Q: Since I now live in Chicago I constantly encounter revolving doors. However, I’m never sure what to do when I’m with someone else. Should one let one’s female companion or business partner proceed through the door first (having to shoulder most of the effort to start it spinning) or should one proceed first (providing the initial effort to get the door moving but seeming rude by entering first)?
A: Men traditionally enter a revolving door first, if it wasn’t moving, but women went first if it was already in motion. This old bit of etiquette was based on the notion that women needed help to push the door. Today the person in front enters first and pushes.
The larger question of when a man should open a door or hold a chair for a woman depends largely on whether the woman will appreciate these gestures. It is probably fair to say that most young women today are not inclined to sit in a car while a date walks around to open the door. The man’s best bet is to ask: “May I get the door for you?” or “Can I hold your chair?” By leaving the choice to her, he doesn’t have to guess about her preference. The woman should respond politely (“Yes thank you” or “No, but thank you. I can manage it”). Of course this works between two men, two women, or a woman and a man also. Like so many matters of modern etiquette, a little communication between people involved is the logical way to resolve the problem.