Friday, August 29, 2008

Holding doors

While I wait for unresolved issues to resolve themselves, here's a topic that I've been meaning to write about...

One of the things that gives me conflicted feelings is chivalrous behavior. Case in point: whenever I'm in the elevator with men of a certain age, I'm usually faced with the somewhat awkward gesture of them letting me get in or out first. Of course this doesn't apply in crowded subways during rush hour where it's every man, woman and child for themselves! I say awkward because sometimes the gesture is so exaggerated that they literally have to step out of the way to let me pass, when it would be just as easy if they went ahead of me and got out of the way.

Of course I understand that these men are simply being polite, and showing courtesy the way they were raised to, and most do not mean to imply the paternalistic overtones stemming from the origin of such social graces. Still, bad habits or not, I would think that at some point, these men would examine these chivalric behaviors and conclude that in today's world, where we aspire to equality between the sexes, that these gestures are a little outdated. While it's still polite and appreciated to hold doors for people to keep it from slamming in their faces, this awkward shuffle when men make a deliberate show of allowing women to pass first is just a little embarrassing. While I'm certainly not the kind of person to make a big scene about it, there is one thing I can do to make my point, if only to myself - I'm going to stop thanking them for this small female privilege extended to me.

Of course, I'm talking about strangers here. I actually think it's nice holding doors for loved ones. Tara and I have a system - she's usually the first one to a door so she holds it open for me, and if there's a second door inside, I'll hold it for her. These little niceties are fine as a way of showing affection for loved ones, but when strangers do it, it's a tiny bit uncomfortable for me.