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Why are more women applying make-up and wearing curlers in public?

Updated on March 25, 2014

Travelling to work is like sharing a woman's bedroom


Make-up on the train

It’s eight a.m. and I’m on a busy train from Liverpool to Wigan. I gaze sleepily at the passing scenery with my brain in neutral; the post industrial landscape of an area once at the heart of the great nineteenth century industrial revolution. Coal pits are now leisure parks and sprawling empty factories decay in equally sleepy satisfaction, content to be tickled by creeping weeds between their bricks, happy to host the graffiti signatures of those who know nothing of their former glory. Mist lingers in the meadows and trees cast long shadows over grassy fields suppressing the sparkling dew. Glaciers of shattered shards in the St Helen’s glass works twinkle benignly as the commuter cattle trucks trundle by, delivering their daily cargo of wage slaves to the office coal face.

My eyes are about to close when I’m dazzled by a new reflection. Sunlight spears off a small mirror held by a woman along the carriage. She is applying her morning make-up with conscientious unselfconsciousness. I watch with disbelieving eyes as she systematically transforms herself with the dexterity of a surgeon and the pallet of an artist. A never ending supply of cosmetic consumables applied with the tools of feminine alchemy that will be forever unknown to the average man. The mirror is eventually lowered to reveal a dazzling visage as fresh as the cock-crow meadow.

I look around me and a see more sparkling mirrors mirroring the morning dew. A team of face painters are applying their mask of the day, busily restoring their own bleak pre-industrial landscapes of bags, sags and cracks. The baleful become the beautiful in fifteen minutes of magic.

Differences Between Men and Women

As a man observing this feminine ritual, I’m left with a confusing cocktail of feelings. On the one hand there is the voyeuristic pleasure of being an unnoticed party to a normally private ceremony and on the other the perplexing logic of why they even want to leave the house facially naked in the first place. I once went out with a girl for six months before she would let me see her without war paint, so I know this is a serious business.

Do they think we don’t notice? Is the train a no-man’s land in the battle of the sexes – a space time bubble where the rules are suspended in a preening and pimping free-for-all?

I think this is a disturbing trend. It started with pyjamas. Cosy, teddy beared, fleece pyjamas became the leisurewear of choice for the downwardly mobile young women of certain social groups, who would escape the gravity of their 42 inch flat screened TV’s momentarily, to nip out to Bargain Booze to top up with fags and cider. There followed a natural progression from the corner shop to the supermarkets and shopping malls. As luck would have it this new contagion has largely been resisted by those ‘big boned’ ladies, reluctant to expose their extensive pink clad rear ends to public scrutiny and rightly so. Nature lovers among us may not wish to see teddy bears stretched to grizzly bears.

But nature never stands still and the pyjama trend is continually evolving. Not satisfied with night wear, the ‘coming out’ movement has extended to hair rollers! A Saturday afternoon excursion to Liverpool city centre affords bedroom accessory spotters a cornucopia of curlers. These newly discovered species parade their colourful pre-courtship plumage in all its spiky grandeur, often as parties of ‘hens’ proudly parading their preparations for a night on the town.

Beauty and the Beast

Men watch dumbfounded as the porcupines pass by. If you want to look your beautiful best in the evening, why appear in the afternoon like a Halloween horror? I can only assume that such a perplexing paradox is what makes women so mysterious and wonderful to admiring men folk.

But where will it all end? I witnessed recently a young woman on the train plug hair straighteners into the electrical socket provided for laptops and phone chargers. She then proceeded to straighten her hair while texting and sipping coffee – a modern multi-tasking marvel. What was even more amazing was that when she had finished her toilette she produced a Big Mac from the cavernous handbag. As a bloke this is unthinkable. Burger first, everything else later. We will never understand women!

I have to admit that none of this behaviour is in the least disturbing. Anything which adds colour and humour to the day is alright by me. I do draw the line at nail polish however. Stinky solvents and confined spaces don’t mix or you end up at work mildly stoned.

What are the implications for men in the bathroom and bedroom liberation stakes? I believe guys can be seen shaving on the London Underground. But London is an exception in every rule. Liverpool lads won’t be lathering in public any time soon. Scousers have enough bad press without being in possession of razors on public transport. Mascara and lippy are delightful but the sight of a hairy arsed Navvy cleaning his toenails with the end of his betting shop biro would definitely not set me up for the day.

Is this a global phenomenon? What are your experiences of the bedroom going public?


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    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the comment NellieAnna - I agree we blokes are making a leap of faith sometimes when it comes to 'what lies beneath'!!!!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

      I have De Greek to thank for pointing me toward your site, but you can take ALL the bows for keeping me gobbling up the fantastically well-written words and being ever so glad to have been given directions here!

      Being a woman of the more motivated-to-keep-it private-ilk, if only because I'm monocular and that eye requires a 5X magnifying mirror to find my eyelashes to enhance, I won't be seen making up in public. I'm better off to leave lipstick eaten off or left on the goblet than to risk painting my nose Crimson Blossom or Fragile Rose. Nope - I know my limitations.

      If I'm caught "like that" I try to make up for it with the best smile I can muster up. It seems to work, but being this blind, perhaps I don't see the snickering.

      Let me add a most astute remark - from a male friend (rather naïve in such matters) who witnessed the object of his dreams after a night with her, first as she emerged from the scene there and then from her dressing room, all made up. He could only say, "WHAT a transformation!"

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      I too find it unbelievable that Accident and Emergency departments are not bulging with Mascara accidents!

    • Victoria Stephens profile image

      Victoria Stephens 7 years ago from London

      Hi Johnny Parker,

      Really enjoyed reading this, it made me chuckle. Well done. It is true art that some woman can do there make up whilst on a train, bus and cabs etc without making themselves go blind. I still occasional nearly poke my eye out with the mascara whilst sat down indoors. I don't think I’ll ever dare attempt this in public.

      Best wishes

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 7 years ago from USA

      Hi Johnny, I loved your observations and witty descriptions of your fellow commuters... seems like some unexplainable behaviors cross the international borders. Congratulations on your HubNugget award!

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Wow... am a bit blown away by so many people reading the piece. Thanks to all who have commented. I've really enjoyed sharing your experiences. It's not like me to be stuck for words but Im looking forward to exploring everybody's work.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      What a delightful piece. I am thankful to Gypsy Willow for recommending this. Very well done. :-)

    • profile image

      jandee 7 years ago

      Hello Johnny,

      Good read from you!! With a young relative a while ago,the day Ethel Austin closed!On Aigburth rd! A tall woman walked towards us wearing thick stage make up and huge fat curlers accompanied by scarlet satin pyjamas ! incredible sight..I had to grab my young companion smartly and said through closed lips 'just don't stare' but he did..........My husband has just given you the thumbs up for entertaining writing after I read it to him. good luck on the filming and congrats for nomination,jandee

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      This is one of the funniest, best written articles I have read on hub pages! Congratulations. I commuted to London for 17years and know exactly where you are coming from. Your observations are priceless! Do write some more please.

    • Peter Allison profile image

      Peter Allison 7 years ago from Alameda, CA

      I think it's symptomatic of the erosion of personal space in general. "Checking in" on Facebook comes to mind. And I have a colleague who flosses at the table during team scrum meetings. (Please don't write a hub on that. I won't. Promise.) Aside from being well-written, I enjoyed that the journey takes place on the Liverpool-Wigan train. I used to work in the Port of Liverpool building and took the train from Wigan to Liverpool and back every workday. The rush hour crowd was a bit more staid, and smart-cellphones weren't as ubiquitous as they are today (this being 2000- 2004) so everybody just read their papers or books.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Johnny, your writing skills pulled me in and whisked me along on a thoroughly enjoyable journey...although some of the wildlife you described was a bit unsettling. [The teddies morphing into grizzlies on the backsides of behemoths was an image I may be burdened with for a while!]

      It seems a pity that the public displays of rituals best kept private will dash the dreams we'd rather let linger. When the mystery is revealed much of the magic is lost. Sometimes I'd rather not know how the illusion came to be, I just want to enjoy the results.

      Great hub!


    • davidseeger profile image

      davidseeger 7 years ago from Bethany, OK

      Thanks. Its hard for an old-timer to relate to this change in public behavior. When I was a young man, Chaucer and I made the trip to Bath together, a woman without her makeup was unheard of. Except, of course, those who were always "au naturale." When I was first married it took me along time to adapt to my wife's schedule. Before marriage when I decided to go some where, I left. Not she, she needed at least a half hour from a standing start. There was no question about who adjusted. Our daughters were some what different.

      Oh well,as John Kennedy said: "the wait is always worth while."

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Karohner the car stuff is a walk on the wild side - guys pick their nose and women do their lippy!

    • Karonher profile image

      Karonher 7 years ago from Liverpool

      Like the article and living in Liverpool I know what you mean about the pyjamas. Seems to have spread to rollers as well.My colleague does put her make up on in my car.

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      I'm with you money glitch, a bit of mystery is good.

      Sandun81... were you the one with the straighteners ;-) ???

    • sandun81 profile image

      sandun81 7 years ago

      Good article. For me, anything, anywhere.

      Congrats for Hubnugget Wannabe nomination !

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Love your hub, I guess people do feel free to be themselves. It's nothing to see people that look like they just got out of bed to go out in public now a days.

      Me, I prefer to keep some things private and not share everything with the world. :) Congrats on being selected as a nominee for this week's HubNuggets Wannabe Contest. Good luck to you! :)

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the comments Yenajeon and Deborah - we have an 18 year old who won't leave the house without her war paint too and their Mum isn't like that at all. Perhaps the make-up gene does skip a generation!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

      This hub was great! I love your writing style.

      I do hate the habit some people have, of wearing pajamas out in public. Curlers too. However, I don't wear any makeup. Somehow, that female genetic code to transform my face into something it isn't skipped me and headed straight for my daughters. It takes a couple of them quite some time to put on their face. I don't get it.

      Great write.


    • yenajeon profile image

      yenajeon 7 years ago from California

      I loved your hub, it was written brilliantly. MUY witty!

      Voted up!

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the comments Denise, look forward to checking out your hub.

      Am just starting a feature film tomorrow - filming not writing - so opportunities to write a bit tight over next three weeks - but more material is the upside!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Loved the hub and your wonderful description. GOT THE PICTURE LOL Rated this piece 'up'

      Congratulations on your nomination and welcome to hubpages. Am looking forward to reading more from you.

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thats good, I like the Taxi story. I think there could be whole new blog on things that go on in the back of a taxi. I'm chuffed to be nominated for a Hubnugget.

      Dear Old but Proud, I'm glad to hear your are maintaining your dignity. I have to confess to dipping my toe in the train toilette waters the other day by putting my cuff links on in public... oh the shame!!


    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Down here in the sunny South of England we do see young women applying makeup on the train. We're too old and proud for that! (But Pat has committed the crime of doing her nails on the train.)

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Johnny, once upon a time, I rode on a taxi and was surprised to see mirrors inside the cab. The driver told me that he decided to put mirrors there as he noticed that girls who were in a rush and late for work ended up putting on make up inside the cab. So he helped them out! It made laugh aloud.

      I enjoyed reading your reflections as the Hubnuggets Team did. Did you know that your hub has been nominated?

      Check out your nomination and vote:

      To the Hubnuggets Learning Center:

      Participate in the Hubnuggets Forum Thread:

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Thanks for the comment Kev. You are right and I think it's probably better if the ladies remain a mystery even though metro sexual woman seemed determined to reveal all!

      Not sure what happended to the pic Al - I put the link into the picture bit but I was in a hurry so will check it.

      I think mobile/cell conversations in public are another blog topic for sure. People on phones seem to drop into this other space time continuum where the surrounding world is somehow greyed out.

    • Arterial profile image

      Arterial 7 years ago

      Brilliant, what happened to the pic? Is this a product of the mobile phone age. In a similar vein to your saga, I enjoyed a phone conversation between a young girl and a love lorn friend on the No 47 to Putney High Street on an all too long journey. The advice would have made Marj Proops proud. Lightened an otherwise boring journey, I was enlightened and enthralled, never did finish Time Out mag.

    • profile image

      Kevin Schofield 7 years ago

      Yes, I agree about the unseemly prospect of witnessing hairy arsed guys at their ablutions. Don't mind the bedroom going public, though, if it's full of feminine delight. I'm with you on the mysterious nature of females; they're beyond comprehension. Great writing. Kind regards, Kev.