A Matter of Politeness

“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” Coco Chanel.


Coco Chanel, 1913 in Deauville, France.

Coco Chanel, 1913 in Deauville, France.

When I first read this quote, I laughed at the loftiness of it. Clearly Coco Chanel had not tromped through a playground with her children while carrying sticky sippy cups and smushed goldfish in her pockets.

Nevertheless, the quote stayed with me. For several mornings while my brushing my teeth I thought about it. Then I began to think of my Grandmother.

My Grandmother, Helen Sophia Kelly.

My Grandmother, Helen Sophia Kelly, looking fantastically polite on her honeymoon.

Helen Sophia Kelly had many great adventures throughout her lifetime. In 2002 she traveled with some of our family members to Galway, Ireland to attend my graduation ceremony.

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Grandma and I celebrating Graduation with eyebrows in place.

They stayed at Jury’s Hotel, in the heart of the city. The elevator doors at Jury’s are mirrored. As we stood before them waiting for our car, Grandma whispered to me, “I forgot my eyebrows!”

I of course told the others to go on ahead and walked her back to her room. I was stunned by her comment. In the first place because at the time I had never thought much about my eyebrows, never mind penciling them. Second, I hadn’t noticed she was “missing” hers.

The more I think about it, Grandma always had her lipstick and her eyebrows in place. That was true even when she took my brothers and I on walks through the woods behind her house. For Grandma it was just a matter of politeness.

While I have scuffed over this notion of being properly turned out each and every day. I’m beginning to realize I missed the heart of the message. As I ponder Ms Chanel’s words, I believe her sentiments may already be at work in my own home.

Last year Santa left my daughters animal shaped nail brushes and glycerin soap in their stockings. I encourage the girls to scrub their nails daily. I tell my little women tattoos and chipped nail polish are too distracting for school days. What I should say, clean hands are a simple matter of politeness.

I should listen to Coco’s advice too. I may have goldfish in my pockets, but that doesn’t mean I can’t swipe a little neutral lip gloss across my mouth and toss on a modest pair of earrings before I make a dash out the door. After all, you never know what destiny may have in store for me today.

I am clearly not a beauty expert, but here is a tutorial from Maybeline for my Grandma’s Eyebrows.

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6 thoughts on “A Matter of Politeness

  1. Great post, Jessica! My mom also never left the house without her eyebrows and lipstick, and made me promise her that if anything ever happened to her, I would make sure she had her make-up kit. We certainly shouldn’t define our self-worth by strictly by our outer appearance, of course, and it’s great to be comfortable enough in our skin to leave the house bare-faced… But I say, why not take 2 minutes to celebrate yourself with a bit of lip gloss, earrings or even (*gasp*) a swipe of mascara?! xoxox

  2. Great post1 My mom was like that and I have to admit until recently I did not leave the house without makeup on, not even when spending a day at the pool. I really “get” what Coco Channel is saying. You really never know what destiny might have in store for you and you want to look your best when that happens. I have dropped the ball a bit on this lately, but I think it’s important.
    Paula -Growing Up Bilingual recently posted…Personalized Music in Spanish from Bebé Lanugo – GiveawayMy Profile

    • Paula I think we are all a “work in progress.” Personally I embraced the “mom look” a little too tightly. I’m trying to find my new body image and balance the household. It’s not easy, but I bet it wasn’t any simpler for my grandmother. She was a great cook and always looked amazing.

  3. I’m on the fence about this, yeah looking my best feels good and I’d rather spend time getting ready all morning, but that takes time. I’d rather throw my hair in a ponytail if that means I can make my daughter a home cooked meal in the morning rather than throwing waffles in the toaster.
    Brittany B recently posted…I Don’t Like CouponsMy Profile

    • I understand Brittany. My point wasn’t that we need to be all out glam before we head to the playground or car line, but that we shouldn’t neglect ourselves either. Keep a neutral lip gloss in the glove box or your diaper bag. Put it on before you back out of the drive way. You look fresh and your family still has a wholesome breakfast:)

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