The Ins and Outs of Opening a Door for a Woman

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 8, 2011 · 159 comments

in A Man's Life, Dating, Friendship, Marriage, On Etiquette, Relationships & Family

Readers email us surprisingly often with questions about opening doors for women. AoM readers are interested in being gentlemen and obviously understand the basics of this traditional act of chivalry: when you get to a door before a lady, you should open it for her. But they wonder about scenarios where the set-up isn’t as cut and dry.  What do you do with revolving doors? What about doors that push in instead of pull out? Do you keep holding the door for others after your date has gone through?

In today’s post, I’ll attempt to offer some guidelines to help a gentleman navigate a variety of door-opening situations.

A Word on Door-Opening and Other Acts of Old Fashioned Chivalry

Before we get to the ins and outs of door opening, let us take a moment to discuss its place in modern society, because not everyone feels its a tradition worth preserving. There are some women who are offended by it because they think it implies the inferior status of women–that women are too weak to open doors for themselves. Kate thinks that if you’re dating a woman who takes umbrage at having the door opened for her, that’s a red flag, because it signals that she does not understand that a woman can be smart and independent while still being playful about gender roles. I can’t really speak to that, so I’ll let the ladies duke it out. Then there are men who think you shouldn’t do things like open doors for women because if women want to be fully independent and equal these days, then they need to give up being treated with any special consideration. To me this is an entirely wrong-headed approach to relationships, because it’s premised on the idea that everything must be tit for tat. Yes, you open doors for a woman, but your woman probably does special things for you. If she doesn’t, then that’s the problem, not chivalry itself. It’s madness to think that equality must mean doing the exact same things for each other and constantly keeping score.

Relationships: They're about natural reciprocity, not tit-for-tat score keeping.

Personally, I think preserving a few small differences in the expectations of male/female behavior, simply as symbols of our differences, keeps things fun. Rules and traditions give life texture and meaning, as opposed to living life in an entirely blah postmodern wasteland. Sameness is boring. Differences create attraction.

The Ins and Outs of Opening a Door for a Woman

There are two ways to mess up etiquette. One is too ignore it altogether. The other is to over-think it and overdo it, and thus make it weird and awkward. So keep that in mind as you read these guidelines; the most important thing to remember is simply to be natural and to use common sense! It’s definitely not too complicated; these guidelines are simply designed to allow you to be smooth, instead of standing there havy-cavy, wondering what to do.

Opening doors for women requires their cooperation. If you get to the door before a woman, opening the door is simple. Just open the door and hold it for her. Things get awkward when you and your gal arrive at the door at the same time or she gets there before you. In these types of situations, opening doors becomes much like a dance. Each sex has a role they need to fill for the operation to successfully work. If your lady arrives at the door before you or at the same time as you, she should step slightly to one side so that you can open the door without knocking her on her tuckus. If she opens the door for herself, that’s not a problem. See below.

If she starts opening the door for herself, just pull it further open. If your lady arrives at the door first and starts opening it on her own, all you need to do is to help pull the door open further. Don’t brush her hand off the door knob or door handle and don’t offer any sanctimonious ”I insist” or “allow me” entreaties. Basically, don’t make a big deal about it.

With double doors, open the first, but not the second. When there is a door, and then an entryway airlock area, and then another door, open the outside door, allow the woman to step inside the airlock, and then for the second door, do as indicated above and simply help the woman open the door as she goes through. She may wait inside the airlock for you to open the second door entirely, and that is fine of course.

Don’t knock her over to get to the door first. Some men, eager to show off their gallantry, will rush to the door to ensure they arrive before a woman does. Don’t do that. It just looks desperate and can make a date feel awkward. The key to a successful door opening (and good manners in general) is to make it look effortless.

If she doesn’t want the door opened for her, respect that. Some women will tell you straight up that they don’t like doors opened for them. Fair enough. Just respect that, let her open her own doors, and don’t make a federal case of it.

Don’t expect consistency. Your gal might open several doors for herself in an evening, but then out of the blue she’ll step aside indicating that she wants you to open the door for her. So watch for that and read her body language. Again, it’s like dancing.

If the door swings in, go through the door first and hold it for her. Doors that open inwards can prove tricky for any gentleman. The best way to go about them is to go through the door before your date does in order to hold the door open for her. If she arrives at the door first and begins pushing the door open, stand on the side where the door hinges are and simply extend your arm over her head to take the door’s weight from her as she passes through.

Try to avoid the situation where you’re standing in the doorway holding the door open with your back. You don’t want your date tripping over your feet or having to squeeze herself between you and the doorframe.

Also avoid the position where you’re standing at the door sill, on the side opposite the door’s hinges, holding the door open with your hand. This will force your lady to duck under your arm as she goes through the door.

Your duty is to your woman, not the public at large. I don’t know how many times I’ve opened a door for a date and then stood there holding the door for a gaggle of complete strangers. Consequently, my date was left standing in the lobby alone, waiting for me. After your woman has walked through the door, follow her through. I understand you want to be courteous to everyone, but your priority should be your date.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just let a door slam shut in somebody’s face. As you pass through the door, look behind you to see if anybody is following close behind and hold the door open long enough for them to take control of the door. If you see somebody several steps away from the door, there’s no need to hold it open for them.

With revolving doors, reach out and slow it down so that she can step in. This rule is especially true for older revolving doors that lack the auto-revolving feature that many modern revolving doors have.

What About Opening Car Doors?

Open the car door for a lady these days, and this may be the kind of reaction you get. Shock! "This man has clearly been reading the Art of Manliness," she muses.

If you’re on a date with a woman, opening car doors is a gesture that will surely get her attention. But car doors pose some special problems. Here are a few guidelines on how to open car doors for women.

Always try to open the door for a date when she enters the vehicle. If you don’t have anything obstructing you, always open the door for your date when entering the vehicle. You should have cleaned your car before the date, but if you have any crumbs or other gunk in the passenger side seat, sweep it off before she sits down.

Offer your hand as she gets in and out. The added support a hand can provide a woman in a dress and heels as she gets in and out of car will be appreciated. A helping hand is especially important if your car is a pick-up truck that’s jacked a few feet off the ground or a sports car that rides low to the ground.

Before shutting a car door, make sure all appendages, skirt bottoms, and purse straps are inside the vehicle. You don’t want to ruin your date by slamming her foot in the door or tearing a dress. Give a quick check to make sure everything is safely inside. I’ll even ask Kate, “Everything in?” before shutting the door just to make sure.

If there’s not much room between your car and the car parked next to you, let her open her own door. Don’t force the gesture if it’s just not possible to perform.

Don’t feel obligated to open the car door for her when exiting the vehicle. Most people get out of a car as soon as it parks. Successfully opening a car door for a woman so she can exit will probably require you to say, “Hey, don’t get out. I want to open the car door for you.” She’ll then have to sit there and wait as you exit the driver’s side door and circle around to the passenger’s side so you can open it. You’ll just create a spectacle and may make your date feel like she’s being chauffeured instead of courted.

Holding Doors Regardless of Gender

Holding doors open isn’t something you need to do just for women. It’s an act of common courtesy that you can show to any person whether they be man or woman. If you get to the door first before a dude, holding the door open for him is completely fine.

A gentleman should always hold the door open for someone who is more physically burdened than him. If you see an older person, a person with an obvious physical aliment, or a person holding a crap load of packages, hold the door open for them no matter if they’re a man or a woman.

And if someone opens a door for you, always smile and say, “Thank you!”

Any other tips and advice on opening doors for women? Share them with us in the comments.

{ 159 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Will June 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm

The only thing I do differently is in the situation where you are parked to closely to the car next to you.

I prefer to pull the car out, then help the lady in so she doesn’t have to squeeze in between to vehicles and awkwardly wiggle herself into the passenger seat.

2 Paul June 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm

My understanding about revolving doors was similar to a door swinging in: go first and ensure the door is moving at the proper speed so she can step in. By going first you can set the speed of the door from when she first enters.

3 Dustin B. June 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm

How should a man handle double-doors? That is, doors to buildings like libraries, offices, etc., that have two sets right in a row.

4 jeremy June 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm

What about multiple doors in series? Frequently, there are multiple doors within 5- 8 feet of each other anymore, should one go for the first one, and hope that the lady waits for you to get the second one, or just try to pace it naturally?

5 Superstantial June 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

As for revolving doors – I tend to treat this like the inward-opening door. Going through a revolving door first lets you ensure that its motion has slowed, if your wife is in heels, and lets you get the momentum going. Some revolving doors are rather hard to push.

Is the last section really necessary? Strike that, of course it is. People do need to be told to help out or to say thank you . . . and that makes me sad.

Thanks for the article.

6 Brooks June 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm

How about the situation of the double door or air lock?… This can be tricky. Open the first door by walking through first, then you can be first to the next door to open it in the regular way.

7 Superstantial June 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Oops, the page didn’t refresh fast enough to see Paul’s comment.

I agree with Paul.

8 Slim June 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

What about after a first or second date, you guys are just hanging, and you approach your car from the drivers side. Do you go all the way around the car to open her door too? I don’t but I open hers when it’s easily accessible, like approaching from her side.

9 Pablo June 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I totally agree with your post. I’m glad I’ve found this site… I enjoy keeping alive this basic rules of courtesy and good manners. Is not only about chivalry, but also of proper “civilized” people. If man take their proper place, so will women. Each of us has different roles in society, family and life. That does not implies any superiority nor inferiority on any gender. Sadly, some movements have moved the pendulum too far on any direction.

10 jj June 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Gentlemen- As a Lady, open the door for me- i love being treated as such in a society that can be so disrespectful

11 Stella June 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I like to think that I’m a modern chick, and I don’t take offense at door opening! Although I do see door holding as common courtesy, and not just something that men do for the sake of chivalry… I always hold open doors for people and say thanks when they’re opened or held for me.

As for the car door, the advent of power locks makes that seem a little fussy to me, but my fiance does always pull the car up/away from the curb so I don’t have to step in mud or snow.

12 Niko June 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

@Dustin

I asked the same thing in my email months ago.
I guess we just have to rely on the others abilities to open a door.

The outer door is usually heavier, so when leaving, open the first one and give the control over that one to the other person, then go to the heavier one and hold it open.

13 Frank June 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Nothing hacks me off more, than when I hold the door for someone, and they walk through without any kind of acknowledgement, whatsoever. It’s like, what am I? The hired help? Pffft….

14 Brett McKay June 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Ah, I meant to include something about multiple doors, but forgot. Just added it in there. That’s my opinion on it, feel free to add your own two cents.

15 Heather June 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

My suggestions for the double doors is to open the first door for her, and then she naturally holds the second door for you. This doesn’t apply if she’s carrying or pushing something. In that case, say something like, “I’ll get that door for you.” Then she’ll wait (most likely very gratefully) while you open the second door.

I had a gentleman coworker who absolutely INSISTED on opening the car door for me–both entering and exiting–whenever we went somewhere. If I’m in a full skirt and heels, please do assist me in getting in and out of the car. But when I’m in my normal business attire, why make me wait? I did it to be courteous to him, but I felt very awkward. The whole point of these small everyday courtesies is to help each other’s lives go more smoothly. It’s not to inconvenience someone so that you APPEAR more courteous.

16 The Informer June 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Funny situation,

My friend was a junior admiral in the Coast Guard. More than a few times while walking with 2 junior officers, one male, that junior officer would open the door for the 3 of them. Who should go through first? The junior female officer? Or the Admiral? Military custom is that the senior officer goes first, but chivalry etc, means that the woman goes first. And what if the 3 of them were of different ranks? What if the woman was junior……she holds the door for the two senior men?

Ah, social experimentation in the military! WHEN WOMBYNS ARE NAVY SEALS, GREEN BEANIES, AND PJs……THEN WE’LL HAVE EQUALITY!!

17 Noreen Keller June 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

As a woman, I really appreciate this article. I often have to remind my husband and son to hold the door or help my mother in or out of the car. They are pretty good at opening doors if I wait for them to do so. As to the last paragraph, it cannot be said often enough, unfortunately. Wen my children were small I arrived at a door with an infant in the stroller, a two year old by the hand and an armload of packages. The woman in front of me (as close as was comfortable and polite to walk) let the door slam in my face. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum from both genders. Politeness never goes out of style. I agree with you some of the comments that the “women’s movement” has gone too far. Men and women are different; we would all be a lot better off if we celebrated our differences rather than try to hide them or pretend they don’t exist.

18 John Smith June 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Just be careful, I opened the door for a woman that I worked with in California and she yelled at me “Why, don’t I look capable of doing that myself?”. So, I promptly walked through and dropped the door on her.

19 CoffeeZombie June 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I think the most important thing said here was the “keep it natural” bit. Slavish devotion to the “rules” is an aspect of bureaucracy, not of manliness.

Also, I agree with Superstantial and Paul; it is sad that the last bit about common courtesy even needs to be mentioned. However, nearing the end of my wife’s second pregnancy, I have learned that common courtesy is in very, very short supply these days, from either gender.

As to the whole question of “independent women” or whatnot, it’s my opinion that there’s a limit to that mindset. On the one hand, men and women are equal as persons, and I’m all for equality in the workplace, and so on. On the other hand, men and women are different; femininity is as essential to—and becoming of—a woman as manliness is to a man. While I won’t presume to define femininity (I’m better off working on my own manliness), I will submit that men being manly allows women to be feminine (of course, women being feminine allows men to be manly). We are, if nothing else, equally dependent on each other.

20 Martin Redford June 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I really like this part of your post. “There are two ways to mess up etiquette. One is too ignore it altogether. The other is to over-think it and overdo it, and thus make it weird and awkward.” I agree this is definitely a way to mess things up when it comes to etiquette. Read my take on the topic at http://www.theperfectmaleblog.com/2010/12/perfect-male-etiquette.html

21 TimDroz June 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I’ve always made the effort to open or hold doors for the women in my life. All of my wife’s women co-workers are jealous of her when they see me get out of the car and open her car door for her when I pick her up after work. Sometimes they praise her for having me “trained,” but usually they just tell her they can’t remember when a man opened a door for them, and that they wish their husbands/boyfriends cared enough to do it once in a while.

22 Chuck Y June 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Great post! Especially the part about closely parked cars.

23 Scott June 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Guess I’m in the minority. I’ve almost completely abandoned this ritual. I will hold a door open for anyone if I’m the first one entering or exiting but as far as making a special effort for my lady friend, I’ve stopped. My philosophy is the same as stated above, in this day and age of equality, it’s just an antiquated ritual. I raised my 2 sons as a single parent and no one held any doors for me, ever. It is also very awkward to go between 2 cars to open the passenger door. There is not much room for 2 people to negotiate a small space with an open car door further blocking the passage. Just because your significant other does things for you does not mean you are required to open her door. I do plenty of things for mine like hang light fixtures at her house, install appliances, you get the picture?

24 CoffeeZombie June 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm

TimDroz: This reminded me of a short conversation I once had with my parents when I was dating my to-be wife. My mom commented on how I always open the car door for my then-girlfriend, and that my dad never does that for her. My dad responded, “I used to, but you told me to stop!” :-)

25 Josh June 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm

My wife revealed to me some years after we met that she always followed her Dad’s advice of never going on a second date with a man who didn’t open the car door for her when he picked her up on the first date. She also said her grandfather approved of me because he saw me open the door for her once. At the time I was just just being courteous, but it turned out I was passing two crucial tests in our courtship.

Also I want to say that I have met some women who think they are being treated as inferior when I open the door for them. Its a shame because the exact opposite is true. I open doors (not car doors per se) for any man or woman who is higher in status than me like bosses or elders.

26 Vintage Sweetie June 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Brett and Kate – I love this blog and read it regularly. I love this article. I also love that all of you men on this site are interested in being gentlemen and doing things like opening doors for ladies and treating them properly on dates. Bravo and keep it up!

27 2buttonswag June 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm

@ Scott….I’m right there with you. Lets not also forget the invention of the remote key. It made more sense to just open a car door for a women when you would already have to lean all the way over to unlock it from the inside. Now, you just click a button and the car is unlocked. I still hold doors for my fiance, but I think the car opening is a little excessive. Females can vote now….soooooo….

28 carl June 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Loved this column…and the site. Thanks for all your hard work! In regards to Paul’s comment I always remember a story my mom told me many years ago. Whether the story is true or not is not the point, the lesson is. She overheard a woman remark to a man holding the door open for her, “I don’t need a man to hold the door open for me.” His response, “Miss, I’m not holding the door open for you because you’re a woman but because I’m a gentleman.” I’ve never forgot this.

29 lady brett June 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm

i can’t emphasize enough the importance of its being natural! putting emphasis on your good actions takes quite a bit away from the chivalry in the first place – it’s like “look at how awesome my selflessness is.” so, please, none of that “ladies first!” nonsense – that was implied when you opened the door for her, no need to make it awkward by announcing things. and, as the article says, chivalry requires both parties’ cooperation (a friend has coined the term “courtly” for the ability to *accept* chivalry).

as far as whether chivalry is still appropriate – i view it as perfectly lovely and considerate. of course, i also don’t see it as strictly the purview of men. i think who is being chivalrous to whom is something people can work out amongst themselves without regard for gender.

30 Frank June 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Right on, Carl.

31 Ilana June 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm

As a girl, I always enjoy it when men hold doors for me. However, I have definitely been on the receiving end of some awkward door-holds. Usually we both just laugh and i appreciate the effort :)

My one caveat is to please let me hold the door for you too! 90% of the time, I will let you hold the door. But sometimes if I get there first, I will hold the door for you. Some of my male friends will refuse to walk through a door I’m holding. They’ll “take over” the door and insist I walk through first. I think that’s taking things a bit too far.

32 ARP June 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

The Informer- I know you brought up the issue half in jest, but there is an answer right here in AoM. Look for the article on doing introductions (who do you introduce to who) that can be a guide when you’re dealing with multiple statuses. In short, women trump all ranks. So go women, then rank. If you have multiple women of differing ranks, let them sort it out.

Josh- That was also a “test” in the movie, A Bronx Tale.

33 Tosha June 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Thank you for saying the bit about helping us in and out of the cars! It can be quite awkward in heels and a skirt, especially since the skirts just get shorter while the heels get taller with time and fashion. Also, if your date is wearing heels, she’s basically walking on her tippy-toes all night; please don’t make her trot to keep up with you. If you slow you normal walking pace by a third and stroll with her, it will make her evening much more pleasant and allow her to concentrate on interacting with you, rather than trying to make the fact that she’s struggling to keep up look natural.

34 Andy June 8, 2011 at 3:56 pm

My dad trained my brothers and me very well in this matter. It started out as race to see who could open my mom’s door first. Now we open her (and any other woman’s) door to honor her. My mom has gotten so used to us opening her door that sometimes she finds herself waiting in the car for someone to open the door even when she’s alone!

35 The Informer June 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Sorry ARP but there are reasons why the military does things in a specific, often traditional way. Much of it has to do with the mission of the military. If women want the same rights and responsibilities as the men, we have to neuter them as women, and treat them as military personnel. Else people die and the mission is compromised.

I didn’t make this culture, but I’m forced to exist in it.

36 Tom June 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

A female friend of mine moved from California to Tennessee, and was insulted the first time I opened the door for her. I explained that it’s common practice in the south, and she would either have to get used to it, or go around being insulted all day long. Thankfully she quickly got used to the notion that it’s not an indicator of inferiority, but one of respect.

37 David June 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

To the more gassy Gentleman,

A long afternoon or evening on a date
may burden your belly with excess effluvium (gas).
Take the time after closing her side’s car door
(which you so artfully opened) to de-pressurize (fart).
Then, sit in the driver’s seat with a satisfied grin (revel).

38 squozzer June 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Elevators. I would appreciate a ruling by the estimable AoM crew. Some men prefer not to leave the car until all the ladies have left. The problem lies in women having to shift through bodies (during peak times the cars at my office are packed three deep) on the way out.
When entering a car, I propose that people move to the back if their floor is relatively far away or to the side if it’s not.
When exiting a car en masse, I propose that people leave front-to-back.

Do I hear a second?

39 John June 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I too have used the response “because I’m a gentleman” when courtesy was met with criticism.

As for tests holding doors was one of them for my wife.

Another thing I got big points for. On our third date we met for lunch. We lived quite a distance apart, so we met at a place that was in the middle distance wise. The weather was pretty bad. My father taught me if I was with a lady and she was driving her own vehicle to wait until she left. My wife noticed that I made sure she wasn’t stranded before I left. It was a big deal for her.

John

40 Lucas June 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Re: Elevators

I do what I can to let women on and off elevators first, but sometimes it’s just not feasible. In a crowded elevator, function trumps the etiquette of trying to let a woman off the elevator first.

41 STL Mom June 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Thanks for the detailed instructions. I’m starting to train my son in this, although he is a very small eight-year-old and lots of doors are still very heavy for him to open, and it is easy to get impatient when he is so slow! But I would like him to become the kind of man who opens doors for people.

42 The Informer June 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Elevators

Oh yeah! Common sense is the rule. If you’re at the door and it opens…..GET OUT! and people in the back leave in turn.

and if you need to, get back in.

And people should be allowed to leave the elevator before the “pushy important people” try to get on! Common sense anyone?

43 MJ June 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm

As a woman who grew up in the modern age, this confusion perplexes me. In the course of everyday life, you open your own doors. I mean – they’re doors. They’re not the rock in front of the tomb. Anyone except a small child or an elderly person or someone who is disabled can open them with ease. If there’s someone behind you, or coming in the distance carrying a burden, or approaching the door from the other side when you get there first, you hold the door for them.

That’s basic human civility, it’s nothing to do with man-woman relationships, chivalry or sexism. Anyone who expects different treatment, or who fails to subscribe to such a basic civility on principle has an overblown sense of entitlement or fear.

44 Mike Duty June 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Regarding that last paragraph: My wife is handicapped and sometimes uses a wheelchair. When i’m pushing her I really appreciate the people who stop and open a door that isn’t automatic. But I’ve also had people watch me struggle to try to prop a door open with my butt while I try to back my wife in and I try to prop her over a ginormous threshold. I don’t mean to complain, but people who’ve never had to deal with these issues will never understand. I read a recent article on another site that said people with disabilities are the “invisible minority”.

45 Phil E. June 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Funny, this coming out a couple of days after I attempted to explain my view of chivalry to my wife. In a nutshell, it is plain to me that a man who sticks to chivalrous behavior with a woman who demands to be treated as an “equal” is short sighted or foolish. I see him less as a self respecting man and more like a sad dog waiting by the door to perform some trick in hopes of a pat on the head & scratch behind the ears from the master. That reads poorly, but truly. I don’t believe men and women are equal, although we are equally valuable overall. Expecting equality while expecting special treatment is contradictory, so I usually choose which of the two treatments I think she really wants based on what I’ve observed of her. I don’t hold doors for my wife because I happen to know that she values her modern status more than she does femininity

46 phil June 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm

My difficulty comes when the girl has been put in front because of something previous – such as guiding her through a crowd with a hand her back. In this case should I try to get around to get to the door, or just wait and take over once she starts opening the door? or get in front before the door and forget about the guiding through the crowd?

In general, I say go for what is most smooth and not awkward. So if a girl has clearly opened a door for me, I’ll walk through and say thank you. If not, I’ll usually try and take over after she’s opened it.

This also means that if the door opens from left to right and the girl is walking to your right, you probably shouldn’t try to hold the door for her (this would require either getting in her way or having her walk under your arm, both kind of awkward).

Basically don’t make a big deal out of it. This goes for women and men. So if you can’t get the door for her smoothly, let it go. And girls, if a guy gets a door for you walk though and play it cool, even if you don’t think it’s necessary.

47 Frank June 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

When a car is parked close to ours, I open the door from between the door and the wheel, that way I can hold the door to keep my wife from hitting the car next to us when she gets in.

48 Richard June 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

The one exception to the rule about holding doors open is:

When there is a potentially hazardous situation on the other side of the door, the gentleman goes through first, then holds the door open from that side.

As an example, the most dangerous time with elevators is when the doors have first opened as you are waiting outside. The car may not have settled level with the floor, or may not even be there at all! The doors could also close suddenly. So a gentleman enters first so he can be at the controls (which are always on the inside) and can keep a finger on the “Door Open” button as the lady gets on.

Another example would be if you are leaving a building and it is raining outside. The gentleman goes through the door first, opens his umbrella, and holds it over the doorway with one hand while he holds the door open with his other as the lady exits.

49 Anonymous Woman June 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I think the key point here is to keep it natural. Too much obvious effort (e.g. sprinting ahead to beat me to the door) makes it more about you than about me, which is not flattering.

For women to use it as a litmus test on a first date seems a little cruel in this day and age when it’s entirely possible he’s tried it before and been berated for it. Which leads me to say: Ladies, pick your battles! If he actually thinks you’re incapable of opening the door, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly from his conversation, and you’ll know to ditch the loser. By all means chew him out for that overtly sexist comment he makes over dinner, but if all he does is hold the door, he’s likely just trying to be nice!

To be clear, I’m a young woman in her mid-20′s. I don’t expect a guy to hold the door for me, but I’m flattered if he does, so it’s a good idea do it on a date if you happen to reach the door first. I regularly hold the door for both men and women when it makes sense, and I will go out of my way to do it for anyone who is older or physically encumbered in some way (a handicap, a large number of packages, a baby stroller, what have you).

Bottom line: don’t make it look like you’re trying too hard, just be gracious in the moment, whatever that happens to entail. Sometimes it means thanking the girl for holding the door for you.

50 Dan June 9, 2011 at 1:32 am

I agree with everything here since I’ve done it in practice, but the only thing I’ve always felt awkward about is opening the car door for her. Usually, we arrive at the car at the same time, and it feels forced to go ahead of her, open the car door, and then walk around to the driver’s side. I don’t mind it at all, but for some reason it feels awkward. I think it really depends on the girl. More “modern” or “go-getter” girls will just open their door at the same time, but I don’t know.

Anyone else have an opinion?

51 Katherine June 9, 2011 at 2:02 am

Great guidelines here — there are some sticky situations for guys these days. I’m in my early twenties, and consider myself fairly conservative on a number of levels, and will say that, while I would not judge a date negatively for the splitting-hairs-type etiquette standards for things like revolving doors, I do appreciate a man who is demonstrably, subtly polite. A man who can hit those little details, especially, demonstrates that he is thoughtful and attentive, and either was raised extremely well or took the initiative to learn excellent manners himself — both fantastic signs! Kudos to the guys who are on this site and who are thoughtful enough to be emailing regarding these types of questions.

One more piece of oft-forgot door-opening etiquette: When entering the backseat of a car (or cab, for instance) resist the urge to hand the lady in first. Doing so actually forces her to slide across the backseat to make room for a date, and then back out to exit onto the curb, or into traffic on the other side. Instead, enter first, so she may easily join you from the curb, and more easily exit without climbing over the seat, which can be slightly awkward maneuvering in a dress and heels. You’ll see well-trained doormen wave gentlemen into the car before ladies for this reason. Again, guys, no one is going to judge you for not knowing/following this little tip (it’s even possible that some women won’t recognize the gesture as politesse, as it’s unfortunately less-practiced now), but it is a thoughtful guideline to consider, should the situation arise!

52 Mike June 9, 2011 at 3:36 am

Great point, Katherine! I had never considered that tidbit with the cab. That can definitely be an awkward exchange.

53 Cat June 9, 2011 at 6:48 am

Never hold the door in such a way that a short woman has to walk under your arm as you brace the door open. That’s not being polite – frankly, it’d be better if you didn’t try to open the door at all in that case. I’m a shrimp and it seems to be that men try do this fairly frequently, please don’t be that guy.

If you’re trying to hold the door open for a woman that you don’t know and she tells you to go ahead, please respect that. It’s entirely possible that she doesn’t want you walking behind her because she feels uncomfortable (remember, she doesn’t know you). I grew up in the city and the simple fact is that after certain hours, I don’t like having people immediately behind me – and when a man refuses to stop holding the door, I’m going to assume that he’s trying to position me in a way that makes me more vulnerable to an attack, stop, and back track.

If a woman holds a door for you (whether you know her or not), don’t make a comment about that being the “man’s job”. Some of us were just raised with ‘holding the door open is the polite thing to do regardless of gender’.

54 Hickspy June 9, 2011 at 10:05 am

I’ll do it for my girlfriend or other female friends at things like restaurants and movies, but I think some of the more casual ones like opening the car door are slowly being phased out. I’m 22, and my entire experience of driving around with people in the car was shaped by everyone being in the car within 15 seconds.

55 cgirl June 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

I’m one of the apparently few women who don’t like guys holding doors for me. It seems a waste of time and effort (my time, his effort) However, when my guy holds the door for someone else (especially the elderly, disabled or stroller folks) I melt.

I do admit, there was a time when I took it as an insult that a guy “had” to open doors for me. It was foolish, but I was young. I’d like to point out that I was speaking from my own insecurity. As a girl, my dad emphasized that I was equal to a boy and “could” (had) to do everything a boy would do. So the few times I said “I don’t need you to hold the door for me” it was because I was scared and feeling insecure.

I’d like to ask people to be generous with people who seem to be ungrateful if you hold the door for them; it might just be they’ll grow out of it.

56 Mark Gill June 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

My girlfriend loves it that I open doors. But why stop there, being gentleman we should always be looking to maintain manners and grace in a natural way.

Recently as i walked towards a set of doors in a Manchester department store I opened the door for what is commonly described in Blighty as a ‘butch’ lady who like ladies.

She scowled at me and said ‘You don’t have to do that because I’m a woman.’ and the phrase suddenly came to me, ‘I didn’t do it because you’re a woman, I did because I’m a gentleman.’ I can’t lay any claim to inventing this, I just can’t remember where I heard it. But i was delighted that my memory served up a suitable riposte.

Manners Maketh Man.

57 Chad Smith June 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Brett and Kate,

You two never seem to dissapoint, thanks again for striking the nail on the head! Why is it that today chivalry is being, very quickly it seems, phased out? The town I live in has a lot of young men with a lot more money then they know what to do with.(small oil town in Northern Alberta) This seems to make them think they have no need for manners or any act of chivalry. My wife and I enjoy people watching while we are out on a date, whether it be dinner or any other place other people may be. What we see is amazing, how can it be called dating? What is known as a date today, used to be called hanging out. There seems to be no courting anymore, just, “Hey, wanna hang out sometime?” which leads to spending an afternoon watching TV together.
I know I am rambling on about a few different points, but for me, if today’s youth won’t even open a door for a lady, what is that leading towards?

Chad

58 Kevin June 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Great comments and a fantastic article. Just a couple of things to add to the mix. On revolving doors (non-auto) I try to walk thru first to do the pushing. Also, please remember to teach the “door holding” concept to your kids. My boys, ages 9 & 10 are now very good about holding doors not just for women but people in general. They get great comments and feedback which is wonderful for their confidence and self-esteem. Which brings me to the last point; thank you for the last paragraph which extends the door holding for women to people in general. It is simply common courtesy, something sorely missing from our society. It doesn’t bother me in the least to hold the door for women, men, kids , elderly, whatever. What is a small act of kindness worth. The only time it bothers me is when several people follow along behind the first person I hold the door for and they don’t even acknowledge the door holding. When that happens I simply follow in behind them and add a subtle “your weclome” just to bring the point home!

59 mom June 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

“or a person holding a crap load of packages,”
This was the best line in the article. I enjoy when my husband holds the door. However, I am capable of doing it myself. I also hold the door for my children and others. I have taught them that it is polite, especially to people with extra burdens.

60 Donal Mahoney June 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I am an older white guy who opens doors for old or fat or grumpy-looking minority women. I’ve been doing this for awhile and I am amazed at how amazed they are to see me do it. A white woman, though, has to be on her last legs for me to open a door for her. Gloria Steinem years ago weaned me of that practice.

61 Evan June 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Good stuff. Being a gentleman should have some similarities to being an umpire: if you’re doing it right, people shouldn’t really notice. The presence of a gentleman is often “felt, not seen.”

Opening doors should be done in a way that makes things easier and smoother all around. Not in a way that calls attention to the fact that you’re opening the door.

62 Solveig June 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

For me, a man opening a door is a small gesture that signals that this particular man is secure in his masculinity and therefore a very attractive trait.

63 Steve June 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm

As somebody who was brought up to be reasonably polite, I’ve always held doors open for people if I am by one. I have to say, the most appreciative ones are the older folks who almost without fail will always thank you.

64 Mike June 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

“Holding Doors Regardless of Gender” should be at the start of the article. The article makes the point well but it’s made in the wrong place. It’s the most important rule as if you’re only doing it for the woman you want to sleep with it isn’t chivalrous, it’s creepy. Opening the door for all people when it’s convenient is a common courtesy and I get confused by people who think of it primarily as a gender thing.

65 atroon June 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm

On the topic of car doors, I like to try to arrange things so that _my_ door is on the far side of the building we’re entering, and hers is nearest. This gives me the opportunity to open the door for her when exiting the car because I naturally have to walk around the vehicle anyway, so it looks natural. Not every date has taken me up on this, but a number of them have, and making it look easy is what makes the impression.

66 Ronald Squrie June 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Personally, I think preserving a few small differences in the expectations of male/female behavior, simply as symbols of our differences, keeps things fun. Rules and traditions give life texture and meaning, as opposed to living life in an entirely blah postmodern wasteland. Sameness is boring. Differences create attraction.

67 Ronald Squrie June 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Very well said Brett!…”Personally, I think preserving a few small differences in the expectations of male/female behavior, simply as symbols of our differences, keeps things fun. Rules and traditions give life texture and meaning, as opposed to living life in an entirely blah postmodern wasteland. Sameness is boring. Differences create attraction.”

68 MJ June 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm

@Mark Gill

Unless you are personally acquainted with the woman in your story, I don’t see how your claim that she was a ‘lady who likes ladies’ is anything more than slightly sexist speculation. If a woman looks masculine, she must be a lesbian? Sigh. We still have a way to go.

69 Laura June 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Nice!
A little act of Charity accepted lovingly is like balm for the soul i.e. a fellow holding open a door for a lady. Further, I’ve found it has a tendency to multiply in my own life – like “paying it forward.” You never know, what was once an opened door can become an extra kiss on a child’s forehead, a well-made lemon maringue pie, additional prayers or any other of a number of wonderous things!
(All this comes to you from a middle-aged, Navy vetran, breadwinner-by-circumstance, wife and mother of two.)
Keep posting! I love your blog!

70 Kate June 9, 2011 at 7:28 pm

My husband is very good about opening car doors for me, except in the summer time. We live in Phoenix, and if he opens the door for me, it is torture sitting in the hot car while I wait for him to walk around the car and get in on his side. During the summer, I would much rather open my own door so that he can get the A/C running as quickly as possible!

71 Jasmine June 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm

As a rather petite girl, I always appreciate when someone (male or female) holds a door open for me. And I always try to do the same, for both men and women. Holding the door open for another person should be done regardless of sex, age, or ability; if you are able to hold open a door, you should do it. It doesn’t matter if the person behind you is a man or woman, elderly or young, able or disabled. To me, it’s just common courtesy.

72 Jay June 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Plenty of women today do NOT act the way women acted in the days when men showed them deference, so why should men hold onto this courtesy?

Unless the woman is my wife or my superior at work…sorry, you’re just one of the guys to me.

73 Sakurako June 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I am a young lady and when I see a young man go out his way to open the door for me-they score major points. I understand that many young men simply have never been told or properly instructed and it is “iffy” issue. I know young gentlemen run a risk of being told off when they do actions. I have such a high respect for the young men who hold the door open despite the risk.
I apprecaite it! GREATLY! I love being a lady and I love when I am treated as such.
Keep it up!

74 CM June 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I love that you included all genders and agree with another comment that it should have been mentioned at the start. I really have never thought of opening the door for someone as an act reserved for women only. If I get to a door first, followed closely by another, I was raised to think it an act of fundamental courtesy to hold the door for them. If someone holds the door for me, be they male, female, young or old, I also take it as an act of courtesy and thank them. It’s just another example of how a bit of polite consideration makes the day a little brighter. I’ve never had anyone, of any gender, assume I’m making a statement about their physical abilities. :)

75 elleblue June 10, 2011 at 1:27 am

For me it’s not about gender at all, it’s all about manner and courtesy. I did go through a phase in my 20′s when I resented doors being opened for me but that passed, thank goodness. Now I see it only in terms of courtesy.

Loved the article though and laughed out loud during some of it!

76 Ironnsimba June 10, 2011 at 5:37 am

I found this article is mostly irrelevant until the end where you mention opening the door regardless of gender.
I don’t know how it works in the US but in the UK, guys open doors for men and women, just to be polite and helpful.

Sometimes, you have to think beyond etiquette and what rules other people are trying to impose on you. If you come back home with your date after dinner and open your front door, would you let her go first? What if there’s a burglar just behind trying to escape? As a man, perhaps you should go first to make sure the way is clear for your woman.

77 JM June 10, 2011 at 6:59 am

Women are perfectly able at opening doors, and I see no real reason to helping her do it unless her hands are full. Are you able to do it forever for your wife? Why not open every door for her in your own home?

78 TrevorB June 10, 2011 at 10:07 am

Good post, I am glad at the end you included holding the door for any gender. I see holding the door open as a simple curtousey and I hold the door for everyone young, old, male, female. The tricky part comes in opening a door for a stranger, it is all about the timing of when you get to the door

79 Theresa June 10, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I was delighted to discover your site today! As the parent of a 14 year old son, I am very conscious of bringing him up with manners and a sense of respect for others. Sadly, this often alienates him from his peers. He does get a big boost, though, when strangers remark about his good manners: opening the door or giving up his seat in church for someone, especially an elderly person. And I love that I can just assume he will open the door for his mom now. I am really irritated by the fact that there are so many women who are insulted by this simple act, which is merely a courtesy an not a statement about her abillity. This has resulted in a a whole lot of men between the ages of 30 and 60 who will let a door shut behind them without a second glance or who who won’t budge to help a lady get something off a high shelf, load something heavy into a shopping cart at Home Depot, etc. Shame on them, but that won’t be my boy. Anyway, thanks for creating a site that defines the lost art of manliness and makes it seem really cool to a teen boy.

80 Alexandria Joy June 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Excellent article. While dating or courting I always step aside to let a man open doors for me but now that I’m in a committed relationship, unless out in a formal setting, whoever gets to the door first opens it but as he has very long legs that normally isn’t me.

Anyway I’d like to mention this lovely site on my blog http://www.doomfortress.net/ where we discuss Neo-Victorianism and numerous points of etiquette. Thanks for a great article.

81 BJWalsh June 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for this, very interesting. Not sure what the etiquette is in the US but in England I think it’s considered appropriate to precede a lady through the door when entering a public building such as a pub etc but not ‘safe’ places like friends’ houses, home and work etc.

82 Sam June 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I hold the door because it’s always a polite thing to do. You never want to let the door shut in someone’s face.

83 Hugo June 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm

What about the man walking on side nearest the street? As a matter of practice, I try to always have the woman I’m with walk on the side of the sidewalk furthest from traffic. Although awkward at times, I believe it’s a lost practice.

84 Eve June 11, 2011 at 12:13 am

I have heard stories from gentlemen friends about getting cursed out for holding a door for a woman. I can only speak for myself, but I absolutely consider myself a feminist and have never taken offense at someone holding a door for me. The idea that it has anything to do with a woman being “too weak to open a door” is silly: it’s not even a question whether most women are physically capable of opening doors.

85 tef June 11, 2011 at 5:11 am

@BJWalsh: I totally agree, this part hasn’t been discussed enough. I grew up learning that I, as a man, had to enter shops, restaurants, etc., before the woman to check whether it was safe. It has practical reasons as well: when entering your restaurant, you don’t want your date be bothered by waiters. Instead, you want to do all the getting-a-table-business. But maybe that’s a european thing?

86 Emmanuel June 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

I loved the article. In fact, I sometimes wonder what happened to chivalry. As a 22 year old chivalrous youth, I get a bit offended when I offer to open a door and she refuses [same with paying].
Question, what about those doors with the mechanical arm (I cannot for the love of me remember the name) that slowly shuts the door and is quite hard to hold open?

87 Levi June 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Great Article! Answered some questions about double doors.

88 Ben June 12, 2011 at 1:56 am

Great article, Just a note about the car doors, I was very happy that growing up (driving age-early 20s) my car had manual locks, this meant that I had go to the passenger door to unlock it, and then it was a perfect opportunity to open the door. Now I have a car with automatic locks which makes the act much harder to pull off nonchalantly. The car door has defiantly scored me big points with moms and grandmoms, but maybe since people my age (20s) didn’t grow up with it, it is a little more out of place.

…And just like accepting a compliment, accepting a open door is something that has to be learned, I think people misconstrue the intent otherwise.

89 Carla June 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

Good article. I just want to say that I’m a woman and I open doors for others regardless of gender, it really is just common courtesy.

90 Tuesday June 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I think this is a great article! I am a woman in my 20s and I have heard young men say that the door-opening issue is a tricky one. To all women ou there who are offended by a man holding a door open, I say, get over it. Everyone knows that most women are perfectly capable of opening a door, so the gesture is simply an act of kindness, not a sign of a sexist macho-man. The statement that equality does not mean tit-for-tat behavior and keeping score is an excellent point. I certainly believe that men and women deserve equal education, equal opportunities, equal pay but it does not follow that males and females are identical to each other. How silly would that be? And how dull? One of my pet peeves is the fact that in modern society, we often try to gloss over the obvious differences that make us unique in an effort to be political correct. Bosh! I am not a man and I don’t want to be treated like “one of the guys”. No I don’t want to be coddled or babied. I’m an intelligent, resourceful woman and secure enough in my femininity to appreciate a man who embraces his masculinity. Men, if you open the door for me, regardless of if I have an armful of packages, fear not; I won’t curse like a sailor. I will thank you like the well-mannered, civil person I was raised to be.

91 Nicole June 13, 2011 at 2:29 am

I open doors for men and for women. And whenever anyone bothers to hold a door for me, I give them the biggest smile I can manage, look them in the eye, and say “Thank you.” It always makes my day, and I want whoever it is to know it.

My mother told me that when a gentleman opens the car door for you and closes it afterward, the polite thing to do is to lean across the car and open the door for them (just slightly). Kind of unnecessary with automatically unlocking cars, but it always seems to be appreciated.

I see rules about chivalry as counter-productive, but just being nice helps the world go around. Thanks for another great article!

92 Daniel June 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

Brent, thanks for taking the time to outline these points. I had some questions myself, specially the “door that opens inwardly” issue.

93 Meite June 13, 2011 at 11:10 am

Wonderful article. I love that my boyfriend opens doors for me. A few women have noted that it is important to close the car door after helping your lady in. So true! My boyfriend was always afraid he was going to kill an ankle or destroy a dress so he’d always leave it open…all the way! I’m a short lady so I’d end up awkwardly half stepping outside the car to catch the handle and close it again. Another thing to watch is WHERE you’re parking. If your lady is in heels do your best to make sure she has a stable, puddle free surface to land on. This may also include watching for things like grass, gravel, and mud. I really appreciate how my man always watches out for these things.

94 Mary June 13, 2011 at 11:58 am

So true! Guys have no idea how good it makes a girl feel if he holds the door for her. It always makes my day when a guy holds the door for me. But not over-doing it is also very important….there was a guy once on my college campus who would bow himself in half and hold the door for every girl no matter how far away from the door she was–even up to 30 feet away! That makes us feel like the guy is a footman and that gets uncomfortable. The effortless, casual style is the ONLY way.

95 Samantha June 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I think that good visual aids for any man who wants to learn how to open doors or pull out chairs are movies from the 1940s, especially film noirs. The men physically relate differently to the “bad girls” and “good girls”.

96 Yared June 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm

One thing I always try to do when I open a door for a girl is to put my hand on her lower back and very gently push her in. It reflects that you’re willing to lead a woman. It can also show that you’ve “scoped out the place and deemed it safe for her to enter” beyond simply opening the door, which I believe appeals to women on a subconscious, primal level.

Another thing is the walking closer to the edge of the sidewalk that someone mentioned. I’ve been taught that sometimes, a woman will remember it and months later say “that cute thing you did where you put yourself between me and the edge of the sidewalk is what made it for me”.

I believe that for a relationship to work, you need to have some form of sexual polarity. A feminine and a masculine part. I also believe that this is especially important in sex – there needs to be a submissive and a dominant part, and females tend to be the submissive. It is true for homosexuals too – in fact, they are very conscious of it, probably more than most heterosexuals.

I’m not saying that I think that women are inferior and should stay in the kitchen and stuff :P I just believe that gender-roles within relationships are healthy to some extent.

97 Bob June 15, 2011 at 9:34 am

Good blog,

I like your covering the details to make this act to appear clumsy. My dad would always remind me when I was a kid to get up to the front and open the door for my mom. It became an automatic response, when I went to take my driving test (several decades ago) I held the door open for my examiner (an elderly lady), my dad was watching, and swears that I passed the test before I even got to the car.

98 Missy June 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I don’t think the question of opening doors for women has anything to do with a woman’s ability. Of course she can do it herself, unless she is elderly or infirm or disabled. It is a gesture of respect and graciousness that tells a woman she is special. It symbolizes a man’s protectiveness and care, which perhaps she does not need in that moment, but again, it is symbolic. When my husband opens a door for me, whether a car door or the door to a building, it is as if he was saying: “On my watch, you have someone looking out for you.”

One tip: don’t open a door for a woman and allow her to proceed ahead of you if she will be entering an unpleasant or potentially dangerous place! Go ahead of her into the damp basement, the cobweb-filled garage, down the rickety basement steps…you get the idea.

99 Denise June 16, 2011 at 8:43 am

What a great (as usual) post! I am a lesbian, and can’t tell you how many times, in fact pretty Michael everytime, a man still opens the door for me or exits an elevator after I. It’s refreshing to know that while I am quite gender neutral and sometimes gender-bending in appearance (I’ve been known to rock a fine Windsor knot in the office) I am still regarded and respected for the woman that I am, and in turn love to still straighten my male colleagues’ ties from time to time and play up my feminine role. I may be the minority in this thinking, but just because I am gay doesn’t mean I feel the need to constantly challenge men to be seen as equal or ‘as good as’ ( maybe because I’m married and comfortable).
I’ll ope the door for a lady, but I’ll also open a door for a guy with his arms full or absolutely and always for a senior citizen; I find them to be one of our community’s greatest treasures.
Keep in mind that holding and opening doors is simply polite- regardless of gender, sexuality or age.

Great post and great site! SUCH A FAN!!

100 K. June 17, 2011 at 2:53 am

Yes because opening doors for women is going to give your life meaning.Honestly it annoys me when my dad or anyone opens the door for me.I agree with the crapload of stuff part though.But one question,if I am opening a door you seriously have to “help” me open it.Don’t worry,I am not a feminist…yet.

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