Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No, No et Non -- Never


          The rule is simple: No public displays of affectation.

          Recently a friend of mine who, because of her rather glamourous job, is often part of the ladies who lunch brigade, asked me if French women primp at table after a meal.  She said the reaching for the compacts, clicking open of the mirrors and the twirling of the lipstick tubes is almost a choreographed event after their lunches. Lipstick is then applied, lips smacked, compacts snapped shut, lipstick un-twirled, end of ceremony.

          "I see the same thing in the evening in restaurants," she told me. "It doesn't seem to matter whether the group is all women or mixed company."

          Such a display of public cosmetic "repair work" would never occur in France. As my best French friend, Anne-Françoise, said when I remarked to her I had never seen beauty touch-ups for all the world to see she said, "Of course you haven't. Our mothers teach us that anything that has to do with beauty is done in private.

          "We consider any makeup application as part of our "toilette" the preparation before we 'go public' if you will," she said. "Our goal is to never draw attention to the tools we may use. We think it's crazy to let anyone see what goes on backstage."
                  

          Both conversations made me remember a scene I saw on the terrace of a very chi-chi restaurant in Paris. After lunch with a friend and a man I assumed to be her husband, a woman opened her purse and pulled out her makeup bag. She then proceeded to place upon the table, next to her coffee cup, a compact, lip liner, lipstick, lip brush and a pot of gloss. She then went to work: lined her lips, filled in with lipstick (applied with a brush!), tidied up with the tip of her little finger and finally glossed the whole affair. Right before she snapped her compact closed she checked her teeth.

          Once again, I'm rather attracted to the French custom of private beauty rituals.

35 comments:

The Silver Bunny said...

Although I think it is very glamorous to open a beautiful powder compact, as illustrated in your picture above, I would never do either. The women/girls you see in the Paris metro eating, putting on their make-up, filing their nails, either are not really French or they haven't received a proper education !

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

Absolutely no way! At most a discrete touch up of lipstick when in female-only company. For everything else there's the 'powder room'. It always baffles me when I see women applying their entire make-up on the Tube - do they have no self-awareness?!!! I wouldn't be seen dead doing that, it's just wrong. xo

Villette said...

The English, too, are very, very bad about public displays of makeup. I used to live in London and was always amazed at women who, if they managed to find a seat on a rush hour 'tube,' would pull cosmetics out of their bags and start the full works. Even just last week in the (middle class, conservative) Daily Telegraph Online, a makeup 'expert' was praising cream eyeshadows because they were so easy to apply with one's fingers while on the train....arghh.

mette said...

Not done in Finland either. If the makeup needs " repair ", we go the toilette and do it privately. No one will stare at the one who is " in work ".
However, I see all the time younger women placing/ scrubbing their lip balm on. While they are walking on the street, wherever.
Do lips really need the constant use of lip balm?

Janice said...

I'm always most astonished to see women putting on mascara when they're on the subway - as if that train never lurched or stopped suddenly. Would you want to be the one going to the emergency room with mascara in your eye from a tragic subway incident?

Catherine Robinson said...

Oh, I agree Tish...but I do sometimes put a discreet touch of lipstick...I have sat next to young women on the train who apply a full face of make up...never a good idea.
Have a good week.
Catherine
xx

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I am really glad to read this post, Tish! I feel validated. I had this same conversation not too long ago, because, though American, I believe grooming is done in the restroom away from the table. I was told that is "Old School." Manners should be both new and old....I agree, no, no, never.

Une Femme said...

My very proper grandmother used to pull out a pretty compact and deftly apply a swipe of lipstick after a meal. It's never bothered me, though anything more than that should not be done in public. I'd never apply full makeup in public, but will do a discreet swipe of lip balm or hand lotion if I need it.

Pondside said...

Never, never - and thank you for the validation.

Kathy said...

My mother and mother in law, who are both very proper in most ways, do their lips after dinner at the table. It makes my husband nuts. They do it at restaurants that are filled with people. They have beautiful compacts and have both said that they've been told it's quite glamourous. Maybe it was a generational thing in the US?

Lorrie Orr said...

Here, here! Let's keep a bit of mystery about our processes.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Oh guilty here as I reapply my lipstick after a meal...
I try to do it discreetly at the table if I do not need to use the powder room. If there is any doubt about my teeth I excuse myself and retreat to the privacy of the ladies room.
Mother can reapply her lipstick without a mirror, a skill I have never managed to adopt!

BigLittleWolf said...

While I admit to discreetly dabbing a bit of gloss on lips when required (no mirror, 3 seconds), it is entirely a matter of lips that dry out if I don't. My preference, to withdraw to a private space - not always possible.

My preference in general - these "rituals" and many others, saved for private spaces.

Then again, PDAs... public displays of affection (not affectation)... when spontaneous and heartfelt? I'm all for.

Especially on your side of the ocean.

hopflower said...

I was taught the same thing: making up and grooming is private. And yes,my family is English. We would never be caught doing any of that stuff. But it is a different world now, and the young in all countries seem to do it. Just like manners, delicacy has gone along the wayside.

Rosemary Nardone said...

I do the re-touch of lipstick after a meal but not the compact. I do believe however that the glam ones made by Estee Lauder are so you can bring it out at dinner, and it looks chic. Lovely post and makes you ponder about the subject.

www.nycstylelittlecannoli.com

Awakening my Wardrobe said...

Funny. I never reapply lipstick or any makeup in a restaurant or public place, however, I do reapply lipstick in my car (which is somewhat public)

Anonymous said...

The 50's movies made table-side cosmetics fashionable. So, ladies, it ages us to do so.

Duchesse said...

I'm with Kathy, it was a generational thing to take out a gold or jewelled compact for a quick application of lipstick. Remember, that was also the day of the gold lighter and cigarette case.)

When in North America, I will apply a quick swipe of lipstick if dining with a girlfriend- never with anyone else! And never in France. (I doubt that the couple you describe were Parisien.)

I like to wear those paint-on lipcolours (CoverGirl Outlast is the best) that stay on right through a meal. If I need the glossy topcoat, off to the Ladies'.

Anonymous said...

So glad you brought this up. People need to realize how offensive it is.

I'm an American. I was raised never to do such a thing in punlic. Imagine my horror when a guest in my home not only put on her lipstick but sprayed perfume,,,,at our table!! She won't be invited back...it's that simple.

MJH Design Arts said...

I have never even applied lipstick in public. Yuck.
Thanks for opening this conversation.
Mary

Amelia said...

I live in the US but grew up in a different country. Maybe that's part of my hang-up about applying lipsticks at the table. I go to lunch with ladies who apply their lipsticks/lip glosses at the table. It doesn't bother me but just won't do it.

Worthington said...

I agree with your friend's argument: "We consider any makeup application as part of our "toilette" the preparation before we 'go public' if you will."

My Grandmama is SO an etiquitte person, but she is feeble now so she has to apply her lipstick at the table after eating as many hotel restrooms are too small or dim for her application. She is pretty embarrassed about that but at least she is still living, right?!

david terry said...

Dear Miss Tish,

I can PROMISE you that my mother (she's 75 nowadays) and ALL of the women in my family (except for one disastrous, now fortunately-EX-sister-in-law from Ohio, of all places) would never-ever-ever mess with make-up in front of anyone except another lady....and, even then, only in a powder-room/bathroom (should this be a public venue) or a bedroom. My impression over the years has been that the women in my family WELCOME the opportunity to be alone with other women. This also applies, for the most part, to anything doing with the kitchen or a new baby.

I probably should emphasize that mine is a deeply and irretrievably southern family. My mother, grandmother, and all my great-aunts would also look askance (to say the least) at any woman who ate or smoked unless she were sitting down at a gathering.....and let's not even begin to get into what they would think of another woman who smoked, drank, or ate while walking on the street. Those are (perhaps were) THE RULES.

All of the women in my family (and that would include my younger brother's wife, who's only 35 or so) would be appalled by another woman's applying cosmetics in front of other folks....certainly if that included men.

Whether it's right or wrong or politically-incorrect or "anti-feminist".....those are THE RULES. I happen to approve of them....they provide a "space" for females in society, just as surely as men go out of their way to make "no girls allowed!" spaces for themselves. Goose and gander, etcetera.....

My background is, I suppose, quite formal and distinctly Southern by most folks' standards. I should also add that one of my father's favorite stories (he and my mother have been married for 54 years as now) concerns the night when (he was dating my 19 year old mother at the time) he liked her perfume and had the audacity to ask her what it was?....

She told him "What a question to ask!...it's just ivory-soap and water, of course....".

I agree with several of the previous commentators' suggestion that, all done and said, it's best to keep an air of "mysytery" about the procedures and rituals we all (male and female)submit ourselves to or, for that matter, enjoy.....just keep it PRIVATE.

Advisedly yours as ever, Tish...

---Uncle David
www.davidterryart.com

SE said...

I love these posts about cultural differences. I am a completely private person when it comes to putting on makeup- even lipstick. And part of that is probably because of my own judgement/prurient interest about others doing it. When someone starts the lipstick-after-dinner ritual, I always find myself completely mesmerized and analyzing: Is the color better than her natural lip? Is that really flattering? Did she really do a good job in the middle of this restaurant?
I know. But I can't shut it off.

At one dinner, a friend started applying and did half a lip- then felt compelled to jump in and share her opinion- HALF-lipped. She went on. I could not hear her- I just wanted to scream "Please do the other half!"

helen tilston said...

Hello Tish

Growing up in Ireland is was a symbol of poor manners to apply make-up in public and in particular at the dinner table.

Helen xx

Vicki said...

I so completely agree with this post and am glad to read it. I have never in my life checked my makeup or teeth while still at table; I feel self-conscious even doing it in my car lest someone be watching. It's driven me nuts over many years to see my gal-pals do this while we're still in a restaurant with other people around us eating. This is what a ladies' room (bathroom) in the establishment is meant for...and, oh my gosh, I've even seen women run a brush thru their hair in a public setting at a restaurant table as well, perhaps in close proximity to another diner. And the worst? Toothpick going at the teeth in public, even when back at the office at her desk. What's happened to us? So many do whatever they want, say whatever they want, negative emotions and swear words in my earshot. I don't need it! And I don't want to see another woman putting on makeup or even talking on her cell phone next to me in line at a store. I am not interested in other people's personal habits, including personal conversations. (I am not so interested in your private life; I do not know you!!!) I am also offput by loud mothers in grocery stores, herding their children, discussing in booming voice for all the world to hear what they're having for dinner, the why of this, the why of that, when they could speak quietly and respectfully to their kids without intruding on my "space." A lot of this is attention-getting; why do some people have such a need to be noticed?

Do it in private. And that goes for breastfeeding in public, too.

Incidentally, I do not consider myself old-fashioned nor do others. It's about manners and showing courtesy to other people. We can't be a society constantly shrugging our shoulders over not caring what another thinks or how we're perceived. We should have a certain amount of pride and dignity. We all have to share space in much of the world in our daily comings and goings. We can be polite toward one another and do much to promote what's agreeable and nice as opposed to what could be disagreeable to some, not to mention rude.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling a bit awkward about now. I do try to have proper manners! But I have never figured out how to eat without wearing off most or all of my lip color, and I do look pale & wan without lip color. So after eating, I do usually whip out my small mirror and lipstick, and do a quick application. Is it really that tacky?

---Jill Ann

Vicki said...

I went back and read all the comments. I'd like to add to my post above that I am a 3rd-generation Californian. My mother is age 89 and she never, ever put lipstick on in public. I'm apparently my mother's daughter here in the U.S.A. While I can see the practice as being a generational "thing," I am also a baby boomer so, what then, is the excuse for friends of mine who do the tacky personal "toilette" in public? I guess they are, in turn, THEIR mother's daughters. I can also attest that I am a deeply private person when it comes to these things, my mom if not more so.

What a thought-provoking and comment-inducing post, Tish!

CWoodyard said...

Never...I'm horrified by a couple of 'ladies' of a certain age who do this and others that I don't know, and it seems they always seem to wear very colorful lipstick. Don't see this in other countries, unless it's an older American woman. No.

david terry said...

Boy.....I think that "vicki" is a smart lady. I've just come back to read over the comments, and hers are wonderfully concise and obviously well-informed by experience.

That's all I have to say.

Admiringly,

David Terry
www.davidterryart,com

Rubiatonta said...

I will occasionally swipe on lip balm or a subtle color of lipstick in public if my lips have dried out so much that I can't bear them -- but otherwise, I slip off to the powder room.

My mother and grandmother taught me that a lady never applies make-up in public. And don't get me started on chewing gum, which I -- still -- only chew very briefly and subtly if I would like to brush my teeth but can't. I will never forget my sweet Grammy saying in her soft Hoosier twang, "She looks like a cow chewing her cud!"

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Bravo!
This is what ladies' rooms are for, right?
xoxo,
p

Alice Olive said...

I agree wholeheartedly. It's appalling that women use the subway as their private bathroom. There is a reason compacts are small. They are not meant to be used to apply a full face of make-up.

Vicki said...

Hi, David.

Not so smart; just a bee up my bonnet on certain subjects.

I always enjoy your stories, this blog or another.

Tish's post here struck a nerve! So many responses...

Thanks, Tish.

Tish Jett said...

Thank you, thank you. I may have another one for next week. In fact, I'm relatively sure I do.

Thank you for taking the time to write. You bring joy into my life.

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