Opening the Door for Someone: Act of Deference or Dominance?


Whenever possible, I have doors open themselves for me.  Enveloped in a regal feeling, automatic doors gently splice, a formerly occluded world now parted, as if to say, “Welcome, you Important Soul.”

And automatic doors are especially helpful when walking in groups–decision-making becomes unnecessary.  I tend to hustle ahead of the others, get to the door first and announce, “I got it!”  Doors open effortlessly, desperate throngs are now given safe passage into Wal-Mart, my chivalry quotient growing exponentially.

A close 2nd to automatic doors is the revolving door.  Minimal effort is required, and many revolve automatically, the best of both worlds.  Nice and easy.  Right?

He's ok, I checked.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough automatic and revolving doors in this world, making us all subject to ADHD: Awkward Door Holding Dance.  Important to note, this disorder is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

As a young buck, I was taught to open doors for women.  No questions.  Just do it.  My female relatives had no problem with this–they downright expected the pleasantry.  I learned, later in life, that some women see the act as undermining, signaling a physical, social and/or economic weakness. I was actually reprimanded by a woman once.

No thank you!  I can hold the door myself!”  She clutched her purse as if it contained the last known vial of bitch potion.

“Ok, lunatic.”  I never said that, out loud.

Her admonishment seared a struggle into my once magnanimous brain.  To hold or not?

This Seinfeldian dilemma, ADHD, plays out between guys, too.  I assure you, some men refuse to doors being held for them.  They feel threatened.  Me?  I let them open the door, because I’m a regal S.O.B.

The typical male struggle occurs when guys approach from opposite sides.  He who gets to the door first has the upper hand, as in the case of Random Guy #1.

Random Guy #1 holds open the door for Random Guy #2, “Please.”

Late to the game, #2 relies on gesture, a head nod, suggesting the weakest make passage, countering with, “No, no, no.

#1 won’t stand for it.  He pushes the door open wider, and without making eye contact–they key to winning–breathily spits, “C’mon.”

The use of “C’mon” has 2 meanings:

  1. If you don’t go though this door I’m gonna punch you in the face.
  2. You’re goin’ through this door.

Random Guy #2 was tardy, ensuring his demise (there’s a lot to be said about the subtle jog up to a door).  In no time, #2 succumbs because people are piling up around this ADHD situation.  His posture resembles a dog caught going #2 in the house.

I think I can explain why some people don’t like the door held for them, aside from the Women’s Liberation Movement.  After considerable research, I’ve discovered a causation effect between phrases like “watch your back” and “cover your ass” and the incidence of ADHD.

So, where do you stand (or hold)?

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11 Responses to Opening the Door for Someone: Act of Deference or Dominance?

  1. Great post! (and I love your blog title)

  2. Obviously the “bitch” you tried to hold the door for was under 40 yrs. old because after that women become invisible to men thereby causing them to actually get doors slammed in their faces.
    Also, you forgot the “got suckered into holding for a crowd” scenario. That’s the one where you graciously hold the door for one person only to have a exiting hoard appear out of nowhere.
    Very funny post.

  3. ADHD. Love it! Absolutely hilarious.

    I was out with my oldest daughter a couple of years ago and held the door for a woman as she was coming into the restaurant we were leaving. “No thank you,” she said. “We can get the door for ourselves,” apparently referring not only to herself but also to my daughter who was behind me, and all females everywhere. I don’t anger easily, but I was incensed. I’m an equal opportunity door holder! Like you I was taught to hold doors for women, but also like you, I simply do it as a gesture of courtesy regardless the beneficiary. I was so caught off guard by her comment I simply responded with an “okay” and a sort of sarcastic laugh. What’s weird is given the timing of her approach and our exit, there’s almost no other way the encounter could have played out. It was almost like she left the house that day determined to stick it to the next poor guy who happened to be unlucky enough to hold a door for her.

    What’s ironic is that in a way, she was being sexist towards me. I’ll bet she wouldn’t have said that had a woman held the door. I’m not sure how a woman can justify being a jerk about having the door held open by a man when it’s possible he holds the door open for others regardless. In which case, by the way, the man is actually providing exactly what a woman with those opinions wants: equal treatment!

    P.S. My wife and daughters love it when I open doors for them, especially the car door. So there, random woman who hates having doors held open for her by a man because she’s a woman and can do it on her own!

  4. caitlinstern says:

    I once had a friend refuse to go through a door I’d opened for him. We had a several minute stand-off before he threatened to pick me up and carry me through the door. (He may not have been joking, I have odd friends.) I informed him that I’d kick him if he reached for me, and he finally went through the door.
    I was, honestly, a little offended. People need to be more mellow about these kinds of things…

  5. Kermit says:

    It seems to be more of an act of dominance than respect. That’s why if someone opens the door for me I keep MY HAND on the door so that they know I’m STILL in charge. I just hate these little micro-aggressions. Men wouldn’t do something “respectful” for a woman if it didn’t validate them as a man. It’s all about dominance. ladies. Don’t buy it.

  6. Kermit says:

    .. which is exactly why 2 men fight for the one who opens the door because the man who walks through is the “b****”. Tell me again that door holding is a sign of respect. I guess I just notice these things because I’m a pre-transition closeted transsexual man. lol

    • Wow–very insightful, Kermit. Thanks for the feedback. Strangest thing–this post gets more traffic than any other post I’ve got. There’s something about this topic that generates strong feelings. Truth be told, I let people open the door for me because I’m a deity, and they know it.

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