Philosophy of Primpology

Etiquette divas and beauty bloggers have grappled with The Great Primping Question forever:  just how much primping can a girl do in public before crossing the bounds of decency?  This post offers my own thoughts on the matter, which of course any femme may reserve the right to ignore, revise, and/or reinvent to suit her own style.   But first, check out this great 1943 photograph of a woman in Washington, D.C. putting on her lipstick in a park with Union Station behind her.  It’s from the Library of Congress. 

Woman putting on lipstick, ca. 1943

Woman putting on lipstick, ca. 1943

Sublimefemme’s Philosophy of Primpology

1.  Primping in Public. First we must define “public.”  For example, restaurants, trains, hotels, theaters, bars, shops, airplanes, classrooms, any place of business, and parks and other outdoor spaces are all public.  In these spaces, applying lipstick or lipgloss or a quick  bit of powder is fine.  If you pull out your mascara or hairbrush, you’ve crossed the line into the yuck factor.  In these spaces, I think it’s OK to quickly and discreetly file a snagged nail, but not if you’re in a restaurant or any other place that serves food.  I would never spritz on perfume in public.

2.  The Restroom. A restroom is a public place, but I think we would agree that, unless you plan to give yourself a bath in the sink, you can reasonably expect that it’s OK to primp in a restroom.  In a bathroom before an event last week, I pulled out my cosmetic bag and refreshed my makeup, swept over my outfit with a lint roller, and popped a few breath mints.  A restroom is also the place you can reapply your fragrance, but obviously you should be considerate of others when doing so.  Once in an airport bathroom a few years ago I was touching up my nails and got the hairy eyeball from a woman whose delicate sensibilites I had clearly offended. (!!!) A full-on manicure would be crossing the line, but I don’t see anything wrong with a little nail polish and a few drops of cuticle oil in the Ladies.

3.   Cars and Taxis.  I don’t care what anyone else says; I think cars and taxis are different from public forms of transportation.  On public transportation, see rules outlined in #1.  For cars and taxis, you can do whatever you damn well please as long as you do not pose a threat to public safety by curling your lashes in the rearview mirror while driving on the highway.  If you weren’t supposed to touch up your makeup in the  car, why would visors come equipped with mirrors on them?  I rest my case!

Do you think there are do’s and don’ts of primping in public?  If so, what are your own rules?

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5 Responses

  1. I think make-up application is a-ok anywhere but the dinner table or at work meetings!

  2. oh, what a stunning photo. if i ever do high femme, i want to be her!

    don’t have much else to say, as i’m pretty much a lip-gloss only girl, but i think nikki has a point in work and food being sort of “don’t areas.”

    i wonder…does the acceptability have a relation to the equipment needed (i.e. hair clips, fine – hairbrush, excessive)?

  3. Food areas…agreed don’t file your nails or wear excessive perfume when out at a posh place….A subtle scent is a turn-on anywhere BUT my dining room please..Im trying to seduce you with the aromas of my food “comme ca?”

  4. I tend to agree with these rules. There might be something about the equipment needed relating to how much ‘personal space’ is necessary. I lipgloss anywhere but generally never brush or spray my hair unless I’m in a bathroom.

    OMG does this mean that you are a hair spray girl like me, Lemur?! I suddenly am having an 80s flashback of girls pulling ginormous Aqua Net cans out of their purses in ladies rooms. That shit was asphyxiating–the cause of global warming, no doubt. I’m sure all hair spray is evil but I cannot give it up. xo SF

  5. generally, I agree with you, although I don’t think it’s inappropriate to reapply mascara in public. at least, I do it often, so I hope it’s not a problem!

    as far as application of perfume, however, I have a different attitude. I am a high femme and believe in the necessity of looking put-together, but I also have asthma which is triggered by some chemicals (including solvents, which are in nail polish). I generally will avoid public restrooms for this reason…but I cannot avoid being in public generally just because I have sensitivities, and nor would I want to. I look too cute to stay inside!

    so I think… if you’re in an inclosed space (i.e, any room) where there are other people, I do not think it polite nor sensible to apply scents, especially if they are in an aerosol or spray container or contain solvents. I should think a small bottle of essential oils, which don’t “spread” in the air as much as solvents or aerosol sprays, is acceptable, but that’s just me.

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