New York Fashion Kool-Aid: “Transit”-ory Beauty

While Eleanor Rigby may have kept her face in a jar by the door, real commuting women of NYC tend to take theirs with them and apply it on public transit. En route to an early morning appointment yesterday I dashed onto the 86th Street crosstown bus which was jam packed with commuters. Towards the back, a seated young woman with a large sack on her lap was engrossed in, shall we say, readying  herself for the day. So, maybe you’re thinking a little lipstick, a little powdering of the nose…what’s the big deal? Let me assure you, that this makeup application was quite a bit more than that including but not limited to at least ten separate products each using a different brush, as well as a separate compact. I was duly impressed that this woman could flawlessly paint on black gel eyeliner as the bus careened around a corner.  I can’t even draw on a proper cat eye standing perfectly still in front of my bathroom mirror.

And there’s this: I don’t need to see how the sausage gets made and if I do, I’ll watch a Youtube makeup tutorial. Unfortunately, it’s not unlike an accident on the highway; you desperately want to look away but morbid curiosity prevents you from doing so.  I had no sooner transferred onto the subway when lightning (or was it Lancome? L’Oreal?) struck again. A beautiful redhead reached into her bag and began “putting on her face.” I counted four lash products (a primer, a separator, a mascara applied with the requisite open-mouthed fly catching face, a curler) plus a powder blush all used expertly with seemingly no worries as to the multitude of stops and sudden starts endemic to subway travel. I became transfixed and craned my neck to see in what order she used each of these products. I nearly missed my stop. Although, I too am a “makeup girl” (or at least I thought I was until now) I began to wonder if I was old fashioned. I’ve always believed that a quick refresh of the lipstick is acceptable in public; affixing four shades of eyeshadow and plucking your brows, is not. In addition, who has the strength to tote around an arsenal of beauty products? My vanity drawer tells all the tales that my overtaxed shoulder doesn’t need to.

Armed for battle

When I arrived, ironically enough, at my day spa appointment, I asked two of the women who work there if they had observed this AM rush hour phenomenon.  One proceeded to tell me about the time that she was convinced that she was watching a makeup artist judging by the huge carryall of products in use, only to catch a glimpse of a stethoscope in her bag as well
(cosmetologist on call)? I suddenly remembered observing a woman on a plane last week while coming home from Thanksgiving in Atlanta as she applied false eyelashes in the center seat. “What’s next?” I asked. “Someone will brush their teeth on mass transit?” Apparently this was “deja subway vu” for the receptionist/office manager. “There was a woman with one of those little tooth brushes that you use on safari in Africa or places where there is no water…the kind that folds over your finger and she was cleaning her teeth. When I saw that I really felt like saying something to her” she added.

MTA Rules of Conduct

Aside from being extremely humorous (at least to me) this is a trend that needs to stop. Is this just another taboo or boundary that’s been broken down or pushed back by the internet and the excessive amount of makeup application videos? There seems to be little left of propriety if we are basically getting prepped for our day in full sight of everyone who maybe hasn’t even fully digested their Egg McMuffin yet. I know that there are rules on the subway including a ban on eating and on hot beverages (maybe to prevent something like this: click here for article) but maybe there should be a rule concerning what the French call “faire la toilette” (translates to “grooming”) instituted on this 110 year old institution.

Laura Geller’s discontinued makeup bag

Numerically speaking, in a city that counts its inhabitants in the 8.4 million range, public transportation has got to be one of, if not THE single most important service and more than six million riders would no doubt agree. Another statistic: at least among NY singles, gender lines break down as 53% female vs. 47% male. Meanwhile, our fair city is naturally (or maybe I should say unnaturally) in the top 10 for the cosmetics obsessed according to this: click here for article all facts giving this “movement” the makings of a potential problem of epic proportion. Maybe we can find a way to blame Sephora for this “trillions of beauty products” epidemic the way we blame Starbucks for making everyone coffee obsessed or heroin mules for enabling junkies. We need to cut down on this practice soon, else I fear there will soon be an entire section of the train taken over for makeup classes. Interestingly, makeup mogul Laura Geller used to sell a NYC taxicab shaped pouch with about three items in it for application on the go. She should consider updating it in the shape of a NYC bus (one of the double-sized accordion ones for sure) or a subway car for today’s woman.

All I know is that if I were Big Bird on Sesame Street, today’s lesson would be brought to you by the letters “M” and “U” (for make-up) as well as the acronym “MTA.” However, what’s actually called for here is another kind of lesson; one maybe better served by a big purple dinosaur who featured the “Please and Thank You Song” on his TV show. My words to the legions of mobile women primpers are “Please stop! The eye you save may be your own” and “Thank you for respecting my disgust in witnessing your morning routine. Kindly do that in the privacy of your own home or maybe in your office cubicle with the door closed.” If you really need to be in motion while you gussy yourself up go seek out an empty elevator. If not, how about this novel idea–wake up ten minutes earlier! This has been a public service announcement from your future orthopedist.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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