Q. I have a very big problem. I am a junior high school student who is very shy. I have gone to the guidance counselors, but nothing seems to help. My family is very poor, and I cannot afford to go to a shrink.
Well, this is my problem. My best friend borrows money from me occasionally (she is not using me) and I from her. But I always pay her back. She never pays me back. I cannot ask her for it, because I feel stupid. You know it's kind of hard saying, "Hey, do you have my money?" She's making me broke, and I don't know what to do.
A. Never mind the shrinks. All nice people turn shy at about the time they realize there are other people in the world (a revelation that tends to occur in about the fourth grade). Eventually, the wear and tear of the world rubs some of this off, and they turn into charming people. Those who were brazen in junior high school rarely do.
This is not to say that Miss Manners is recommending only time as a cure for your shyness, or for your more immediate financial problem. Time takes so long, doesn't it?
The cure for shyness is to accept calmly the fact that you are shy, and to learn to act the part of someone who is not shy. Miss Manners has very high standards of acting, and does not suggest that you plunge in with some crude imitation of the nearest popularity king or queen. Study the facial expressions and mannerisms of people whom you considered to be also shy, and then observe those of people who are not. When you begin to have a feeling for the difference, start subtly imitating those of the non-shy. If nothing else, this should take your attention away from yourself and focus it on others which is, in itself, a cure for shyness.
The financial problem is even easier to solve. As you both borrow from each other, you need only keep secret accountings of the exchanges. If you have come out $3 behind, for example, you do not ask for "your" $3; you simply tell your friend that you need $3 and ask to borrow it. Isn't that what your self-confident friend would do?
Q: This is meant in all sincerity. Honest!
I was always taught to be a gentleman. Hold doors, help with coats for the ladies, etc. My dilemma involves revolving doors. Does a fellow go first, to push the door? If he stands back and lets the lady go first, then she will have to propel the door!
A: Miss Manners is perfectly ready to accept your statement as honest and sincere, if you will do her the same courtesy. She warns you that this will not be easy.
You see, Miss Manners was brought up to be a lady, and therefore taught the following method in regard to revolving doors:
Lady and gentleman approach the revolving door. Gentleman grabs door to stop it from revolving, and lady enters one segment. She stands there with her hands by her sides. Gentleman then pushes door to get it going. Lady begins to walk slowly through, at a pace measured to keep her in the center of her wedge until she arrives at an exit point.
You see how fraught with danger this system is if the gentleman does not know his part, or the lady misjudges the pace. Miss Manners has never actually been hurried along by a good smack from the door behind her, but she has stood there, idiotically immobile like a goldfish in a tank (wearing approximately the same facial expression) because things fail to move.
Yes, a lady proceeds a gentleman into the door, and a gentleman then pushes it for her. But you would think that a lady of sense would take matters into her own hands if he does not.