By Shelly Volner

I have a confession to make.

Mrs. Manners herself actually breaks a few etiquette rules once in a while. It’s hard for me to admit but it’s true. My husband will attest to this and will be the first one to tell you that my rule breaking is at the restaurant dinner table of all places. Emily Post herself would shudder to know that I have been known to reapply my lipstick after my meal while I am seated at the table. I can almost hear the Manners Maven herself gasping from the thought.

For years I have frequented public eateries and taverns and have watched women time after time touching up their makeup  so how was I to know that this was actually taboo?

It wasn’t until I met my husband and we had been out on a couple of dates that he made a comment.  Just as the tip of my gloss wand touched my upper lip he whispered, “Dear, shouldn’t you be doing that in the ladies room?” I had to say I was taken aback and the first thought through my head was, “but why would I go all the way to the ladies room if I don’t need to use the facilities? I just need to put on my lipstick.” Seemed like a no brainer to me but his comment did make me stop and think. Just what are the social etiquette rules about this sealed subject?

I did a little research and was amazed to find the differing viewpoints., an online image and beauty website stated, “the general rule for when and where to apply or remove makeup is, ‘never in public’. This would reasonably rule out touching-up around a restaurant table, in church, on a crowded street, in a movie theater, in the class room and at almost any kind of social gathering.”

Image Resource Group, image consultants echoed this sentiment and said, “it is impolite to inspect and freshen makeup at the dinner table. Personal tasks like reapplying lipstick, powdering your nose, and brushing your hair should take place in the restroom. How would it look if a man took out his small shaver and shaved after the meal was finished? Any grooming activities should be conducted in the restroom or in the privacy of your office.”

I have to admit I hadn’t ever considered the idea of a man shaving at the dinner table but that did give me some added perspective. Of course, I don’t think a man could shave his 5 o’clock shadow as fast as I could apply my favorite lip plumping gloss, that’s for sure!

I did find someone (finally!) that understood my plight.  Helena Echlin, an online manners consultant said, “if you don’t need to visit the bathroom anyway, it can be annoying to make a special trip there just to put on lipstick. And, if you’re dining à deux, you’ll have to leave your companion sitting alone for five minutes. If you apply your lipstick at the table, it will only take 30 seconds.”

I searched blogs and asked friends what they thought.

A good friend of mine who is always terribly honest with me said, “a woman needs to maintain her mystique and a companion should only see the final result and not the process it takes to get there.”

I have to say that her explanation actually made more sense to me than the idea of a man shaving at the table. The bubble holding the “air of mystery” is popped when you show the crowd the man behind the curtain. We gals are all born this beautiful; we don’t want to give the impression that we have to work at it, right?

Further research turned up a multitude of opinions that if the lipstick could be applied without the use of a mirror or compact then it was ok. That made me laugh actually but I guess the thought is it’s less of a distraction to your seat mates. Whereas Helena Echlin advised “instead of whipping out something backed with cracked plastic, consider using a beautiful vintage powder compact.” At least your table guests will have something nicer to look at, right? Echlin added, “and it’s essential that you do it quickly. No one wants to watch you primp and preen. A swipe of lipstick is ok, but fiddling around with a lip liner is not.”

Overall, the majority of opinions out there subscribe to the belief that makeup should only be applied in private. Whether you are agreed or opposed, the objective is that you be discreet. And if you don’t tell on me I won’t tell on you.  As they say, “my lips are sealed.”