How to be polite to women without annoying them

Story highlights

  • Manners never go out of style, but sometimes they need an update
  • Many formerly charming customs now seem a little sexist
  • Not every door needs to be held or check must be grabbed
  • But every cell phone does need to be put away -- that's non-negotiable
Don't listen to the naysayers: Chivalry isn't dead. It just has one of those really bad, impossible-not-to-notice skin diseases that make everyone around it feel slightly uncomfortable and unsure how to behave.
The truth is, chivalry is a weird fit in the modern world. It is, after all, a code of conduct passed down from a time when ladies wore metal underwear to protect the integrity of their vaginas. It presupposes the "fairer sex" needs a gentlemanly aide to do just about everything.
That's simply not true. We are not adult-sized toddlers. Though I can see how medieval men might have been confused, considering that we were probably pooping our chastity diapers all the time.
But in the modern age, hopping to your feet every time we enter a room just makes all of us look silly. Plus, women could take your chivalrous overtures as a sign you believe all that ladies-are-helpless-wee-darlings stuff.
That said, sometimes it is nice to be treated nicely, just for, like, the niceness of it. There is a place for modern chivalry—or as I like to call it, common courtesy. The rules just need some updating. So that's exactly what we did.
Old Rule: Always hold the door.
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New Rule: Almost always hold the door.
No woman is going to roll her eyes if you hold a door open for her. And really, holding a door is not about preserving our delicate upper-body muscles. It's a common courtesy that socialized humans do for one another, regardless of gender. Just don't do that thing where you make us sprint sans sports bra for the door because you raced ahead to hold it open when we weren't even close. That defeats the whole point. But as long as you're in the right physical proximity (i.e., a foot or so from the door) and not running ahead like a toddler dying to press an elevator button, go for it.
Just don't be too showy about it. No need for a Downton Abbey -esque hand flourish—you're ushering us through a doorway, not into Buckingham Palace. And if we're closer to the door, don't maneuver us out of the way just to take hold. You see those long danglers on either side of our breasts? They're arms! And we know how to use them—as ZZ Top once sang about our legs—only physically in this case.
And finally, don't use this as an opportunity to steal a glimpse at our butts, as one former co-worker used to do very indiscreetly. She might not witness your eyeballs Wile E. Coyote-ing out of your head, but everyone behind her will.
*Exception: But never, ever the door to the taxi.
I know you think you're being nice by letting us get in first, but you know what? Sliding your butt across three seats of sticky black leather is not fun. We wear skirts sometimes! We could get leather burn on our derrieres! If you would be so kind, please clumsily hurl your pants-protected body in first, and we will follow you gracefully, dignity intact.
Old Rule: The man always pays.
New Rule: If she asks, she pays.
Under no circumstances should you pay for every meal, movie, and whale-watching expedition. That makes us feel uncomfortable. Seriously. I know we always freak out when Pretty Woman is on TBS, but no one actually wants to be a high-class prostitute. If you ask us out to dinner, pay for that dinner. If we ask you out to dinner, we'll pay for dinner. (But don't order anything too expensive, okay? We still earn eighty-one cents to your dollar.)
A note on that latter situation: If we take care of the bill, don't freak out. It doesn't mean we're not interested in you, as if we're politely buying our way out of seeing your penis later. And it doesn't mean that we're showing off how we're so much more successful than you. I wish I didn't even have to issue this disclaimer, but I've dealt with more than a few men who've balked when I took the lead come bill-payin' time. We're just being nice! Like you're being nice when you pay the bill. Right? You're not trying to prove anything, are you?
Old Rule: Order for her.
New Rule: Never order for her.
Seriously, who started that tradition? Napoleon? "If I aggressively order for ze mademoiselle, she won't notice I am but un métre tall!" It's just so absurd and megalomaniacal. We can read a restaurant or Seamless menu and decide what we want to eat, thank you. If you actually want to be nice, let us pick out your meal, too. We'll eat half.
*Exception: We're working late.
Like missed-dinner-and-considered-catching-and-eating-a-rat-on-the-subway late. If there's not decent food waiting for us when we slump through the door, we'll go straight for that two-month-old take-out box in the back corner of the refrigerator, ensuing Moo Goo Gai Butt Death be damned. So please order something, anything, for us. We will be grateful. I promise.
Old Rule: Put your phone away.
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New Rule: Put your phone away.
This. Is. Important. It isn't even new. Back in the olden days, the rule went like this: "Do not lie thy messenger dove by the meat stew of thy love." No amount of door opening, bill paying, or carrying thy lady over a foul sewer puddle can make up for being That Guy who puts his phone on the table during dinner. Unless you're a heart surgeon, texting can wait until after the meal. Or at least until she excuses herself to go to the bathroom to text her friends.
Old Rule: Stand up when we enter a room.
New Rule: Don't get up.
What, you think we're Queen Victoria? Are you calling us old? Wait...are you calling us dead?!
Old Rule: Punch people to defend her honor.
New Rule: Do not punch people to defend her honor.
You're at a bar. Some dude dares to flirt with your female companion. You think, I should punch him! That's what a real man would do. That's not what men do. That's what utterly clueless jerks with thirsty knuckles do. Or scary 'roiders with rage problems. Remember, we are prettier and more educated than you. (Nationwide study. FACT, son.) We are more than capable of ridding ourselves of an unwanted suitor. In fact, if you're the kind of guy who goes around throwing punches in our honor, we will do the same to you.
What you can do: Come up with a joint SAVE ME! code—a tap on the left elbow, a three-second nostril flare, whatever—for emergency rescue-me-from-this-convo use. She'll return the favor next time you're stuck talking to a friend of a friend's friend visiting here from Germany.
*Exception: Unless they're jerks.
Some dude called us fat. Punch away, strong man-friend!
Old Rule: Fight off home intruders.
New Rule: Go downstairs if she hears something, anything.
Here's a telling story: Once, I farted in bed with my new boyfriend. Quelle horreur! Fortunately my fart happened to sound exactly like a creaky old door opening, and fortunately, to the power of a billion, my front door happened to be a creaky old door. So I played it off: "Oh no, did you hear that? I think that was someone opening the door!"
Without hesitation, my dude jumped out of bed, grabbed a bat from the closet, and tiptoed down the stairs to check out the situation. And I was really grateful he did that. Not only because it bought time for the smell to dissipate, but also because it is really nice having someone there to protect you from danger. Even today.
Yes, this contradicts that whole women-don't-need-saving thing, but chances are, you're bigger than us—thus you have to be the one who gets killed first.