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Tea, Crumpets And Personal Grooming

I recently attended a tea party which included an old friend of mine – 97 years of age, Lizzie, and her friend, Minnie, whom I had only met once before.

We were sitting at the dining room table having tea, crumpets and bee-sting cake. All of a sudden, Minnie said to me, “I see that you have a stray hair on your neck. I will get my tweezers and pull it out. That is what girlfriends do for each other.” She then jumped up, proceeded to get her tweezers out and pulled a number of hairs. I am a blonde and sometimes the hairs are hard to see, though as a rule, I tweeze them out at home.

I said absolutely nothing, because I did not want to embarrass Lizzie as they are close friends. Lizzie does not know how I feel about this as due to her age and her friendship with Minnie, I don’t want to criticize her friend. I also know that if I said anything, Lizzie would tell Minnie what I said and I don’t want that to happen.

This, I believe, is a breach of good manners. To me, it is inappropriate to comment on someone’s appearance in the presence of others, unless it is positive. Personal grooming should be done in private and not at someone’s dining room table.

They are coming to me on Tuesday for an English tea with crumpets, scones and clotted cream, etc. I am wondering if this happens again, I should comment.

Your thoughts, please.   0715-10



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • m January 17, 2012, 2:46 am

    If this weren’t such an etiquette tragedy, I would be rolling on the floor laughing. My God, that must have been awkward. Sorry you had to go through that, OP!

  • ellesee January 17, 2012, 4:05 am

    If you don’t like it, then say something about it. She can say “this is what girlfriends do to each other” but I thought friends also respected each other’s privacy and personal space.

  • lkb January 17, 2012, 6:15 am

    How odd! Depending on the weather of course, I think I’d be inclined to wear a turtleneck next time (and sit as far from Minnie as possible).

    I assume Minnie is elderly like Lizzie and may be a bit, ( shall we say?) doddering. Just do the best you can to bean dip but if that’s not possible, just let it go.

    I kind of wonder why the OP (or someone else) couldn’t have deflected the situation when Minnie was retrieving the tweezers.

  • TheVapors January 17, 2012, 6:52 am

    I believe a polite, but firm, “Thank you for offering, but I’ll handle it at home when I’m alone” would’ve been warranted along with a quick bean-dipping.

    If it does come up, again, absolutely say something. I wouldn’t let anyone near my person with tweezers. In the future I’d have a short list of some bean-dipping lines available for tea.

    “That’s not necessary, say this tea is absolutely delicious! Where’d you get it?”
    “No, thank you. Did you make these crumpets? They’re divine!”

    As a slightly separate note: The only times I ever think it’s appropriate to point out something physical is when it can be “remedied” quickly and discretely handled. As examples: “I think you have a bit of something on your tooth.” or “I think there’s a some sauce on your cheek.” Easily remedied, and better for me to know that I have sauce on my face and get it off within a minute than to run around all day and no one say a word.

  • josie January 17, 2012, 6:55 am

    I’d say “Thank you for bringing that to my attention, I’ll take care of it later”. There was a scene much like this in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where the female family members are getting ready for the wedding and tweezing each other’s chin whiskers. I’d prefer not to make it a group activity.

  • Lexi January 17, 2012, 6:55 am

    Wait… So some random woman not only commented on your “stray hairs” in front of others but then proceeded to yank them out, at a dinner table, and you didn’t say… Anything?
    If she came at me with tweezers I’d freak. Isn’t that the normal response? No? Okay, I’ll continue being weird then.

  • Yvaine January 17, 2012, 7:07 am

    Yeech, yes, that’s rude. She shouldn’t have said anything, and she definitely shouldn’t have taken it upon herself to pluck hairs out of you! o.O And I think you could have said something (though I totally understand freezing out of sheer bogglement). It wouldn’t have had to be rude, just “Thanks for letting me know, but I’ll take care of it later.” Though as much of a busybody as she is, I hope she wouldn’t just keep trying to ambush you with the tweezers!

  • Trinka January 17, 2012, 7:08 am

    Wear a scarf!!!

  • Caros January 17, 2012, 7:32 am

    She’s 97. Celebrate the fact that she is living well, has the eyesight, the mental capacity, she’s still capable of (and cares about) personal grooming at her age.

  • Ripple January 17, 2012, 7:35 am

    If it’s at your house, Minnie mayy not know where there are tweezers. Assuming she has a pair in her purse, then just say, “Thank you for pointing them out to me. I will take care of them later, after our tea.” Then change the subject.

  • coralreef January 17, 2012, 7:47 am

    First reaction : Who does that?!?

    Second reaction : “It’s OK, dear, I’ll take care of it myself when I get home. So, what do you think about that new show on TV about tire rotation?”

    Other than that, I’m just plain stumped.

  • Livvie January 17, 2012, 7:52 am

    Of course you should comment! If you see her approaching, tools in hand, wave her off with a “oh thanks I’ll take care of that later lets just enjoy our tea.”

    It is rude to criticize someone’s manners, rude to gossip about her to your other friend, but most emphatically not rude to decline grooming services at the table.

  • Sarah Jane January 17, 2012, 7:55 am

    Polite spine. No one is coming after me with a set of tweezers…ESPECIALLY at the table.

  • SHOEGAL January 17, 2012, 8:58 am

    Well – the proper thing to do would be not to say anything but I really believe that Minnie was just trying to be nice. I also think that when people age they aren’t as guarded about these things anymore. It is more like – we are all people, we all have the same problems and issues – just get on with life and not let the little things bother you so much.

  • Jennifer January 17, 2012, 9:06 am

    Yes, yes you can say something. I’d really rather not have my neck touched, let alone tweezed, by someone I’d just met.

  • Harley Granny January 17, 2012, 9:20 am

    I truly am trying not to snicker as I re-read this and picture the whole scene in my head…so I’ll ask forgiveness in advance.

    Is Minnie the same age as Lizzie? Not that it matters much but it’s better for my mental image. 🙂
    You showed a lot of class not making a scene. I would have done much the same as you did. I’m a preacher’s kid and we were taught at a very young age to pretty much let people treat us as they see fit..more so that elders must be obeyed. My polite spin comes into play with people my own age and younger. My BFF would have gotten the “have you lost your mind????” look.

    If she again comes at you with the tweezers, very gently guide her had away from yourself while stating that she shouldn’t go to so much trouble but you’ll take care of it later.

  • MellowedOne January 17, 2012, 9:27 am

    caros – It was Minnie who wanted to tweeze, not the 97-yr old. And there doesn’t seem to be any indication of Minnie’s age.


    OP, learn how to use the polite decline. Many suggestions have been given as to wording.

  • Tracy January 17, 2012, 9:36 am

    Minnie must have pretty decent eyesight for her age!

  • Lulu January 17, 2012, 9:55 am

    Collared shirt and scarf.
    Sorry, I’m laughing too hard to have any further advice.

  • Yvaine January 17, 2012, 10:06 am

    Caros wrote: She’s 97. Celebrate the fact that she is living well, has the eyesight, the mental capacity, she’s still capable of (and cares about) personal grooming at her age.

    We have no idea how old Minnie is, and it’s still rude, and I don’t think we need to admonish the OP to be grateful for the rudeness.

  • Sophia January 17, 2012, 10:06 am

    OP is right. Personal grooming should be kept just that. Not only is it rude, it’s unsanitary and shows a lack of respect to the other guests who have to bear witness to it.

    Just deflect and say something like “Thank you, I’ll take care of it later”. Emphasize the “later” bit.

  • Raven January 17, 2012, 10:29 am

    Gross – who tweezes facial hair (theirs, or someone elses) at the table? Sure, there are things that girlfriends talk about, etc that maybe indicate a closeness, but not at the table, and not against someone’s will.

    If it happens again, be firm. “No thanks.”

  • Cat January 17, 2012, 10:31 am

    Be glad she is not into bikini waxing.

    I cannot imagine anyone doing this. I, like you,believe in being polite to everyone regardless of how they treat me, but I cannot say how I would have dealt with this. At best, “No, thank you.”

  • Anonymous January 17, 2012, 11:13 am

    There is personal respect and etiquette and then there is crossing the line. I cannot believe you sat there and let someone rip hairs off your body! This might be because I am from a much younger generation but if something makes me uncomfortable I will speak up. I will set through some less than desirable moments but when it comes to my personal being then etiquette goes out the door.

    “Thanks for noticing, Minnie! I’ll be sure to get at that later.”
    “It’s there to keep me warm, please don’t pluck it.”

    No one has ever come at me with tweezers (unless I paid them to clean up my eyebrows) so I am not sure how I would handle that situation. I just know I would not be a doormat.

  • Cady January 17, 2012, 11:27 am

    You should’ve just said, “No, thank you; I’ll take care of it later.” That would not have been in any way, shape or form rude, and if Minnie or Lizzie had thought so, it would’ve been their problem.

  • Ashley January 17, 2012, 11:58 am

    I honestly think I would have been too flabbergasted to say or do anything if I was in your position.

    If the situation arises again (how weird would that be??), just say “Oh I’ll take care of it after we’ve enjoyed our tea” then steer the conversation elsewhere…

  • travestine January 17, 2012, 12:35 pm

    The only time I’ve heard of something like this, I did it and it was to my mother! But I had a good excuse – I was coming out of anesthesia! Short of that, there’s no excuse for what Minnie did – it was very rude. If she was cogent enough to come up with the “girlfriends” line, then she’s together enough to be firmly told that your body is private and you will deal with any stray hairs in private.

    Alternatively, have a waxing kit ready and if she pulls out her tweezers, tell her you noticed she had a bit of a moustache you thought you’d take care of for her.

  • Teapot January 17, 2012, 1:09 pm

    When reading this post, did anyone else assumed, as I did, that the hair was loose and that Minnie was a bit of a germaphobe to use tweezers to retrieve it? But to actually begin ripping hairs out of someone’s neck! Words fail me. Please pass the bead dip.

  • Xtina January 17, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Ugh–yuck. Tweezing at the table? And by someone you really don’t know? No thanks. I’d tell Minnie thanks for pointing it out but you’d prefer to take care of that later and enjoy your tea now.

  • sugaryfun January 17, 2012, 4:55 pm

    How awkward! I think I’d say something, but it’s tricky if you didn’t the first time.

    I’m a newbie, what is beandipping?

  • Helen January 17, 2012, 5:17 pm

    I live in fear that this will happen to me *Oi, you have a LARGE hair on your chin/throat, yuck!*. On the other hand, if I have a stray hair, I would like it to be gotten rid of quickly. I guess it depends on how close the relationship you might have with those present at the tea. Still pretty gumptious (I don’t know if that is the word).

  • Helen January 17, 2012, 5:20 pm

    @ caros – spot on. That is a bit of little embarassment to celebrate an older one who can still see the chin/throat hairs. No one will remember that even in the next week or so, but she will feel confident that she helped you. It’s all good, sort of.

  • Spike January 17, 2012, 5:58 pm

    Wow that is really rude. I had someone do that once to me, I am in my 20s but have many grey hairs and a girl I knew spotted one of them and attempted to pull it out for me! At least people like this are only clueless, not malicious. My response was a polite “thanks but no thanks.”

  • Miss Sweetbones January 17, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Oh my! I do hope that you can see the humor of the situation. Minnie sounds a tad dotty. I don’t think that she was trying to criticize your appearance. It sounds more like a clumsy attempt at trying to be a “good girlfriend” or prevent embarrassment. Clearly she missed the mark.

    As others have suggested, you can politely decline her offer of “help,” but it does take some quick thinking. “No thanks, I’ll take care of them when I get home” is just fine. Adding, “I prefer to do my personal grooming in private” will probably deter her from trying to “help” again. I hope you’re not put in that awkward situation again, though.

    As for commenting on another person’s appearance, I don’t think it is necessarily a faux pas to keep mum unless you have an actual compliment. If there’s something amiss and the person can correct it, speak up! Whether you’re telling them that they have tissue stuck to their shoe or that there’s a bit of lunch in their hair, chances are that they would rather know than not. I know I’d rather someone told me! (That being said, plucking definitely qualifies as one of those things that can’t be corrected immediately and should not be mentioned.)

  • Cordelia January 17, 2012, 6:19 pm

    “Please keep your hands and grooming implements off of me.”

  • Princess Buttercup January 17, 2012, 7:33 pm

    Definitely a moment for “Thank you, _I’ll_ take care of that privately later.”
    I’ve noticed an influx of the older generation participating in public grooming. Tweezing, picking, flossing and even clipping nails in the church sanctuary (where the loud clip echo’s and interrupts the sermon). I’m really beginning to wonder why so many have started finding that acceptable.

  • grumpy_otter January 17, 2012, 8:33 pm

    I’m probably in the minority, but if I were in a private setting with only three women present, I would welcome the fun of turning it into a grooming party. Though I have never heard of tweezing neck hairs.

    I’d say “Yay! And after you finish I will pluck your nose hairs!”

  • Leanna January 17, 2012, 9:35 pm

    I totally laughed reading this post.

    I guess I have a different personality than the OP. If someone was coming at me with a pair of tweezers, I’d jump up and say, “Whoa! No way!” and start laughing.

    Then the person would probably try to insist with a “I’m just trying to help you, dear.” And I’d still say (with hands waving) “Uh, uh. No way. It freaks me out to have someone else pluck my hair.”

  • Cat Whisperer January 17, 2012, 9:45 pm

    After I picked myself up off the floor laughing when I read this, I considered what the appropriate options would be in such a situation.

    1. You could make a run for it when Minnie goes for the tweezers. Although if OP is in the age range that her friend Lizzie is (97!), perhaps a hasty escape is not an option.

    2. If OP has a cane, she could use that to fend Minnie off (only half kidding!).

    3. Best option: do what she did and gracefully submit to the attention and try to figure out a way to evade further grooming attacks at the next encounter.

    My advice to OP: before going to tea with Minnie again, make darn sure that you have no stray hairs in need of plucking. Consider wearing a turtleneck, or a scarf that effectively covers your neck. Sit as far away from Minnie as possible. Keep the tea-party conversation animated and interesting, with no pauses that give Minnie an opening for another grooming attack. And if in spite of all advance preparations, Minnie states her intention of going for the tweezers, arrest her with a comment like “Oh, leave it be, it’s just us friends, and if you can’t let your hair down among friends, when can you let it down?”

    …And if she goes for the tweezers anyway, make a mental note to politely refuse further tea invititations that include Minnie.

  • Mina January 18, 2012, 2:06 am

    I have a very close friend who loves to pull hairs (she actually has Trichotillomania and is missing most of her eyebrows and lashes) and I will let her tweeze my hairs but only under very specific conditions… we have to be in private in one of our homes, and she gets until my pain tolerance is expired. She only pulls chin hairs and the occasional eyebrow hair. She has actually offered me money to let her pull an eyelash (a dollar per lash), to which I always say no.

    One night she and I went to the dollar store and the cashier had about 10 inch-long blonde curly hairs coming out from her chin, and it took my friend extraordinary restraint not to say anything, but I commend her, she didn’t comment. But once we got out in the car she said “I’d have had a great time with her chin!”

  • LilyG January 18, 2012, 2:16 am

    I MUST have the recipe for bee-sting cake! Please divulge!

  • Kate January 18, 2012, 6:45 am

    I do this for my mother, but only at her request and NOT at the dinner table! Bean dipping certainly sounds like the way to go here.

  • Enna January 21, 2012, 5:40 am

    I agree with the other posters who say suggest “Thanks Minnie I’l deal with it when I get home” and then change the subject e.g. what nice cakes/tea.

  • Lady Antipode January 22, 2012, 10:28 pm

    LilyG, “Bienenstich or “Bee sting cake” is a German dessert made of a sweet yeast dough with a baked-on topping of caramelized almonds and filled with a vanilla custard, Buttercream or cream.” Courtesy of Wikipedia. The internet should provide you with a good recipe.

  • anonymous January 27, 2012, 8:36 am

    (I was going to ask about bee sting cake too, thanks!) Invited to a big graduation party, I took pains to look as good as possible because it was also a ‘family reunion’ of sorts. This included a facial and eyebrow job, and plucking of stray hairs. I was pleased to see a distant cousin my age there, but unnervingly, she had pink foundation slathered on her face and neck, and also on a huge clump of long neck hairs! Ick! Those things would have required scissors, not just plucking. (One needs a teenage daughter with an eagle eye to spot those things. Mine certainly did!)

  • erica September 10, 2012, 6:02 pm

    Wear your hair down and spend some time in front of a good magnification mirror before you go.
    Just in case.