When Did Opening a Door Require an Apology?
Today was a typical day: Rush out the door. Drop my daughter off at middle school. Grab my usual Starbucks Venti Iced Tea. This routine typically happens day after day, without any thought, like clock-work. But something happened today that threw me off, made me think and caused me to pause. It was just a moment but it somehow it became more than that.
As I was walking in the parking lot towards the door into Starbucks, a man a few paces ahead of me, held the door open for me. It wasn’t like I was directly behind him and the door would have slammed into me if he would have let it go. He held the door for longer than would have been expected and I found it to be an extremely nice gesture.
As I passed through the door, I thanked him for the kindness. He cautiously smiled and said “You’re welcome. I hope it didn’t offend you that I held the door for you”. I smiled and just said “Not at all. Thank you so much”.
A few moments later as I was driving away, I reflected on what was said. And it kinda bummed me out.
How could good manners be a mistake? Why could it be insulting to help someone by holding the door for them? Why was this man nervous that I would be offended or belittled that he paused long enough to think about someone besides himself and make my life a tad easier? Isn’t this a basic rule of etiquette? Have we collapsed so much as a society that basic decency is questioned?
Our world is so upside down right now. The wave of powerful men on TV, in film or politics who have recently been outed as objectifying and degrading women is sickening. The complete disregard for females, our personal space and our bodies is troubling. The ripple effect has trickled down and decent men now fear being called sexist for doing something that was once viewed as respectful. It is disheartening how it could be considered wrong to hold the door for someone, regardless of their gender. What has happened to common civility and why are we okay with letting it go? Can’t a random act of kindness just be a random act of kindness?
Never for a moment did I feel his gesture of holding the door was telling me I was frail or unequipped to open it. And by no means was he trying to get my number or make a pass at me. I can guarantee he didn’t size me up and want me to feel like he was better than me for holding the door. There was no power play in what he did. He simply held the door for me. And then he apologized.
People complain about how rude teenagers today are and, yet we are partially to blame. We have told millennials that holding a door for someone is antiquated, possibly sexist. Somewhere along the line we lost the value of respect, regardless of our differences. Not only did we allow the decline in civility, we promoted it. There’s should be nothing wrong with people holding the door for other people. It’s the polite thing to do, and that has absolutely nothing to do with gender.
Honorable men used to hold the door. It was the right thing to do, not because they wanted others to feel inferior but because they wanted to be a gentleman. Call me old fashioned but I like it, not because I don’t believe in feminism but because I believe in courtesy and manners.
I’m an independent woman raising an independent daughter, and I appreciate the gesture. I hope that one day if my daughter goes on a date, the other person holds the door open for her. If he walks ahead and lets the door slam on her, I hope she sees this as a red-flag and kicks his ass to the curb. In turn, I would expect her to treat him the same and hold the door for him if she was to enter first. It goes both ways.
I’m also raising two young men and like it or not, I will continue to insist they hold the door open for other people. Its part of my job as a parent to instill gestures like this and I refuse to surrender this out of fear of offending people. What’s next—letting go of saying please and thank you because it’s rude to talk to people we don’t know? I won’t roll over and let my boys become ignorant to basic manners because they fear it will be perceived as patronizing. Even though opening a door is such a small and seemingly insignificant act, it reflects a much deeper meaning. I will be damned if I will toss teaching manners aside because I’m afraid of someone else’s opinion. If you don’t like it that my son holds the door for you, deal with it.
Let’s appreciate manners where we can get them. Holding the door open isn’t sexist, it’s kindness. We should do it for all people, regardless of their gender. I am grateful that gentleman at Starbucks was thoughtful and considerate enough to hold the door. And if I see him there again, I will repay the favor and hold the door for him. Let’s hope common courtesy and common decency do not become uncommon.