Tuesday, 7 August 2012


When I retired, I decided that the last thing I wanted to be was one of those old men who always seem to have blood on their collar from a shaving accident or a tuft of hair where they had missed shaving or spots of food down their front.  I don't really care about me, but I know that I find it a little unpleasant when I meet someone like that, so I didn't want to inflict my unkempt self on friends and relations.

But is there an etiquette for this?  I mean, if you come across someone who's a bit sloppy like that, should you tell them?  Because of my intentions, I always look in the mirror before I go out or visitors come into the house.  I don't examine myself minutely; I don't expect anyone meeting me to do so either, but I do check that I don't have blood visible on me, or a dirty shirt, or buttons in the wrong buttonholes, or zips undone, etc.  Apart from not wishng to upset people who see me, I'd be mortified afterwards if I discovered something had been amiss.

I saw a film recently, no idea what it was called, but in it a character said that he was able to resist a tongue-lashing from an authority figure because the man had a crumb stuck to his lip that made him in practice a figure of fun, of derision.  If being careless about one's appearance can have that much impact, I guess we should not let people blunder on unaware. 

On the other hand, there must be a time and a place to break the news.  I mean, what does the poor person do in public?  Wouldn't it more embarrassing to discover the offending item in front of several people?  And what if they could then do little about cleaning up the offending mess at that moment; wouldn't it be worse for them to continue showing themselves to people, once they knew how they looked?

I had to attend a meeting the other day at which one of the other participants had what looked like a whole spoonful of porridge down the front of his jumper.  It distracted me throughout the meeting.  I kept thinking, how does someone go out in the morning without noticing that his plain coloured sweater now has a pattern?  But I didn't tell him at the meeting.  I wasn't sure what he could have done about it there and then.  And anyway, how embarrassed would he have been?  But then I thought, well, if he hadn't noticed it up until that point, nor throughout the meeting, maybe he would put his sweater in the washing machine later and never see it.

What would you have done?

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