We’ve all experienced the sinking sensation of being in public and realizing that some part of our body or clothing needed to be adjusted. If we were lucky, we were the only ones that knew it, but there are times that we’re not that fortunate and that others too notice that we need a “fix”. Do we opt for speed and make the adjustment on the spot or do we opt for gentility and seek a private place in which to make the needed adjustments? Or do we give new meaning to the term “stoicism” and bravely ignore the situation all evening?
Interestingly enough, this problem comes up more frequently at this time of year because people, especially women, often wear clothing to festive events that they’re not used to and so they’re not totally aware ahead of time as to how best anchor them or how to prevent unfortunate outcomes. Their outfits may include pieces cut differently or that even limit normal movement, they may have arranged their hair in a special “do” that isn’t holding up as well as it should, or they may have even experimented with a fun new make-up effect that isn’t lasting as long as they are. Women are well known for wearing shoes based on looks rather than comfort, so more problems can come from that source. Most women know that looking smashing can carry a high price in terms of comfort. Not all outfits are made for sitting, for example, just as not all shoes are made for actually walking more than a few feet at a time.
Real life involves real movement, though, and having fun can be very different from sitting or standing motionlessly to ensure that nothing will move and that you won’t perspire. Even if every precaution was taken before leaving the house, with the lower-than-low neckline carefully taped to prevent revealing anything too scandalous and the tortuous but incredibly chic shoes treated with every type of padding known to the market, the chances are that something will need to be fixed during the course of the evening. With any luck, it will be minor and can be touched up or readjusted during normal visits to the ladies room.
What happens, though, when the problem doesn’t have the good grace to wait for a convenient time? You’re oogling the buffet treasures and realize that you didn’t tape the fabric to your side breast as well as you thought, or you’re sitting at the table with friends when one of your artificial eyelashes starts coming unattached. Any number of things can go wrong. Maybe the padding that you added to your shoe has rolled up on itself, and walking has become even more painful than usual. Or your new “bargain” glitter eyeshadow has started sprinkling little flakes into your eyes, making them water like crazy. Do you rush for the nearest exit, dying of embarrassment? Do you convince yourself nothing’s amiss even though you’re starting to get strange looks? Or do you sit down in the nearest chair and whip out a mirror to better study the situation?
The basic rules of ladylike behavior say that fixes are never public. The traditional idea of the “lady” was that she was serene and somehow always fixed just right. One can hardly imagine Jackie Kennedy reaching a hand into her blouse to adjust a strap, or even pulling out her compact at the end of dinner to check herself out. These are actions that a Hollywood screenwriter would use to stereotypically depict someone from the blue-collar or barely-white-collar world. They’re not immoral, they’re simply not “done” in certain circles.
The one exception to the stereotype (not to the rules themselves) is that for some reason watching a sexy woman open her compact and start primping has great appeal to many men, so such scenes are often portrayed in movies. Given the appeal of this scene, if you’re only in the company of other TGs, they probably will not judge you badly if you just can’t help yourself and need to whip out your little gold compact.
Going back to the basic idea, though, that ladies do not “do” public fixes, we need to look a bit more closely, because needs-a-fix situations fall into different categories. Something that truly is desperate needs to have something done immediately even before you depart to do a more permanent adjustment in private. If, for example, your bodice tape has stopped performing and you’re flashing the room with the most personal part of a breast, you need to cover as quickly as possible, not smile nonchalantly and network your way across the room while all around you people stare gape-mouthed. Common sense says “Fix Now!” In reality, though, the message is “Cover Now!”. The real fix needs to wait for the ladies room.
Granted the above is a drastic example, but the rules remain the same even for less urgent problems. If your upswept hairdo is suddenly falling down, smile sweetly, make a joke, and head for the ladies room. If your shoes suddenly feel like you’re walking on a mixture of gravel and sand, smile sweetly and head for the ladies room, albeit at a very slow rate of travel. It’s an invisible problem, so it’s perfectly alright to chit-chat your way across the room or even sit down every 10 feet for a moment of relief.
Many problems aren’t nearly as obvious as we thing they are. While a gaping front is hard to ignore, a hem that’s coming down or hosiery that’s slowly inching its way towards the floor won’t even be noticed by most people if you make your way with smiling self-confidence to the ladies room where the repairs can be done in private.
Most women learn through experience to carry emergency fixers with them, preferably two different kinds. The first is the repair items themselves, such as body tape or eyelash adhesive, and the second, perhaps even more important, is the ability to laugh at themselves and put those around them at ease. If you act like your evening is ruined because your heel broke, you’ll make others uncomfortable, but if you can laugh at yourself and accept that life happens, others will remember you as a charming lady with whom they spent an enjoyable evening.
And also the one whose eyelash fell into her drink!