FORGETFUL GENTLEMAN [fer-get-fuhl jen-tl-muhn] n. a classy, sophisticated, modern man whose busy lifestyle often interferes with his well intentioned plans

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Gentlemen Open Doors

“Courtesy is the cornerstone of civilization.” Generation after generation, common courtesy prevails. So when was the last time you opened the door for someone?

Many etiquette rules came to be established in Victorian England (1837-1901) to protect or shield a woman from harm or discomfort. But over time, these rules have evolved to apply to all types of people, old and young, sick and healthy, male and female. In today’s world, being a gentleman is about understanding the context in which you interact with others, not just women.

As women outnumber men in the workforce, as college graduates, and in sheer numbers, the independence of the modern woman has caused many of these traditional rules of courtesy to be reconsidered. Some men fear that opening a door for a woman can be considered demeaning, while others feel it’s the gentlemanly thing to do.

Here’s a quick primer on the etiquette of opening doors:

Front Doors. All the time. No excuses. Hold the door open to allow a woman, kid or elderly to walk through before you.

Car Door. This is an area where etiquette is changing. Gone are the days when men drove the cars and women rode in the passenger seat, when few roads were paved and stepping out of a car could land you in a huge puddle.

Definitely make your best attempts to open a car door on your first date or anniversary, as this gesture is not lost on today’s modern woman. But should you be opening the car door all the time? For many couples, that’s excessive.

Revolving Door. Give it a push to start the contraption moving then allow the lady to enter first, and alone. One person in a revolving door pie slice at a time please.

Heavy Door. If it’s a big, heavy door, then you should push through before her and hold it open until she passes. You can hold it open on either side of the door frame, whichever allows you to clear the doorway and physically keep the door open.

Other Walking Rules:

When walking on a sidewalk, the man should walk near the curb (or left side) when strolling with a lady.

When crossing a street, the man should be on the left side of the cross walk.

On a staircase, a man is supposed to walk behind the woman on the way up, and in front of her on the way down.

If the lights are off in a room, or if the space is unfamiliar, the man should walk into the room before a woman.

When two service members are walking together, the junior walks on the left of the senior.

How did this tradition start?

There are many theories about how this tradition started:

“When men started opening doors for women, the doors were often spike studded and ram-resistant, and they weighed hundreds of pounds. A man’s strength was needed to open the door.”

“The tradition of men opening doors for women probably dates from the period when women used to wear dresses with skirts so long and wide, that it was difficult for them to squeeze through the doorway, not to mention opening the door for themselves.”

“It goes back to the days when the women of nobility wore ornate gowns and outfits. In a full formal outfit, she probably could not reach the door if she tried - at least not in a fashion that conveys the grace she is portraying. And the doors at the time were especially large and heavy. Her escort thus opened the door for her.

“The real history of this act is not so chivalrous. The Vikings put the women first so their heads would get chopped off if there was an attacker in the room (or when re-boarding a boat).

Today, most men do it because they believe it to be the courteous and the majority of women approve. Ultimately, someone eventually must open a door, so it might as well be you, the gentleman.

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