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 nonbusiness 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, reapplying 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.