Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Elevator Etiquette-Ladies First

I have been holding this in for so long and it is time to make an announcement to the world (or the two people that read this, whichever is larger). MEN-Do NOT hold the elevator door open (oh you’re so strong!) to allow a woman to get in or out of the elevator first before the men.

While I know I do not have the best etiquette in the world, I’d classify myself as somewhere above Eliza Doolittle (or at least I know when I’m doing something wrong). So while I am by no means an expert, I have reached out to experts for some clarification on this very specific issue.

I have gone to several etiquette classes and lunches and finally one time I was brave enough to ask this question. This question had long been building up inside of me because I hate, yes hate it, when men stand outside the elevator in a big group and wait for the woman to go in.

So, it turns out, and this was verified by an etiquette expert, that there is absolutely no basis or legitimate reason why men do this and it is NOT considered good etiquette. I asked if this was just an old custom that is still carried on by some people and am I overacting to what is really some meaningful custom? Nope. The EXPERT stated that back in the day (and I’m slanging this up-she had much better prose) that women were not in the workplace. And since elevators are a more recent invention than women, there is no foundation for this manner of acting.

My theory is that pervy men just came up with this as a way to make the one woman feel self-conscious and different. And while she didn’t say it in those words, I saw a knowing look.

I used to work for a law firm that had a clientele of a lot of older, more conservative gentlemen. Please note that I am using them as the scapegoat for all men everywhere, because it is not just them that did this. This is where I used to realize that this was a common occurrence and every single time it happened I got more and more frustrated. I thought after moving out of the northwoods this backwards sexism was a thing of the past, and it actually did go away. Until yesterday.

Yesterday began like any other morning. I was walking to the elevators behind three very slow-moving gentlemen. One of them hit the button to call the elevator, the elevators doors open, and …as if in slow motion…they all part to the side and look at me. I really wanted to loudly proclaim: “What the hell are you looking at? Get in the damn elevator!” However, my stupid MANNERS forced my feet forward onto the elevator. I did manage to roll my eyes and mutter something under my breath but I think these were wasted efforts as no one noticed. They were probably too busy either patting themselves on the back for what gentlemen they were being, or looking at my ass…or probably both.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! All the previous times this happened to me came flashing back in a whirlwind of emotions. I thought all of the frustration and aggravation was locked away forever, but the fake smiles, the internal anger, and the uncomfortable moments…these all came rushing back to the surface.

So now there are three guys and myself in the elevator and they hit the same floor I’m going to. Oh great, I thought—going to have to do this again. And while I was debating if it would be too obvious if I dropped down and crawled behind them to sit in the corner of the elevator to make them go out first, two more men jumped onto the elevator. “I’ve been saved!” I thought. The dynamics have changed! And then new guys hit a higher floor. Oh-oh…now it’s all messed up. New guys were in the front of the elevator obviously and one of them was a big guy, but us original 4 (the 3 sexist guys and myself) were all going to have to get out first. At least, I thought,…no one would be looking at my ass.

We get to my floor and the big guy steps out of the elevator, his friend freaks out because he thinks he has lost him “No Bob! We’re up another floor---don’t leave me!” This was a little awkward in itself seeing one grown man so desperately sad to be more than two feet away from another grown man. But I personally think Bob was just smart enough to realize that 4 people couldn’t walk through him if he was substantially taking up the elevator door.

So Big Bob goes out, and sure enough, one of the three guys (I’m pretty sure the instigator from down below), holds open the damn door and looks at me expectedly. At this point, I am in the farthest right back corner of the elevator. This makes absolutely no sense for me to go out first.

I avoid eye contact because I am afraid of what I might yell and walk out pulling down my sweater.
So ladies the moral of this story is that if a man tries to make you walk in or out of an elevator first while the men stand in a big circle to watch, feel free to yell “You can’t bring us women down!!” and then shove one of the men out first.

Spread the word.

Update: I was wondering if other people felt the same way and decided to do some research.  It turns out, surprisingly, that people will say just about anything on the internet (case in point).  They were not all as lucky as I to have discussed with an actual Etiquette Expert, but many women agree that it makes things very awkward.  And since there is NO PURPOSE for it, it makes no sense.  I guess the practical logical side in me is what really causes me to have a problem with this.  If you are closest to the door, walk in or walk out.  It's not rocket science.

Some interesting comments from the forum called "Ladies First":

11.Britney Says:

January 23rd, 2006 at 12:11 pm

I have to say that I HATE the ladies first rule.

Sure, it is a nice thing for a gentleman to offer, but as a lady it is often awkward.

In my building, I am often in an elevator with maybe 10 men and one other lady. I work on one of the top floors, so I am often at the back of the elevator when it reaches the ground.

There is always a very awkward moment when the doors open, as the men have to wait for me to manouver around them to exit. I feel like I have wasted everyone’s time!

12.Elevador Says:

January 23rd, 2006 at 11:11 pm

What are women doing in a place of business anyway? That’s silly, you should be home caring for the family.
[*Please note-this is exactly why I get angry and want to yell at people in elevators]

13.allbizlady Says:

January 27th, 2006 at 11:46 am

I agree with Britney.

Ladies exit first sounds like an elevator rule of the 1950′s, when many fewer women rode elevators to office jobs every day.

My gorgeous, gallant husband agrees with the rule, but I say come on gents, this is 2006. Besides, an elevator isn’t the Titanic.

I live in NYC and every working woman I know agrees — if we are in our

$2,000 business suits and killer heels standing in an elevator filled with hardworking people waiting for their floor in a high rise office tower, whoever is getting out at a particular floor just STEP OUT when the doors open, PLEASE.

Gender makes no difference in some things, and riding an elevator is just one of those things.

We don’t have time to scramble around you. It’s awkward, inefficient, time-consuming and silly.

Right on sista!  And now it's 2010!!!! Why is this horrible tradition continuing?  Stop the madness!!  Get out of the damn elevator!

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