Q: What is the story with elevators and ladies? Somebody told me that Emily Post says elevator doors are not like regular doors, so you don’t have to wait for the women to go through first. But do you? I’m so tired of the awkward, halting shuffle.
—DOOR JAM, BROOKLYN HEIGHTS
A: Ah, the perils of gender equality. Most civilized people still hold to the idea that if a man and a woman approach a door together, he should hold it open for her unless he has, say, a broken arm. If we’re all so equal, couldn’t she just as easily be the one holding the door, you ask? Absolutely. But the bottom line is, someone’s got to do it, and convention dictates that that person is you. Sorry, but really, is it so much trouble? (Incidentally, when a man and a woman approach a revolving door, the proper etiquette is for the gentleman to go first so that he can do all the hard work while she scuffles along effortlessly behind him. Unfortunately, some women don’t know this and will think you are being rude by jumping ahead of them.) Now, elevators are so incredibly tricky that it’s best to forget gender and think about practicality: If there is an elderly or handicapped person aboard the elevator, obviously he or she is the one to go first. Otherwise, those closest to the door should exit first, thus clearing a path for the women or men behind them. But if it’s just one man and one woman staring at the walls and fishing through their pockets while they wait for their floor, it is still customary to let the lady leave first. To avoid making the situation any more awkward than riding an elevator with one other person already is, simply say, “After you,” and smile.
Q: How exactly do you deal with the noisy upstairs neighbors? You know, the ones who come home at 2 a.m. and get in shouting matches? The ones who walk as if they’re carrying sacks of concrete?
—GETTING CRANKY, MIDTOWN
A: There is a simple answer to your question, and it’s called Klonopin. Just explain the situation to your shrink and you should have a prescription for this lovely little pill in no time. You can look forward to deep, comalike sleep that cannot be disturbed by late-night hollering or, for that matter, earthquakes. (Other people swear by Ambien, but we find it sometimes fails to offer the necessary knockout, and where are you then? Wide awake and cracked-out and listening to your upstairs neighbors caterwaul the night away, that’s where.) Now, we should mention that these drugs may be habit-forming. (You think this is insomnia? Wait till you try sleeping without your Klonopin after being on it for a week or two.) So you might consider going upstairs—possibly bearing flowers or cookies—and reminding your neighbors that, in the immortal words of Paul Simon, “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” and could they please keep it down, etc., etc. Of course, if we were you, we would be so anxious about confronting these crazed, bellicose night owls we would need to take something first.
Q: A former classmate is getting married, and it’s a real hoity-toity affair. I’ve already given her gifts for the engagement party and wedding shower, and now I’m trying to figure out the etiquette for the wedding. I overheard her telling a friend that she considers it “tacky” to give gifts that are from the registry, that she believes all guests should give her cash. Is this some East Coast blue-blood ritual to which I wasn’t privy, growing up in the wild, wild West?
—CASHED OUT, ASTORIA
A: More and more, couples are marrying later in life—often after living together for years. If that’s the case here, chances are they already have a good pasta pot. What they could really use is cash ($50 and up, depending on your relationship to the couple and, though no one wants to admit this, on the cost of the reception). A little something toward that apartment down payment, the right nursery school, whatever. Totally appropriate. However, cash is the gift that dare not speak its name: Giving it is fine, asking for it is not. So never mind your upbringing; what’s “tacky” is telling people they should know better than to buy, ahem, the very gifts the couple asked for.
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