DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a gentlewoman with white hair who looks her age. In the Before Times, I gratefully accepted displays of courtesy, such as doors being held open for me by gentlemen and ladies.
However, I do not know how to respond when someone holds a door for me but is not wearing a mask. I, of course, am wearing one -- for my own protection, and as a civic duty.
When this happens, I back away from the door and make a gesture of thanks, keeping an appropriate distance and refusing the assistance. To accept would place me within 6 feet of an unmasked person.
What ensues is a battle of wills: me refusing to walk through the door vs. the non-mask-wearing person insisting that I accept his generous help. I have tried explaining my reason, but that never works.
Eventually, the unmasked person gives up, and I open the door myself. How should I handle this situation?
GENTLE READER: That you do not do so by snapping, “My arm’s not broken” is a relief to Miss Manners. We want to encourage the few surviving courtesies.
But not at the risk of your health. The polite way to decline would be to take it upon yourself, saying, “Thank you, but I should stay away from you -- I wouldn’t want to reward your kindness by endangering you.”