Graces and Gentlemen
“In truth, politeness is artificial good humor, it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue.” – Thomas Jefferson
I’ve got a secret to admit. I, like Jefferson, am a big fan of old fashioned good manners. Yes sirs, no ma’ams, pleases, and thank you’s. Pardon me, may I, much obliged, and may I be excused. Such small niceties are the lace on a nightgown, the point after touchdown, that little extra spice that makes existence extra nice.
More and more, the trendsetters, the “I do what I feel! You can’t judge me!” types, revel in their lack of gentility. They are proud of their ignorance regarding basic dinner party silverware rules (start with the outermost utensils and work inward with each successive course.) They know how to back that thing up, but are wholly incapable of dancing a simple box step. They are often held as exemplars because of their money, as paragons of class because they spend on the finer things. They are not classy, they are déclassé.
Alas, arguments against decorum are not limited to the proles. Both Heartiste and One have claimed that the simple door open is a sign of weakness. When the topic was first broached, I was lukewarm in my opposition. Now, I’m firmly opposed to focusing on such trivialities. If your status as a leader is so tenuous as to be affected by opening doors, your status is not actually tenuous, it is cemented. You are not a leader.
If you are not a leader, and you do seek to be one, then there are worse paths to take than basic courtesy, including door opening. As basic etiquette has fallen by the wayside, having a bit of old school class differentiates you from those around you. It’s free, it’s timeless, it’s masculine. Knowing which champagne complements the amuse-bouche, knowing which single malt will best match your after dinner cigar, and buffering everything in between with a command of decorum will not cause anyone to doubt your status. It is a show of leadership and, as long as you execute it confidently, will be treated as such.
So get over concerns about white knighting or wondering what the Situation would do in your situation and act like an adult who didn’t just crawl out from under a rock.
For the doubters, think of it this way. You are walking into a building. A few seconds behind are a man and a cute girl. They are not together; they are just on the same schedule. You ignore both and walk into the building. You go about your day. Nothing lost, nothing gained.
Now, get into your wayback machine, head back outside, and hold the door open for both. You engage both in a bit of conversation and you get to check out the cute girl’s booty. You just enjoyed two of the finer things in life – conversation and ass. Nothing lost, something gained.
So risk opening a door, you may be surprised as to the opportunities that open in front of you as a result. If nothing else, you get to check out the tailfeather of that chickadee who works on the second floor.
The original version of this appeared on August 24, 2010. A tweet from the Geographer (@BeerAndConcrete) inspired me to knock the dust off and republish it.