Where does it come from and should a Lady really always be first?
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the term of “Ladies First”. Starting in the 60’s of the last century, when the feministic movement started, a lot of Etiquette rules on how a man should behave towards a woman have been put in question. Among those rules was Ladies First. Over the course of the last 50+ years, women have made a point that they should be treated equally and many of them resented man being gentlemanly towards them. As most men felt insecure on how to deal with this new awakened female power, they mostly gave in to what has been told us via media and strong female advice on how chivalry and being a gentleman is out of date and a thing of the past.
Especially in the 1980’s, the concept of Ladies First has been labeled in the western society, as a form of suppressing females in their right of equality to men. It was considered, that a man who would apply gentlemanly manners and Ladies First to a woman, is indeed considering her of lower value or strength and that would be needed to protect her.
Although, Ladies First has actually very unpleasant and violent roots (more about that later), since the 18th century, it has always been a way for a gentleman to show his courtesy and kindness, respect and admiration and not the least his love for a woman. And because of that, Ladies First will never apply in every situation where a Lady could indeed face danger or feel uncomfortable.
The history of Ladies First
Although, there is no real historical evidence, it is said that the Vikings have been the inventor of Ladies First. The Vikings played a big role in the early medieval dark ages during the late 8th to the late 11th century. Being from Scandinavia, the Vikings used to roam along the European coastline, raiding and pillaging villages along the way. It was at those times custom to kill the men and enslave the women.
As it happened, most of the villagers that fell victim to those raids didn’t really like the fact that their villages are being plundered and their women abducted. However, the Viking’s have been superior fighters and facing them in open battle was certainly going to be a bad idea. Therefore, many villagers where hiding in their houses waiting to kill any Viking that would enter the door of their house. The Vikings not willing to get killed whenever entering a house their where about to plunder, started to push in their female slaves in front of them into the houses in order to distract the potential enemy inside.
Luckily for the Ladies of these days, the times of violence, raiding, abduction and killing are for the most part of the world over and a gentleman who opens the door for a lady these days has most likely no bad intention in his mind.
So, let’s see, what is this Ladies First in modern times all about?
The first thing we have to agree on is that Ladies First (as all other things related with Etiquette) have the sole purpose of other that are spending their time with us feel comfortable. It is for that reason that a gentleman should practice this as often as he can, in fact, a gentleman should at all times, no matter where, when and with whom he spends time, always follow the rules of Ladies First.
Without practicing the following rules of Ladies First, the Lady will certainly feel uncomfortable if the gentleman is clumsy trying to do the right thing but failing at it.
Now then, let’s have a look at the most basic rules of Ladies First:
- Walking on the sidewalk
The gentleman would always walk on the street side of the sidewalk. This is not only to protect the lady from the dangers of traffic, but more so to protect her from the dust and splashes created by ongoing traffic on a wet street.
- Entering a public building
When entering a public building, the gentleman usually opens the door, steps in and lets the Lady pass by. This way you ensure that the inside is save and the lady will not get engaged in a surprising situation.
- Entering a restaurant
Again, the gentleman will open the door, step inside and let the lady pass while holding the door open for her.
- Walking to the table
After we entered the restaurant, it depends on the kind of restaurant we are visiting; if there is a waiter/waitress guiding us to the table, the lady would follow said waiter and the gentleman would follow the lady. If there is no waiter to guide us, the gentleman would guide the lady to a table of her liking.
- Sitting down
As a gentleman you will let the lady choose which seat she would like to sit, make sure that you stand right behind her preferred seat and help her with the chair. Should you happen to be in a group and not required to help any lady with a chair, be aware that you are not allowed to sit before the last Lady is seated.
- Paying the bill
50years ago, I would have told you that this is no question and the gentleman has to pay the bill. However, now in modern days, there is actually a simple rule; if you invite someone, you pay. If you together agree to have dinner together, you split the bill. Gender does not matter here; the one inviting is the one to pay the bill.
- Leaving the restaurant/public building
As you don’t know what awaits you outside, the gentleman would always open the door for the lady and step out in front of her. This is to ensure she can safely exit the building. However, if there are glass doors where one can see outside, the lady may leave first as the gentleman can check her safety without leaving first.
- Public Transport
When entering public transport, the gentleman would always position himself to left side of the lady so he can assist her entering. This is especially the case when entering a bus, as the steps to a bus might be step, he can offer her his steady arm to hold on. He then follows the lady inside the bus where the lady is choosing the seats and sits on the window side and the gentleman occupies the aisle seat. When leaving the public transport, the gentleman always exists first. This not only serves to ensure her safety, but once outside, he will also be able to lend her his arm for help.
This advice counts for stairs and escalators alike. When going up stairs, against widespread believe, a gentleman has to go first. Not only because if he would follow his eyes would be on her lower back, but also because it is in the nature that if people fall, they usually fall forward. If the gentleman walks ahead, the lady will be able to steady herself on him. The same goes for walking down the stairs, if the gentleman is walking in front, the damsel in distress, will be able to hold herself on him.
- Turning doors
I mentioned before that if there are glass doors, that the lady may go first. This is however not the case if the door is a turning door! When there is a turning door, the gentleman always goes first. Should it be an old-fashioned door, that has to be pushed, we do not want the lady have use her force to open it. Is it an automatic door, the gentleman goes first to ensure the safety of using it.
As with public transport, the rules for elevators are quite simple, the lady enters first into the elevator, but the gentleman is leaving the elevator first. The reason is very simple, when the elevator arrives and the doors open, one can see the entire room of the elevator, it is therefore safe for the lady to enter. However, when leaving the elevator, on cannot see around the corner and the gentleman leaves first for safety reason.
Dear gentleman, when offering a ride to a lady, you should always open the door for the lady and offer her assistance when leaving. This ends up that the lady goes into the car first, but the gentleman has to leave first in order for him to open her door and assist leaving the car. (Should your Lady wear a very short skirt, the gentleman would position himself between her door and possible witnesses in order to block their view when she has to leave the car.)
Those are just a few basic rules when it comes to Ladies First. But there is one last remark that has to be made here; These rules do not only apply for a gentleman’s girlfriend or wife, but to every woman!
A true gentleman is always a gentleman!