Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Etiquette and Personal Grooming

The secret of her manicure should be left at home, or with her manicurist, and kept a secret.

Women Win by Tact Rather Than by Beauty
I have seen various vulgar habits exhibited at a public table, but never until this week has it been my misfortune to sit at table with a woman who brought along her manicure implements and used them while waiting for the first course of her dinner.  

She was a good-looking young woman, with an air of repose that was positively refreshing in these days of nerves. She was carefully dressed and seemed to be more than ordinarily intelligent. I considered myself fortunate in having such a presentable vis-a-vis until she produced her nail file and began the scraping process which is irritating at all times, but was particularly nerve-wasting as an accompaniment to soup. 

People with weak stomachs have a hard time in life. There are so many disgusting things to be met with outside one's home that scarcely a day passes without an experience which cannot be readily banished from the memory. I felt really angry with my neighbor who gave the finishing touches to as ugly a set of nails as I ever saw before her dinner was served. I looked for other uncommon traits in her behavior but could find nothing else at which to complain. Why she should have thought herself justified in such an act passes my comprehension. 

Somebody told me once that every person had some disgusting trick. I did not believe it then, I do not believe it now, even with a wide experience of men and women and their little ways. I do believe, however, that many persons have more than one objectionable trick, for they are likely to go in pairs like reptiles. Why does not father, mother, relative or friend call such a person's attention to these horrid little ways? It is infinitely better to risk unpleasantness at home than to allow a woman to be publicly condemned for a thing that could be avoided. Women are shunned for smaller offenses than the one I witnessed the other day, and perhaps they never guess the reason. 

Refinement is bred in the bone, and where it exists such ways are impossible. The next best thing is the veneer which comes from the polishing process of education and experience. The possessors of this, too, would scarcely be guilty of glaring faults except under the stress of excitement, when the veneer seems to break away and show glimpses of the true nature below it. It is said that as a nation we are improving year by year, but the progress is so slow when compared with all there is to be done that the task seems an endless one. 

It would hardly seem necessary to say that one's nails should be cared for in private like other points of the toilet. It is not at all uncommon to see women rearrange side combs after removing their hats in the theater, but there is some excuse for the act in the discomfort of loose-ends of hair which have been pulled away from their fastening and float about one's ears and in front of the eyes. So we accept this breach of manners. There is no good excuse for the nail file and toothpick when they appear in public, and it will be long before refined people will care to search for one, by her irreproachable toilet. –By Mrs. Martha Taft Wentworth, in San Francisco Call, 1901

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