. A lot of my guy friends complain that the rules are “always changing” on them and I have to say, I don’t entirely agree. There IS a problem that there are people playing by different rules. But within those people – the rules are consistent.  I propose a simplification of “holding the door” and the first thing to be aware of: gender doesn’t matter.

Let me say that again – stop looking at gender as the reason you should (or should not!) hold a door. I think part of the problem has long been that there are too many rules to decide who and when a door should be held. I live by a simple set of rules:

  1. Am I in the way if I hold the door for them?
  2. Am I improving their day by holding the door?

If I can not answer “yes” to BOTH of these questions – I don’t hold the door.  And I don’t expect anyone else to hold doors for me.  I am a big girl and I promise, I won’t break anything if I have to open a door or two in my day.

Let’s start with some positive examples:

  • A person (regardless of gender) is carrying a large package. 1)Can you hold the door without impeding them? (if yes, proceed!) 2)Will you improve their day? I don’t know about you – I’ve had full hands and then a “Pull” door… it’s terrible!
  • A person is trudging towards the cafe/coffee shop. You smile and hold the door. They meet your eye and you can see them brighten up. 1) Were you in their way? (Get out of the way) 2)Did you improve their day? Sounds like it! I know I’ve had days where someone smiled or did an act of kindness and my whole outlook perked up.
  • Little old gender-not-necessary-person with a walker approaches a door. 1) Can you give them enough space to enter? Great. 2) Did you improve their day? I hope so. Regardless of gender, most people I know over seventy either love or hate attention. Not much you can do about haters, so you sometimes have to gamble -but when you win, it’s quite the win!

As you can see – that first one is pretty important. Are you in the way? Get out of the way! I remember my grandmother trying to maneuver a walker around. And she hated that thing. HATED. It was the constant reminder that she wasn’t able to do it all alone anymore. Someone standing in a door made it twice as difficult to deal with AND it reminded her of something painful. I hate when I’m carrying something fragile or heavy and if they would just get out of my way it would make my day easier/better/happier.

One of the most dreaded door-scenarios is the “squeeze by.” This is especially bad if the guy races to reach the door before me. He is damned determined he WILL HOLsqeeze byD THIS DOOR!!! He stands in the frame and strains with all his might to prop it open with his body!!! I then have to squeeze past him.  And then he stands there and wonders why I barely muttered “thanks” – and sometimes I even refuse to say thanks because he DID ME NO FAVORS. You are 1) in my way. Get out of my way. and 2) you did not improve my day. You invaded my personal space. You may have made me smell your incredibly gross Georgia-in-August-Heat BO.  You may have in some way (which you don’t have to intend – it still happens!) made me feel uncomfortable. Guess who else will hold doors and try to demand I walk through them? The man who wants to kidnap, rape and kill me. I don’t know if that’s you! I can’t know. Respect my safety and my space.

That leads us to the “conversation opener” who thinks because he held the door for me, I now I have to talk to him. Generally speaking, the random dude holding the door is not the guy I am going to feel safer and more secure talking to than any other random dude. Which means today just may not be the day when I feel I am in a safe place to talk to strangers. You are a stranger. I may not want to talk. You are not making my day better by holding the door and then using that as your reason that I am “supposed to” talk to you. That’s called micro-aggression. It’s little and it’s bad.

Then there is the guy who refuses to walk through a door I’m holding. Really? You think because I have boobs bigger than yours I am somehow incapable of holding a door for you? And the excuse is always “My momma taught me…”. I’m pretty sure your momma taught you not to be rude when people try to be nice to you. You are diminishing my act of kindness when you refuse to walk through a door I am holding. Do men hold the only title on being able to be nice to people? Wow! What a privilege you have that you are allowed to be nice.

hold doorsReally think about it the next time you refuse to walk through the door being held by a woman.  ‘Cause guess what, if she’s already holding it she will not think you less of a man for walking through. Instead say thank you and appreciate that a fellow human being was polite. When someone holds a door for me, regardless of gender I try to really appreciate the act of kindness. Because we all know that in today’s world we could use a little more manners.


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