Why I Love Public Transport Makeovers

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Columnist Lucy Mangan on her favourite spectator sport.

I had one of those strange moments the other day when, after a lifetime of assuming that you held the majority opinion on a subject, you are suddenly revealed to be very much in the minority. I arrived late at a party because the train had – for reasons vouchsafed only to the Network Rail gods and not to anyone as lowly as their passengers – stopped for 20 minutes outside a station and said that at least I had been able to pass the time pleasantly because there had been a woman opposite me putting on her make-up.

You’d have thought I’d said I’d watched her gaily drowning puppies in a galvanised bucket. Everyone in earshot – male and female – sprang back in disgust. In that particular room I was clearly in a majority of one.

I was baffled. I *love* watching women do their make-up on the train. Not hairbrushing, not spraying anything around – deliberately shedding onto other people or polluting the air around them is obviously just rude – but pure face-painting is a delight. I love watching a bare face becoming defined. Lips brightened, eyes darkened, lashes lengthened, cheeks contoured – it’s like watching a picture come to life under a talented artist’s hand. Nature’s imperfections are ironed out with swift, sure strokes – amateurs tend to do their make-up at home, so if you’re watching a woman on the train you are generally watching an expert (at least as far as her own face is concerned) at work. And whether it’s a woman painting her face or a surgeon repairing someone’s innards, there is nothing as soothing, satisfying or seductive as watching a master at his or her craft exercise their skills.

When I queried the partygoers’ reactions, their chief objection seemed to be that it should be kept private. The men seemed to think she was guilty of letting daylight in upon magic and the women, that she was giving away trade secrets, lessening the effectiveness of their cosmetic armour by showing how it was put together.
Maybe the difference between us is that I never think of make up as secret, or as armour. I think of it as a helpful friend, or a compliment paid both to myself and the person or people I’m meeting that day. “Here,” I feel it’s saying “I’ve paid you the tribute of a little effort, operating on the assumption that we’re both worth it. Now it’s your turn. Let’s have a good meeting/day/whatever else together.”

I hope I’m not in a minority of one. What a freaking waste of time it will have been.

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