Hold the Door
“The wolf that holds the door for the rest of the pack, eats last.”
-- Uncle Ray as he raced past me to eat a grandma
Time for another installment of my Steampunk Gentleman series. Today, we’ll cover a gentlemanly duty, holding the door. It’s complicated, and if you think you’re only on the receiving end of door holdings, not so fast. There’s technique for you, too. But first, a word on Gentlemanship.
Use the Gentle Cycle
A feature of steampunk is to use old timey words and style with a modern twist. As I write this, it is the 21st century. Gender roles and all that has changed a lot since Queen Victoria had any say over things. The term gentleman has less to do with being a man, than it does being gentle, that is treating others with courtesy and respect.
The Door Thusly Held
Let’s cover what to do as the beneficiary of a held door. As you approach the door, look where the handle and the hinge is. The gentleman about to hold the door, needs to grab that handle and step to the side with the hinge. That means you need to be on the other side of him. It’s a waltz, and if you get this wrong, he’ll be in your way or you’ll have to duck under his arm and it all gets awkward.
The easiest way to position yourself is to move to the expected side as you join them, such as from the lobby or car. That doesn’t work if you don’t know the door setup, the classic pattern is for the gentleman to walk between the lady and the street. Once you encounter the unexpected door on the “wrong” side, you can either hold the door for him or pause a step before reaching the door, allowing him to be gallant and get the door for you. The latter solution seems a bit much, so I would advise opening the door when it’s on your side, or asking for your companion to step forward and get the door.
Pay attention to who is also approaching the door or about to pass from the other side. No, not ghosts. If you scurry through before the other party, your gentleman likely has to hold the door for them since they are so close and now you are separated. Wait and allow them through. This also lets your partner follow you through the door and resume his place by your side.
Prepare to Hold Door
A gentleman looks ahead, thinks ahead. Know where you’re going, get on the side you need to be in a smooth manner. If you didn’t pay attention to the last section, that side is where the hinge is.
If the door opens toward you
Approach the door so you’re close enough to reach the handle without leaning, but not so close your toes will strike it when you start to pull. As you pull the handle and step back and to the side so you aren’t directly behind the now open door, but also aren’t blocking the doorway. Avoid any “After you” or “allow me” commentary, as the goal is to not make a big show of it
If the door opens away from you
Step through, bringing the door to a perpendicular position, and you standing at the end, along the plane of the open door. You don’t want to be in the actual doorway path as you are now in the way. As your companion passes through, you are able to rejoin her and allow the door to close.
Stuck Holding the Door
A common dilemma of being nice is that after your companion passes through, a wave of other couples shamble behind her and you’re trapped in the logical conflict of being a gentleman and returning to your own party. There’s no set rule to this other than not letting the door slam into somebody’s face. If the next person is already within reach of the door, make eye contact, and allow them to receive the door as you join your companion. Always hold the door for somebody who is physically burdened.
The Bane of Car Doors
Automobiles have changed the rules quite a bit. In the old days, a gentleman might scurry around to get the door of the Model T. Or Servants might hold the carriage door for both of you. In the modern era, a woman casually dressed can get her own door, and often prefers it. If you are still feeling gallant, consider this, get the door for her as you approach the vehicle. If she’s in heels or a dress, you are likely doing her a favor as it ensures the door doesn’t close on her. Unless those heels are particularly tricky, she may be fine on the egress,and in fact, waiting for you to exit the car and come to her side will just slow things down.
Carriage of One Door
Getting in the backseat of a cab changes things. The gentleman should open the door, but enter first and slide to the far seat. This allows the lady to slip in without trying to drag her skirt across seats.
I figured out most of these lessons over the course of a few decades of marriage. Research confirmed my conclusions were correct. Uncle Ray was right, about missing out on the best choices of meat, but since I had hands, the pack voted me to open and hold the door. In civilized society, taking time to be courteous pays off more than the reward of kidney from Little Red’s grandma.
Check out the rest of my Steampunk Gentleman series at https://www.klforslund.com/blog/category/Gentleman