The ways we show respect have changed

Published 9:21 am Monday, July 16, 2012

Column: Something About Nothing

I saw something looking out of my office window the other day that made my jaw drop in astonishment. I saw a man going around to the passenger side of the car and opening a door so a woman could get in.

I was astonished because I have not seen that scenario in a long, long time. It brought back good memories and musings of why that show of respect for women has not been seen for a while.

Email newsletter signup

I remember the first guy I dated in high school. I was a sophomore, and he was older. He always opened my door for me when we were out on a date. I didn’t think anything of it because it happened a lot in those days, especially on special occasions.

Men also opened doors and held doors for women when entering buildings. It was not unusual when you were with a man for them to pull out the chair for you at a table at a restaurant. Again, it was a sign of respect, not weakness on the woman’s part. I have to tell you that it always made me feel special.

This person who opened the door for his wife is younger than I am. I started watching, and I have seen him do it again and again. It makes me smile.

It seems like such a little thing, opening a car door for someone, but the fact I remember such a little thing means a little respect goes a long, long way.

We women want to be independent. I do not know if women’s liberation started the demise of manners such as opening doors and pulling out chairs for us. I do not know if women started thinking of it as a sign of weakness or less equality. Men used to watch their language around women, too. These days it can be common to hear women use the same language that men used to protect us from.

I like respect. Our language, our actions and our society used to have more respect for each other. It was ingrained in us as kids. We respected other people’s property. We respected other people’s space. Maybe I lived in a fairy tale world where I just imagined respect for teachers, respect for parents, respect for friends, respect for our country.

It seems even those who grew up learning that you opened car doors for women and you pulled out chairs at tables in restaurants for women have forgotten those tiny aspects of respect. You don’t see it demonstrated too often in public anymore. As women we don’t expect it so we don’t mention to the special people in our lives that we are missing it. It could also be lost with familiarity in a relationship.

I don’t have the answers; I just have the questions. Aretha Franklin sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me” in her song. We could apply those words to our lives. What would it mean to us to feel a little more respected in our lives by our relationships, our families and the people on the street that we connect with on a day to day basis?

We teach our kids and grandkids some things about respect, but we are bleated out by the world when it comes to the advertising and the TV shows that show little respect for each other. Would our world be different if we sang those Aretha Franklin words on a day-to-day basis to the world? Would there be less bullying, less murders, less crime for other people’s properties if we taught respect in our homes and were bombarded with media messages about respect? We should try it. What do we have to lose?

I will continue to gaze out my office window and watch this gentleman open car doors for his wife and reflect on my fond memories of the past. It will keep me smiling for a long time.

“How would your life be different if … You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day.  … You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”  —  Steve Maraboli, “Life, the Truth and Being Free”


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at