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20-40-60 Etiquette---I need some lipstick!

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: March 5, 2013

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By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I was taught never to apply lipstick or comb my hair at the table and that I am supposed to do personal grooming in private and not in front of others. Has that rule changed?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: It’s OK to quickly apply lipstick at the table if you’re with close friends or relatives in a non-business situation, and at a non-deluxe restaurant. In general, personal grooming should be done in private for the simple reason that it can be annoying and it’s tacky. But putting on lipstick without using a mirror and without fanfare is one grooming ritual that can sometimes be performed in front of others. Still, think first! When in doubt, don’t do it, such as when you’re at a business meal or with people you don’t know very well.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: While the words “personal grooming at the table” conjure up all kinds of gross images, I don’t think a quick application of lipstick qualifies as a problem. Nor does Emily Post, who notes that among close friends in a nonbusiness setting, re-applying lipstick is OK as long as it’s done quickly and without fanfare. As for combing hair, reapplying all extensive makeup or other “personal grooming,” I think that’s best done in a bathroom, away from food at the table and the guests who wouldn’t want to watch.

HELEN’S ANSWER: It is very distracting to watch a woman take out her mirror, lipstick and powder at the dining table and apply her makeup. I have watched a luncheon friend take 10 minutes getting it just right. It would have been better for her to go to the ladies room where she didn’t have to hold up a tiny mirror to get it all accomplished.

I was taught by my mother, and also in early day sorority sessions, to comb my hair and put on makeup in private and never in front of other people. Most people still abide by that rule and consider it rude to haul out the compact when there are others at the table.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, Oklahoman night news editor and Media Ethics Chair, University of Central Oklahoma: No, the rule hasn’t changed, but it bends a bit — a lady discreetly checking her toothsome smile at the table after a lunch of leafy salad greens is not a manners crime.

In fact, I recommend it.

Neither is discreetly reapplying a dab of lipstick. I said dab, not full liner, stain and gloss — excuse yourself and do all that in the ladies’ room.

However, it’s mobile grooming that has drivers up in arms these days. I’m talking about women applying full makeup at the wheel: foundation, eye, lip and cheek color and mascara! How can anyone apply mascara while driving and not look like a raccoon?

If you don’t have the time to apply makeup in the morning on your way to work, nip into your office building and go to the nearest restroom you can find. You’ll have a moment or two to “get presentable” before you head into your workstation.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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