Good Grooming (A Private Affair?)

He tells you when you've got on too much lipstick, And helps you with your girdle when your hips stick.
- The Husband by Ogden Nash

"It's disgusting!" my husband declared. "It's like she has her bathroom spread out on her lap!"

Apparently, there is a woman on the morning train who uses her commuting time to put on her face for the world. First there is the slathering of the base, then the bold brushing of the blush, followed by the eye shadow with lash curling, and the grand finale of the lip-liner/lipstick combination. This process involves many tubes and compacts and takes a good portion of the trip. As members of the human species, there are a number of bodily functions and basic maintenance activities in which we must engage on a regular basis. In our culture, the vast majority of these functions and activities should take place in the privacy of our homes, or at least, in the privacy of a duly appointed venue. Some of the most common public-but-should-be-private faux pas include:

Fresh Face ~ Make-up application and shaving should take place in front of a mirror, at home, before you face the world in the morning. Your fellow commuters should not be subjected to your cover-up mission as you hide your zits. Nor should your fellow commuters have to endure the buzz of your electric razor and the little bits of stubble you leave behind. This applies to ALL commuters; trains, planes and automobiles.

Cavities Versus Crest ~ Yes, it is horrid to arrive home after a full day to find a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth. But it is equally horrid to walk into an office restroom to find a co-worker in the midst of a vigorous tooth brushing. The trick here is to find a bathroom that is private enough that you can brush your teeth if you so choose without subjecting anyone else to your hygiene habits.

Maintaining Your Manicure ~ Unless you work with oil and grease, your hands should be neat and clean. Your nails should all be approximately the same length. With that understood, the clipping, filing, and most certainly the painting of your nails should only take place in your home or a nail salon.

A Dab Will DoYa ~ If your nose is running, a dab from a handkerchief is acceptable. If you have a terrible cold and need to blow your nose, you should excuse yourself and find a restroom. (Now that I think about it, if you must blow your nose more than 6 times an hour, you are probably sick enough to warrant staying home.)

No Excavating ~ Whether it is your ears or your nose, please make sure all digging is a solitary pursuit. No spectators allowed.

Please understand that I am all for personal hygiene, and I also understand that there are times when minor adjustments are needed. However, your hygiene routine should be kept as private as possible. When you leave your house in the morning, be sure you are already ready to face the world.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ There is a man in my office, three cubicles over, who spends time on a weekly basis clipping his nails. As soon as the clip, clip, clipping starts I cringe. The running office joke is that the guy in the cubical next to the clipping should put up his umbrella to avoid be hit by a wayward nail. The bottom line is that this is just gross. What can we do?

A: Let us presume that this man has no idea that the sound of his nail clipping can be heard throughout the office and that it has become a running joke. During the next nail session, the person in the closest cubical should poke his head around the corner of the cube and say "Scott, I am sure you did not realize, but I can hear you clipping your nails all the way over here." If that does not work, the following week, have the person two cubicles over say the same thing. Repeat this procedure until the offender stops clipping his nails at work, or until everyone in the office has told him they can hear his clipping.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I usually carry a handkerchief in my coat and use it, hopefully discreetly, to wipe my nose when it runs, which is often. However, when I am seated at a meal and my nose runs, I often quickly and hopefully discreetly dab my nose with the edge of my napkin. I don't know what else to do.

A: You should consider keeping a tissue folded in one of the following places: your handbag (which should be at your feet or in your lap), in a pocket (if your clothing has pockets), or tucked discreetly at your wrist in your sleeve (just like our grandmothers!). When all else fails, a tissue folded and tucked under your bra strap at your shoulder can also be employed. In case of severe emergency, you can default to your napkin, but this should be used only as a last resort and only for a dab, never for a blow.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ At a recent meeting, the person next to me asked to borrow a pen. He took the cap off the pen and proceeded to stick it in his ear and use it as a Q-tip for the duration of the meeting. At the end of the meeting, he put the cap back on my pen and handed it back to me with a "thank you." I was too shocked and grossed out to react. I immediately left the pen on the conference table and ran to the bathroom to wash my hands. Is there anything I could have done?

A: Ick! You have surprisingly few options. First, stop carrying an extra pen. Second, avoid sitting next to, or for that matter, directly across from, this man. Lastly, as soon as he left the conference room, you should have thrown the pen away.