I was being a gentleman by opening the passenger's side door of my car for her, and then I closed it after she got in. After I got in the driver's side, she told me that I didn't have to do that for her and I responded, "Yes, I did have to do that! It is simply the polite thing for a man to do for a woman when he is going to take her someplace, regardless of whose car it is, and this is how I was brought up at home!"
I still do that for her every time I drive, whether it is in my car or her car! Am I doing the right thing, even though she tells me from time to time that I don't have to?
I also will open doors for her and let her in or out first, whether it is in public places, at her house or at my house!
As you have noticed, there is no longer a universally accepted idea of gender-related manners. And there is no use yearning for the standardization of the past, because that had a serious flaw.
But if you will bear with Miss Manners as she gives you a short history lesson, she will give you an answer you will like.
When you were taught manners, gentlemen always had two sets of them at their command: business manners and social manners. Ladies were not supposed to work, so those who did — and the poor having worked since the beginning of time — were not considered ladies, entitled to the deference that was practiced socially.
Yet when women did move up in the workforce, they were treated socially: given superficial precedence while being expected to act as hostesses in such matters as serving coffee. And ladies who were unused to practicing business manners continued to observe such social restrictions as not taking credit or mentioning money, both of which are serious professional detriments.
An obvious solution would be to practice that dual system of social and business manners. But obtuse gentlemen had trouble processing the idea, and fed-up ladies declared that they should just forget the whole social courtesy thing.
So your friend thought it had disappeared, and yet learned to find charm in it, as, frankly, does Miss Manners. So enjoy it with your friend, as long as you don’t practice it with your colleagues.
Dear Miss Manners: Please tell me, during what months is it appropriate to wear boots?
Whenever your feet would otherwise get wet. Miss Manners is not a weather forecaster, but she suggests you consult one.
2021, by Judith Martin