Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Know When To Hold 'Em

OK, it's time for today's sociological question: How long should you hold a door open for someone? That is, of course, assuming you hold the door at all.

First, let me give you the background for this question. This morning, I was coming out of the convenience store where I always go in the morning to get some breakfast on my way to work. As I opened the door, there was an older man, probably in his fifties, maybe sixties, approaching. I estimate that he was fifteen to twenty feet away when I opened the door, and by the time I let the door close, he was probably within seven to ten feet. So that leads to the question, should I have held the door for him?

I believe this is a situation which one encounters on an almost daily basis, but it is a situation for which there are no written rules, and it is not often discussed in an open forum. That's where I come in :-) Before we are able to give a reasonable answer or formulate our own personal door-holding policy, we must first look at several variables and circumstances which can affect how we should handle the door-hold conundrum.

First, there must be some time limit set as to how long you hold the door. After a few seconds, it simply becomes awkward. I would also say, that at least for me, the time limit is different for men and women (see table 4.2 below). Secondly, we must look at the hold-type. For women, I do what I call a FOCOF hold. That's full-open-clear-out-follow. I open the door fully, clear out of her way, and then allow her to enter first, following her in. Never, I repeat, NEVER do this for a man. It wreaks of non-heterocity. Trust me. For a man, I do a simple pause-and-reach-behind hold. I open the door, pause while holding it open just long enough so that they can catch it. These two hold-types seem to work well for me.

Now, as for the time, this will vary from person to person, and also may vary depending on the sex, age, and hotness of the holdee. As a rule, anything more than five seconds is going to be quite awkward. So, here are my suggestions. (And remember, I'm not an etiquette expert, but I do occasionally read Heloise and listen to the John Tesh radio program.)

Table 4.2:Door-hold limits (maximum suggested times listed)
Females: 3-5 seconds (May vary depending on hotness, age, and personal preference.)
Elderly males: 2-3 seconds (The key here is to avoid anyone falling or any broken bones.)
Other males: 1 second (The key here is to avoid appearing gay.)

Another way you can help to avoid awkward door-hold situations is to plan ahead. Be prepared. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you foresee an awkward door-holding situation arising in time, there are ways to avoid it. Alter your course. One way you can do this is by pausing to look at something. Another way to do this is by increasing or decreasing your walking pace. Here's an example: If I'm approaching a store and my ETA at the door is 3 seconds and I see a female approaching with an ETA of 7 seconds, I can slow my pace, making my ETA 5 seconds, leaving me with a less-awkward-looking 2 second hold time. Also, with females, since I do the full-open-clear-out-follow hold, this entire process can take off an extra second or two of possible awkward time.

As with anything you do, you will get better with practice. Try different methods, different holding times and walking speeds. The key is to avoid looking gay, and to find what works best for you. Everyone is bound to have an awkward encounter or two at first, but with time, patience, and lots of practice, you too can become a smooth, polished, and experienced door holder. People will wonder in amazement at how you always seem to arrive at the door at precisely the right time. You will be able to strike up conversations with more women than you ever imagined possible. And really, isn't that what it's all about?

"I've been unable, to put you down. I'm still learning things I ought to know by now..."


  1. One of the things I miss about the south is gentlemen like conduct. I'm not saying no one open doors for me anymore, but it is much more uncommon here in SF.I actually get more females helping me out more than males at times.

    I married a Texan, but I think he's been converted and need a lesson in opening doors.

    :: Mona ::

  2. Your the only person I know who could write a blog entry that long about holding a door open. :-)

  3. Reply to Mona: So you actually miss something about Alabama? I guess it's just second nature to open doors for ladies.

    Reply to tiffany: Thank you... I think. I guess that's a feather in my cap.

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. Good post!

    It's a topic that I think about, but haven't verbalized - even as a female.

    I have, of course, sent this to my boyfriend to see what his thoughts are. ;-)

    Have you ever noticed when guys open up the car door for their date/girlfriend and wondered "How long will that curtesy last?" When does it become okay for a guy to NOT open the car door? Or, is this something that happens regular in Alabama (or the south in general)? Here, I rarely see it and when I do, I always think that it's a first date. :-)


  5. Ha ha, yes, it probably is the first date. Opening the car door, let's see, seems like I used to do that a lot more than I do now.

    I think I still do it sometimes.

    Of course, these days, it seems you have more and more girls driving guys around, but that's another blog entry altogether.