This one time I held a door open for a girl. Sounds simple, but it’s really not. It’s more like a product of careful childhood conditioning. Essentially, I went to Gentleman’s Camp growing up. Other kids went to Space Camp, but not me. My parents put a book in my hands, a book that divulged and unearthed the subtleties of manners and how gentlemen behave, dress, speak, sit, good boy. Among these was the admonition to hold the door open for women. I still do this often to this day.
But this one time I was entering the community college. I went there while in high school for the dual-credit classes—you know, the classic two-for-one sale that homeschoolers eat up ravenously so as to enter college as sophomores-but-really-almost-juniors. “Hello, my name is Smarter Than You.” (Yes, I was homeschooled.)
So I’m entering the threshold of the educational clearance sale, and while I still have the door in my hand, I see behind me this girl. She’s at that awkward distance away of twenty or so feet, which means I’m now in the doldrums of this debate: Do I stand here for longer than normal and hold this door open and look weird or even sinister, or do I just leave the door which means it’ll probably shut in her face by the time she reaches it? I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be in any form of urgency, so I held the door. The girl goes through it. I follow. She’s now walking ahead of me and turns to me. She asks, “What school did you go to?”
I’m taken aback for three reasons. First, I usually just receive, “Thanks,” or, “Preciate it,” when this happens, not an interrogation. But second, I was homeschooled. And that poses a problem, because third, I freely admit I held the door open because this girl was rather attractive. And of course the main reason guys ever do things for women who are good looking is because there is a miniscule hope (and honest belief) that somehow the cosmic alignment will come about in their temporal sphere to where their benevolent actions will result in a date with this woman. Hope is the bedrock of existence. But while this girl had no clue she was doing it, she had effectively checkmated any potentiality of a date coming from my holding the door open for her. Because here’s how this would have gone down:
“What school did you go to?”
“Oh, uh . . . well. I’m homeschooled.”
“Oh. Like, still in high school?”
“Oh . . .”
“You, um . . . wanna go out to dinner this weekend?”
“What, are you going to bring your mom along?”
“Ha ha, oh wow, that’s . . . ha ha, that’s funny, uh . . . well, yeah she’d be driving me.”
That kind of conversation doesn’t work. So I secondly freely admit I told this girl, “Oh, just some private school outside of Dallas. Real small.” Homeschoolers will do anything to keep from admitting they’re homeschooled to the not-homeschooled populace and, thus, end up donning the stereotypical stigma that goes with it.
Her response to my lie was, “Well, whatever it was they obviously taught you guys manners.” I asked her what she meant and she said something about how guys don’t open doors or something along those lines. And then she walked off.
I only tell this story because holding the door open meant a lot to her, which is odd in that I’ve never been met with a question-and-answer session upon letting a girl go through first. But sometimes small things go a long way. But even so I can’t claim purity of motives because what I did only highlights what we all do too often, which is treat people nicely if we take a fancy to them.
We all know this. Guys are more likely to hold doors open for the beautiful girls, not the ugly ones. Never the inverse. I would be highly unlikely to feel motivated to help a woman load up her car in the parking lot of Wal-Mart if I see her hands are full with three screaming children. Why? Because I hate screaming children. But on the other hand, if I see Catherine Zeta-Jones in the parking lot of Whole Foods needing help to load her car, I will sprint to her side because I admire Ms. Zeta-Jones and all that jazz.
I’m reminded of the last night I was in Nashville. I watched a movie with three female leaders from the youth group we helped out with, and at one point in the film Bradley Cooper was shirtless. Out of the blue, their own little praise service for Mr. Cooper resounded. It was a sort of call-and-response thing.
Leader: “Bradley Cooper is the best.”
Congregation: “His pecs endure forever.”
Leader: “Blessed is Bradley above all others.”
Congregation: “His abs endure forever.”
(And we’ll stop there before going farther south.)
There were hallelujahs, lifting of hands, songs of praise, and if it weren’t just a movie I’m sure these ladies would’ve been all too glad to have laying on of hands take place (Hollywood, you need to work on 4D ASAP). And like me with Ms. Zeta-Jones, they would be all too ready to help out Bradley Cooper if he needed any help. And just like me, they have their crowds they would not be so eager to assist. We are all like this.
And I find this truth of my black heart troubling when I remember how it means nothing for me to help only the people I hold in high or equal esteem. That takes no effort; it will just happen naturally. I could probably even do it in my sleep, quite honestly. But I know there is a long list of people I struggle being around. I’m all for transparency, so here is a snippet:
- People who hate/persecute homosexuals
- People who willingly destroy their own health
- People who support their government’s wars
- People who mix politics with their religion
- People who think Arcade Fire didn’t deserve to win at this year’s Grammys
And there are more. I can honestly say I often truly hate these people if I get carried away and don’t pull it together. For me to make moves towards loving these people will actually mean something—something transformational. That’s what demands effort. It’s not an inverse favoritism to where now I tramp upon the people I find fun to be around because, again, treating them well will just naturally occur since being nice to people whom you think are already nice isn’t hard at all and takes very little thought process or intentionality. But to hold the door open for this list? I bristle at the thought.
But I suppose it should be done because Attractive Girl at the community college felt that, for a brief moment, she mattered. And I think that’s good. We all have lists like my above one, and I know I fall on some peoples’ lists; perhaps not by name, but I fit their descriptions just the same. And I’d like to think they’d be nice to be me because I would, after all, appreciate that very much. Even if I’m not Bradley Cooper.