|Some men report finding it hard to concentrate on their papers, what with all the female straphangers above them grumbling about the “Death of Chivalry.”|
Some rules about etiquette don’t last...
From “Male Polish,” 1961
To hear some women tell it, we are now deep in a recession in manners. If you’ve been to New York recently, you may have noticed they particularly tell it in buses and subways. Some men, in fact, report finding it hard to concentrate on their papers, what with all the female straphangers above them grumbling about the “Death of Chivalry.”
HAS CYCLES: Etiquette, like business, has cycles. Whenever there is a slump, it's pretty certain some excess preceded it. And 50 years ago etiquette had excesses aplenty. Take this rule in a Victorian etiquette book: “When a gentleman offers a lady his chair, he should engage her in conversation for a few minutes, thus giving the seat time to cool.” Presumably this would save the lady the trouble of using her fan. But hot seats are not considered a problem today. What bothers a modern man is whether to give up his seat, period.
Etiquette takes a practical view of the matter: In public conveyances men should relinquish their seats for pregnant women, women burdened with children or bundles, old and infirm women but not for every frisky young thing who climbs aboard. In a social setting, the better part of polish is to offer your seat to any standing female, whether she just won the Olympics or not.
OPENING DOORS Even more sticky is the problem of when to open a woman’s door. Writes S.J.: “Sure, a man ought to practice etiquette, and I believe most men would, if women would only let them. Take the rule about opening doors. Nine times out of 10, just when a man starts to open a door for a woman, she grabs the knob and opens it herself, as if to say, ‘Look, Buster, who needs YOU?’”
Etiquette indeed specifies that men should open doors for women. But whenever one persists in opening her own, all you can do. obviously, is let her. You should not make a thing of it. S.J. also has a peeve against doors that push in rather than open out. “Here you are.” he said, “standing at the still, trying to hold a push-door in front of you, so your date can enter the room first. To do so, she has to duck under your arm, and what started out to be a helping hand ends up resembling the minuet or London Bridge.”
RULES CLASH Here is a case of two rules clashing one about opening doors, the other about “ladies first.” In this instance “ladies first” is sacrificed. Coming to a push-door, the man correctly precedes the woman through the door in order to hold it for her. In the event she pushes ahead, he has only to extend his arm over her head to take the door's weight from her as she passes through. – Don Goodwin, Copyright 1961
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia