Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lipstick Etiquette

Hello Polite Readers!

Today I am answering a letter about lipstick etiquette, which is slightly outside of the original concept of this blog, but there's a couple opportunities for polite wording, and besides, it's nice to get a letter! So let's get to it:
What is "lipstick etiquette"? I'm trying to wear lipstick more, but now I don't know what to do when it needs touch ups. Do I always excuse myself and find a ladies room or just pull out a compact? Do I wipe it off before eating or let it get on the silverware? Can I touch it up at the table? What if I try to fake-kiss a cheek but end up making contact and leaving a big lip-mark? Etc.
So. The truth is that I really hate lipstick and if I hadn't become a dancer I probably never would have started to wear it. Early in my career, if I wasn't specifically told that I had to wear red lipstick, I would wear a sparkly gloss instead and even then I wouldn't put it on until right before I went on-stage, and in fact some times I would forget to put it on at all and go out with bare lips. Oh, the shame.

The more I have to do my makeup nicely to dance, the more I've explored my options and I've discovered that not all lipsticks are created equal. So the first step to avoiding a lipstick faux pas is to find one that you really like and are comfortable wearing. Look for something that isn't too sticky or goopy, doesn't tend to wander around your face, and doesn't dry your lips out. Using a conditioner or primer before you apply can help, and makeup setting spray might keep it from coming off. Of course it's expensive to buy a bunch of lipsticks to try, so I recommend going down to your favorite cosmetics store, getting some brand recommendations, and having them apply the one you like best and then you can wear it all day and see how it holds up before making a decision.

Personally I prefer to avoid actual lipstick and go with lip tar. It's my new obsession. Some people also like lip stains. Both of these products are less prone to transfering onto silverware, wine glasses and friends' cheeks. I've personally found that the one stain I've tried dries my lips out like crazy, but your mileage may very. Also, matte lipsticks can be more reliable than shiny ones. So there you go. If you go with an actual lipstick, blotting it after applying will help avoid as much transference onto the things around you.

Now to address each question:

1. Personally, I don't like to touch up my makeup at the dinner table, it feels a little gauche and unsanitary. I don't want food in my makeup or makeup in my food, and I think it sends a weird message to the people you're with, similar to playing with your phone. Do a quick compact-check and if you need a touch-up, excuse yourself.

2. Don't wipe it off before eating, it's so hard to just remove your lipstick without messing up the rest of your face, and if you're anything like me, you'll end up with weird bits of color stuck in little creases in your lip. If you're wearing a good product and you've blotted, you shouldn't have too much trouble with it coming off on silverware.

3. You probably won't leave marks on someone's face, but if you do, simply have a tissue or handkerchief (clean of course!) to dab it off with. Brush it off with a simple "So sorry, I left a mark!"

And a little Politely Worded tip? Watch out for your fellow ladies, especially dancers. If you see that someone has a smudge, or needs a touch-up, or has lipstick on her teeth, please take her aside and let her know! No one wants to go on stage with messy lipstick, or walk around a party with red teeth. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just a quiet "Oh, you might want to touch up your lips real quick." Saves everyone a lot of embarrassment!

If you have your own etiquette questions, please e-mail me at and you could be featured in a future column!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sporadic Updates

Hello Polite Readers!

For the foreseeable future, I will only be updating this blog when I actually have received letters or topic requests. I would like to keep things up and running, so if you have something you'd like to see me write about, please either leave a comment on this post or write to me at I hope to hear from you soon!


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cover-ups and Intros

Hello Polite Readers!

Yes, we're still talking about dance, but this week it's dealing with dancers rather than audience members. The amazing Miz Becka Bomb, emcee extraordinaire, best audience member ever and dedicated ATS dancer has asked me to share some words about cover-ups and intros (I'll be writing separate blogs on both these topics with advice for dancers on my dance blog. Check the links at the bottom of this post).

First, let's talk about how to get your dancers to wear their cover-ups! For those of you who aren't in the bellydance community, it's considered proper etiquette to wear something over your costume when you're not on stage, so as not to distract from the dancers who are currently performing. Sometimes a dancer forgets to cover up, or hasn't been told this etiquette rule, or thinks she can skip it this one time because it's so hot in the studio. What's an event organizer or stage manager to do?

Try to nip that bad behavior in the bud. When you send out your pre-show e-mail with all of those important details, say something like "I know you're all going to watch the rest of the show! We'll have some seats saved in the back row so you can slip in and out easily. Make sure to bring your cover-up so your sparkles won't be a distraction!"

On the day of the show, you may want to have a couple of extra (opaque) veils or sarongs on hand for those performers who forgot their cover-up. It's happened to all of us at least once, I'm sure, you have to repack your dance-bag last minute and you accidentally leave that cover-up out, or you go to pack it and realize it has a huge stain from your last show, when that waiter tripped and spilled baba ganoush all down your back.

If you know that a certain dancer has a reputation for not bothering to cover-up, you may need to either keep an eye out, or task a helper with watching, so that when she goes and sits down in the middle of the audience in all her spangled glory, you can tap her on the shoulder and say "Oh honey, you forgot to cover up! Do you need a spare?" (Snarky AJ suggests that you make sure she gets the ugliest of the back-up cover-ups.)

Now, what about intros? It's weird, you'd think dancers would have an easy time talking about themselves, but sometimes getting an intro can be like pulling teeth. I've witnessed a lot of performers writing their intro hastily in the dressing room, on a Kleenex with an eyeliner pencil (ok, I exaggerate, only a little). I've also seen them tell the emcee to just "make something up." Hey, the emcee has enough work to do keeping the crowd entertained, they don't also need to try to come up with some fun facts about you.

And then there's the opposite problem, the dancer who copy and pastes their two page long bio from their website. Look. No one wants to read that on stage. No one wants to sit through that. Your intro should not rival your performance in length. And it makes for a truly awful YouTube viewing experience. People have short attention spans and will click through to the next video when they get bored.

So, when you send out that pre-show e-mail, give your performers some guidelines. Say "When you send me your music, please also include a brief (no more than three sentences) intro for your piece. Don't forget to include your name and your website so the audience can find you later!" When someone inevitably sends their music sans intro, respond back with a reminder! If they still don't send you one after that, then they are going to have to live with "Please welcome to the stage Oven Mitts in Space!"

What about the dancer who sends her entire CV? Respond back with "Oh, I'm sorry, I really need this to be only three sentences long. We've got to keep the intros brief so the show doesn't run late! Please get back to me with a shortened version." If she doesn't, do your own quick edit. "Lady Sparklepants dances and teaches in Walla Walla. She is also the director of Oven Mitts in Space. You can learn more about her at www dot sparkliest pants dot com."

If you know you've got some newbie dancers in your show who might not have any experience writing their own intro and are probably super-nervous about it, you may want to include a short example bio in your e-mail, or a link to a handy article on writing one.

Dancers, if you want help with cover ups and intros, here's the applicable blog posts:
Wear Your Cover-Ups
On Writing a Good Intro

Do you have a question, or a problem you'd like to see addressed? Send it to me at and you could be featured in an upcoming column!