Grooming in public is rarely acceptable. I have always felt this way secretly, but I was recently inspired to publicly declare it after sitting next to a woman who filed her nails and combed her hair onto me throughout our entire 2-hour flight to NYC. At first I tried to talk myself out of my anger and disgust: “Maybe I’m too sensitive,” I thought as I stared at her nail dust and hairs on my lap. Then I got on the subway and ran smack into this sign, part of the MTA’s Courtesy Counts campaign. And now that I’ve been 100% vindicated by a public transportation ad, let’s get into specifics…
I feel slightly conflicted calling this woman on the plane out because I never want to discourage a female from putting her best self forward. Growing up in Georgia, I really admired how put together southern women were – nails, hair, makeup, and clothes were always done. Always. And even if I didn’t like a woman’s style for me, I loved that she had one for her. Her grooming rituals and routines were mysterious and feminine and magically happened behind closed doors-before she ever left the house.
Did you read that? I said BEFORE leaving the house. When no one else could see her clipping her nails, blowing her nose, combing her hair, tweezing her chin, or flossing her teeth. Because these are private things or, as Carrie Bradshaw called them in Sex in the City, your SSB – Secret Single Behaviors. Not only are they private, they are gross and – though oddly gratifying and pleasurable – no one should see them, hear them, or feel them besides you.
Maintaining your excess parts and pieces (a.k.a. GROOMING) in public is in it’s simplest form, shedding your body’s waste onto the floor and onto the people around you. That is disgusting. Do not do it.
Want more? Keep reading for examples.
NAIL CLIPPING AND FILING:
Nail clippers are not easily controllable and can shoot excess nail bits every which way – including onto people. We 100% do not want to see or touch your nail bits. Additionally, for those of us that are sensitive to sounds, we feel that the clipping sound is invasive and awful.
While nail filing is seemingly less harmful than clipping, it is not. Filing still results in bits of nails being ground down to a fine powder and blown into the air around you where the people nearby can both breathe it in and find it on their laps. Gross.
HAIR REMOVAL AND BRUSHING:
We’ve all got hair in strange places. Fine. But tweezing your eyebrows or your face is extremely personal, so you should take care of it when you are alone at home. If you absolutely must attend to stray hairs when you are out and about, step into a restroom. A women’s bathroom is a perfectly acceptable place to tweeze if you must. We are all girls. We get it.
Combing and brushing your hair is also acceptable to do in the bathroom but definitely not okay at a restaurant table or an airplane seat. Shedding hairs onto other people who are not prepared for it is discourteous – especially if it could get in their food.
Have you ever shot food particles onto the mirror when you’re flossing? It’s fascinating yet grotesque. Projectile particles can also fly when you’re flossing in front of other people in public – but rather than hitting the mirror, they could hit us. Seeing you floss also makes others think about chewed up food in your mouth. These are horrible thoughts to have about strangers. Or anyone.
This also applies to picking at your teeth with your hands or some sort of toothpick. I understand that sometimes you just gotta get something out when it’s stuck and all you can do is feel it and think about it. Totally fair. Make it super-quick until you can get to a private place.
NOSE BLOWING AND PICKING:
If you are sick and your nose is running, of course you should carry tissues and wipe your nose. But if you need a full on clearing-house-get-every-last-bit-outta-there kind of situation, I beg of you to go the restroom or politely dab until you can get to one. Why? Because we can hear your mucus moving around, which then makes us think about it and visualize it. And whatever you do, don’t pull the tissue away and inspect what is on it. We will barf on you – which is much more offensive than any of the things we are discussing here today.
As for picking your nose, this one should go without saying but let me simply remind you that – WE CAN SEE YOU.
Beware of your nervous habits! Sure they make you feel a little better when you’re anxious, but don’t forget that people can see you scratching dry skin from your scalp or biting your nails or picking your cuticles. EEK!
QUICK LIPSTICK APPLICATION:
Swiping on a little gloss or a stick is fine in my book, though some people may disagree on this one. If you’re going to do it, why not follow Dita Von Teese’s advice and carry a beautiful compact so anyone who sees you reapplying has something pretty to look at (besides you, of course).
A LITTLE TSZUJ OF THE HAIR:
Nothing to worry about if you need to scrunch or fluff or reset the part or volume on top of your style – most of us do this without even thinking about it. If you need to full-on fix your top knot and bobby pins, though, pop in the restroom.
PULLING LOOSE HAIRS OFF YOUR (OR A FRIEND’S) SHOULDERS:
Help a girl out! Better you get it off than walk around with hairs on you that everyone sees but you don’t know about.
All of this is to say that people are watching you do the things you do, and they are often impacted by them. Grooming privately and discretely is about showing self-awareness and courtesy to the world around you. The simple act of keeping it behind closed doors acknowledges that you – while precious and amazing – are not the only person on this earth AND that you are doing your part to keep it spinning in the most food-particle-nail-bit-hair-free way.
Thank you for your time,
Miss Manners (Belle)