Last week I told you about the woman I saw curling her hair at a Connecticut train station and you weighed in on public beautification. It turns out most of us have at least one grooming ritual that we do publicly in the interest of time.
I rarely go further than reapplying lip balm or gloss on the go, but after reading your reactions, I wanted to find out how it feels to get done up in front of strangers. Would anyone even notice? I wore a face mask, blowdried my hair and painted my nails -- all in very public spaces. Read on to find out what happened.
Face Mask Over Coffee
Olivia called me from a coffee shop near my apartment and asked me to meet her for breakfast. I told her I had just gotten out of the shower and I would head right over. The coffee shop was practically silent, and tables were packed with freelancer-types working on their laptops. I took a seat and unwrapped an Amore Pacific Refreshing Masque, this very "The Skin I Live In" facial treatment.
While I let the Masque work for the recommended 30 minutes, I asked a table neighbor to borrow her Chirashi sauce (the only condiment available).
"Sure," Table Neighbor said, barely registering my Masque.
I caught our server take a second look at my face as he cleared a nearby table, and I shot back a sullen Masqued stare. Everything feels more dramatic from behind a Masque. What if the gel cutlets stuck to my face weren't a pampering treatment? For all he knew, they were hiding a rare skin-eating disease and I was in recovery. I deserved compassion.
A Blowout in the Coffee Aisle
We stopped at a grocery store so that I could blowdry my hair. After circling the store a few times looking for an electric outlet, I asked an employee where I could find one. He didn't know. Finally I spotted one in the coffee aisle and plugged in.
With my head upside down, blowdryer filling a public space with noise, I thought about why I might be forced to groom like this at a grocery store. My (imaginary) boyfriend and I had an epic fight.
"Pack your blowdryer and leave!" he demanded. I fled to the closest place with electricity, this grocery store, to finish doing my hair before work.
I saw one of the nearby cashiers staring at me, but she didn't say anything. Too bad because I really wanted to tell my sob story.
I showed up to class 15 minutes early and let the instructor know I planned on painting my nails during class. It's just so hard to find time for both exercise and manicures sometimes!
"You should probably start on the floor otherwise you might spill on the treadmill," he said matter-of-factly.
I grabbed an extra towel and took a spot in the middle of the room.
"Why don't you move closer to the door," suggested Instructor. "Better ventilation."
While everyone else warmed up, I perched on a step bench and applied two coats of M.A.C Oriele Orange, making a point of fanning and blowing on my hands.
I was certain someone was going to ask me to stop or at least give me a dirty look and I would have a chance to explain how insanely busy I am. So busy that I have to paint my nails at the gym. But, alas no response. When I was done, I gave Instructor a painted thumbs up. He nodded in approval.
What did I learn from preening in public?
Most people are either completely oblivious or totally indifferent to what others are doing, and I didn't get to tell any of my stories. It's the little things that elicit a big reaction like cutting the line at a food truck or stealing someone's spot in spin class.
Have you ever been chastised (or complimented) by a stranger? Tell me about it.
Follow Julie on Twitter @JR_Schott.