Ladies first by (4 Stories)

Prompted By Manners

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I held the door for her

One manner I learned as a young boy was “Ladies first.”  A gentleman always opens the door for a lady, and follows her in.  When my family went out for dinner, I always opened the door for my mother.  This was the 1960s.

In college one weekend night I had a date for a movie.  After the movie, my date and I went to a local deli for dessert.  As we approached the deli entrance, I held the door for her.  She looked at me askance, as if to say, “What are you doing?”  This was 1970 or 71.

Times do change.


Profile photo of Michael Wallace Michael Wallace

Characterizations: right on!


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Really good RetroFlash, Mike. Times do change, and that rule seemed a bit anachronistic even then — particularly with car doors. And what is the proper etiquette with revolving doors?

    Also, do you remember which deli? Elsie’s?

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Indeed they do, Michael. My husband gets upset with me if I don’t hold the garage door for him when I come in first. I think things are more equitable now. I would still like help if I need it.

  3. Indeed Michael – remember Betsy’s aunt wearing white gloves when they were in fashion!

    Times do change, but kindness is always in style!

  4. Marian says:

    Common sense should rule, Michael. These days I could use some help getting out of a two-door car!

  5. Suzy says:

    Yes, times change, but as I say in my story, I think whoever gets to the door first should hold it for the other person. In the ’70s there were battles that had to be fought, so we feminists didn’t want to accept any courtesies from men. Now I think it would be okay.

  6. As I commented to Suzy, my husband never fails to open a door for me…it just seems to come naturally to him (“midwest nice.”) Sure, he knows I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself, but I like it because it feels respectful. And of course if I get to the door first, I open it for him. Respect is a two-way street.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    I was taught that, if I get to a door first, I hold it for anyone following. No one has ever complained.

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    I remember feeling that some of the niceties afforded women (such as opening doors) were perceived as a way of indicating that women were too weak and ineffectual to do things (and were prohibited from voting or other legal standing). Of course this was also class and race based–other women didn’t get such “consideration”–contrast with the famous Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. I agree that in the end, it is all about respect. And all people can open doors to help each other out.

  9. Laurie Levy says:

    They do indeed, Michael. By the 70s, most women wanted to open their own doors.

  10. Good retro flash, Mike. I remember similar incidents. Then one day, still driven by my instinct to open a door (thank you Mrs. Quinlan) I hesitated and asked “may I open the door for you?” Seemed to be the best way to approach it.

  11. Risa Nye says:

    Oh, I think she knew what you were doing. She just didn’t think you needed to.

  12. We did grow up in a complicated time when it came to gender roles. Good Retroflash.

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