The Washington Post's resident “Miz Manners,” Steven Petrow, is personally offended to be called mister because it is a masculine noun. In his latest “Civilities” column, he lectures the rest of us on 21st century etiquette which his own actions historically disregard.
Specifically, harboring a festering grievance since New York of 2005, our intrepid scribbler was offended by a bathroom attendant who opened a door for him. Since time immemorial, in virtually every Western culture, opening any door for anyone—a man, woman or child; a struggling or aged stranger; a romantic partner—is a universal sign of kindness and respect. With anti-American progressives too long at the helm, suddenly this most traditional act of social grace has morphed crazily into a reason to find offense.
What was this fancy restaurant employee's mistake worthy of the mighty Post's attention a decade later? He opened the door to men's room (rather than the women's), presumably because Steven looked male. Well, this “eccentric” customer wasn't tolerating such a blatantly sexist act to his person!
Steven Petrow's thankless response? “How polite? Hardly. Instead of thanking him, I explained how presumptuous he had been in deciding my bathroom preference for me. I tried in vain to explain how “gender identity” (the way individuals perceive themselves) is different from “biological sex” (generally indicated by a person’s genitalia, or sex assigned at birth). So, despite hundreds, if not thousands of years of opening doors for people in which customary politeness dictates an expression of appreciation, our hypocritical “manners expert” knows better.
Imagine this befuddled attendant's wide-eyed reaction. He works in a hallway dead-ending in bathrooms frequented by affluent guests. He's just trying to do his job, provide a service, make a likely modest living. To add to his troubles, this poor soul crosses paths with an unhinged buffoon who starts lecturing him on the differences between a customer's “gender identity” versus a biological one. Remember, this solicitous stranger did nothing wrong. He opening a door—and received an ungrateful diatribe.
To add insult to the attendant's injury, Mr. Petrow embarrassed his undoubtedly long-suffering door holder and further humiliated him to his boss, the restaurant manager. I'm not sure what either of these put-upon workers were thinking before their “Twilight Zone” experience with this self-proclaimed know-it-all, but I have a pretty good idea what colorful language was privately exchanged out of earshot. Unfortunately, the appropriate profanity isn't polite or fit to print. A pretty penny for their thoughts though, regarding a rather persnickety customer—whom they likely believed was space cadet from Uranus.
Why did Steven Petrow intentionally make a classless scene not fit for a patron of McDonald's? He wrote: “It wasn’t that my gender identity was ambiguous, but several of my dinner companions would have probably presented a challenge. At my table that evening were individuals who are transgender or gender-nonconforming.” So, bizarrely, this individual pretended he was transgender even though he clearly wasn't. This was done by osmosis to “stick up” for his absent, uninvolved fellow diners. After all, he rationalized, they (not he) might hypothetically be mistreated by “intolerant” restaurant employees ignorant of the finer points of identity politics. To any clear-minded person, it is this whacked out liberal who superficially judges, not those he wrongly accuses. To quote Matthew 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” Indeed, the attendant's actions don't even rise to the level of that minutia.
Is this still freedom-loving America of 2016 or Big Brother's dystopian “1984?” More to the point, is Mr. Petrow a newspaper employee or a loyalist member of some secret sect of George Orwell's Thought Police?
Back to more mundane and “earthy” issues, choosing between gender-specific bathrooms is actually a high class “difficulty” for any society. Recall that 40 percent of the world’s population or 2.5 billion people practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities. Even in more developed regions, where household and public facilities are more prevalent, over 2 billion people use toilets connected to septic tanks that are not safely emptied or use other systems that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters. That's a real problem worthy of focus and discussion, not Mr. Petrow's obsession with body parts and gender identity, bathrooms and excretion.
Speaking of full-on bathroom hissy fits—for necessary behavioral context on “Miz Manners”—one is distinctly reminded of a similarly bewildered young girl (“The bathroom “monitor” thought I was crazy, as did the manager”) scrubbing Comet cleaning powder into wide circles into the floor of a blue tiled bathroom. Towering over the cowering, mortified child (on her knees in complete supplication), Faye Dunaway (as Joan Crawford) in “Mommie Dearest” shrieks: “Scrub. Scrub, Christina. It's not. This floor is not clean! Look at it! Jesus Christ! This floor is not clean! None of it... Nothing is clean. This whole place is a mess!” Draw the obvious conclusions as to which parties—in two eerily mirroring psychological scenarios—have actually been wronged.
For his part, this “politeness guru” needs to publicly conduct himself sensibility, and quietly do his business in the culturally appropriate stall. Indeed, his mindset is so twisted, he's bent around his own axle. His views are impractical, verging on the incomprehensible. If a well-meaning hand had opened the wrong door for one of his transgender colleagues, a simple smile and courteous acknowledgment of the faux pas would have been sufficient. In the final analysis, the interaction of one person's personal preferences versus another's corresponding actions commonly results in such all too human misunderstandings. The glaring trouble here is Steven Petrow's inability to practice the very sensitivity he so readily preaches—in print, and in a bathroom adjoining corridor.