The Polite Man At Target And My Challenge With Feminism

Hand on handle, man opening a car door on the street
Hand on handle, man opening a car door on the street

I have an admission to make. I love politeness.

I know that may seem untenable considering my foul mouth and general disregard for all things having to do with rules and decorum and yet... I love it when people are polite.

I'm about to reveal something so perverse you may want to hide your kids and gird your loins.

Here it is. Ready?

I'm polite.

To a fault.

Without being asked I give up my seat for those who are older than me (whose numbers are diminishing, by the way), I handwrite personal thank you notes, not emails, using real paper, and a pen. Then I actually mail them. With a stamp.

I dispense pleases and thank you's like Tic Tacks. I even have the bad habit of thanking Siri which can start a whole "who's on first" sort of endless labyrinth of questions and answers. I don't recommend it.

I let people with only a couple of items go ahead of me in line at the market and I've been known to run two blocks to return a lost sock to a barefoot little kid in a stroller.

We all do that, right? No, not really. If it were commonplace it wouldn't feel like such an anomaly. 

All of this to say, I know what it looks like, I recognize it in others and when its shown to me -- I show great appreciation when I can. Like now.

The other day in the parking lot at Target -- while unloading my overfilled cart (because, hey, it's Target), I dropped my keys getting into my car.

I was rushing, which as we all know is the silent signal to the Universe that it must step in and slow us down -- hence the key drop. Seeing that my hands were full, a lovely gentleman the age of a very expensive bottle of wine bent over to help me. I didn't know he was there and that's when we bumped heads...and I dumped the entire contents of my purse all over both our feet.

"Owwww!" we exclaimed in unison, laughing and rubbing our heads. He rubbed his own head not mine. In some countries rubbing another's head makes you as good as married -- so we were careful to keep our head rubbing to ourselves.

Luckily, we got distracted because simultaneously, out of my purse poured numerous packs of gum, my poo-poo spray, wallet, fifteen tubes of lipstick and enough spare change to send a kid to Harvard for four years.

Polite grandpa wasn't even fazed although I saw him do a double-take as he handed me the pine scented toilet spray. "Yes, it's a thing, old man. Women don't want to stink up public restrooms so now there's a spray for that. I know. I wish I'd invented it too. I'd be getting into a Rolls Royce while my chauffeur fetched me the Grey Poupon. "

Anyway...as he stopped a double-A battery that was threatening to roll under my car with his foot (it was a dead battery from something, I can't remember what, and I wanted to dispose of something filled with acid properly so naturally it had been living inside my purse), I thanked him profusely for taking the time to help me out. He could have kept walking just like all of the other men and women who were trying not to stare.

That's when he crossed the line. The line between mere politeness and hard-core chivalry. He opened my car door for me while I awkwardly climbed inside, thanking him the entire time.

Here's the thing. I married my husband because he opened my car door for me on our first date -- and every day since. Rain or shine the man opens my car door for me. That cancels out a lot of bad shit in my book. He could have the face of Shrek and smell like a 13-year-old boy's feet and I would be able to overlook all of that and live with him in wedded bliss -- because of the door thing.

Men, being polite to women?
Why is that so damn rare these days?

When you watch the old movies, all of the men opened car doors. (As an aside, you cannot find a photo later than 1960 showing a man opening a women's car door. Seriously. I looked.)

They also lit cigarettes, pulled out chairs and actually stood up when a women entered the room!

The feminist in me used to find all of that demeaning, now I'm not so sure.

I blame women's lib. I know it's not a popular position to take, but it's mine. I can't blame the men these days. Any man under forty has no idea that that sort of thing, that respect toward women, used to be commonplace. When we burned our bras we also started opening our own doors and pulling out our own chairs, and all of that other stuff -- because we could -- and the men just followed our lead.

Don't underpay me or talk down to me, you do that at your own peril, but it's perfectly fine to hold the door so  it doesn't slam in my face. I believe those things are mutually exclusive.

I suppose they're a dying breed from another era. Men like that. My Target parking lot guy certainly was. As for my husband, well, he's French and they still put women on pedestals made of cheese -- and that's okay by me.

Carry on,
xox