Clouds of hairspray polluting the Tube. Bus passengers whipping out 88-colour eye-shadow palettes… since when was it ok to put your make-up on in…

Clouds of hairspray polluting the Tube. Bus passengers whipping out 88-colour eye-shadow palettes… since when was it ok to put your make-up on in public

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UPDATED:

20:40 GMT, 21 November 2012

The discreet powder touch-up behind your computer. A subtle swirling on of blusher hidden behind your mirrored compact. Not to forget a quick lick of lip gloss before you dash to a meeting.

Yes, every woman’s conducted a rapid make-up fix in public. But what I saw recently on a rush-hour train made me do a double-take.

Opposite me, a girl whipped a mirror and a brush out of her shoulder bag and started fluffing on blusher.

I assumed, as you would, that it was a case of ‘over-slept, important morning meeting, desperate times call for desperate measures’.

Make-over on the move: Laurie Graham is alarmed by the number of women who get ready for work on public transport

Make-over on the move: Laurie Graham is alarmed by the number of women who get ready for work on public transport

But then she got out one of those 88-colour eye shadow palettes (which, if you ask me, is about 80 colours too many) and considered her options.

That was when I realised this wasn’t an Emergency Face Fix. What I was witnessing was her normal morning routine. I’ll give her credit for one thing: she had a steady hand.

None of the other passengers seemed even to notice what she was doing.

Actually, one or two of them were indulging in their own personal grooming. You know, those things people do when they’re absorbed in reading their morning paper Picking their nose and nibbling their cuticles.

But her project was rather more ambitious. This girl had all her kit with her. Watching her felt voyeuristic, a behind-the-curtain peek at a lady’s intimate moment. I must confess, I found it quite shocking.

Once, every woman owned a small mirrored compact and it was considered normal — sophisticated even — to flip it open to discreetly check for things like nose-glow or lipstick smudge.

Apparently it was one of those feminine foibles that some men found adorable.

Do it at home: Laurie thinks women should get up earlier instead of doing their make-up while commuting

Do it at home: Laurie thinks women should get up earlier instead of doing their make-up while commuting

But there was nothing adorable or discreet about this slapping and daubing of full war paint. It was a sight which, in my view, never should have crossed the threshold of her locked bathroom door.

Whatever happened to feminine mystique, I pondered, as my fellow commuter gurned and grimaced through the mascara application. Clearly, in this case, it had been traded for an extra ten minutes in bed that morning.

Aside from her presumed laziness, what this show really revealed was a complete lack of boundaries. Once, there was a sense of place and propriety.

Now, there is nothing. People invade your space and offend your sensibilities because, to be plain, they couldn’t care less about you.

That’s why you have to listen to stranger’s intimate mobile phone conversations shouted across the bus, or the music hissing and leaking from their headphones.

People invade your space and offend your sensibilities because, to be plain, they couldn't care less about you

That’s why you have to endure the smell and debris of their fast food, and their effing and jeffing in the street. It’s all part of the same attitude.

‘Up yours, fellow earthlings,’ it says. ‘I’ll do whatever I damned well like.’ And that includes my make-up in your full view.

Of course, privacy of any kind is a relatively modern concept. Kings used to receive ministers and make decisions of State while sitting on the royal potty. It was the Victorians who covered the piano legs and drew a heavy curtain over what a lady got up to in her boudoir.

I’d say the pendulum is now well on its backward swing.

Girls go out on Saturday night wearing underwear as outerwear and, if they get caught short after too many mojitos, they just squat down in the street and do what they have to do.

Looked at from that perspective, putting your make-up on while sitting in a packed train comes fairly low on the scale of unmannerly behaviour. I travelled on a bus the other day and watched as a girl went one step further, not only setting to work on her face, but giving it one of those preliminary ‘Oh my God, what have we here’ probing, squeezing examinations first.

It was on the tip of my tongue to ask her whether she couldn’t have done this at home — but I was afraid she’d clock me with her battery-operated hot hairstyling brush.

Once considered sophisticated: Emergency touch-ups with a compact used to be seen as feminine

Once considered sophisticated: Emergency touch-ups with a compact used to be seen as feminine

I’m sure she had one in her bag of accoutrements — she had everything else. Her make-up, once she got started, was a monumental project. Christopher Biggins could have transformed himself into Widow Twankey in less time.

She was still at it, blending around her eye sockets, when I got off the bus.

It gets worse. You may wish to finish eating your breakfast before you read on.

I’ve seen chin whiskers tweezed — OK,
it was in France and when it comes to grooming French women do have the
reputation of setting the bar high, but I’d have thought tweezing on the
train would incur penalty points. I’ve also seen blackhead-squeezing on
the Intercity, performed by girlfriend on boyfriend.

Perhaps it’s a new bonding ritual, like chimpanzees checking each other over for lice. Still, you’d think people would get a room.

I can see there are grey areas.

Do I object, for instance, to people brushing their hair in public No, not violently, although I don’t see what’s so urgent about it that they can’t wait till they go to the bathroom.

On the subject of hair, I’m actually more annoyed and sometimes in danger of injury from reckless hair-tossing.

Spritzing with perfume in the confines of a railway carriage

That depends, partly on the pre-existing squalor of the railway carriage, and partly on the perfume in question. Some scents are so gag-inducing I’d almost rather smell eau de kebab. Almost.

And flossing I realise some restaurants provide toothpicks and there are diners who love to go to town after a lamb cutlet, but flossing has to be the ne plus ultra of public toilette.

To be honest, I’ve never seen it done, but it can only be a matter of time.

I've always jealously guarded my
feminine mystique. I’ve been married twice and neither of my husbands
has ever seen me put my face on

When I complained about all this to a friend, she defended them: ‘Life is very pressured these days. People work long hours. Commuting takes for ever. Those girls you’re complaining about probably have to multi-task.’

Well, please. My mother lived a pressured life. She multi-tasked, even though she didn’t realise it. She’d have a rice pudding in the oven while she was pushing the sheets through the mangle, and an eye on the clock so as not to miss Mrs Dale’s Diary.

She also never left the house without a dab of Pond’s cold cream and a squiff of cologne. So I’m afraid the ‘pressure of time’ argument won’t wash. These girls should get up earlier in the morning.

I’ve always jealously guarded my feminine mystique. I’ve been married twice and neither of my husbands has ever seen me put my face on.

They have seen ‘Before’ and they have seen ‘After’. Whether either of them has noticed any difference, I cannot say. It doesn’t matter.

Make-up is what we ladies do for ourselves, and when it comes to female adornment, a man’s powers of observation often fail him. Wheel trims, yes. Eyeliner Probably not.

In fact, if we were ever invited to take part in Mr & Mrs, any husband of mine would be eliminated at the first round.

‘Does your wife paint her toenails’

‘Pass.’

‘What hair products does your wife use’

‘Spray starch’

‘And her favourite brand of night cream’

‘Pledge’

Which is fine. What happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom. This old girl’s bag of tricks is zipped and no one is peeking inside it.

Not on the train, not on the bus, not anywhere.