Put down the nail file, please.

By Betsy Cribb

There's no excuse for bad manners. Good manners are free of charge, easy to employ, and bona fide evidence that your mama and daddy raised you right. But sometimes, matters of etiquette prove trickier than you might expect, so we're here to set the record straight. Consider it your Southern Living guide to modern manners. Be polite, or die trying, y'all.

Let's talk personal hygiene in public spaces.


Thou shalt not pick at thy manicure in public—even if the layers of gel are perfectly peeling and it's oh-so-tempting to take care of business yourself, rather than making the trip back to the salon to get it removed the right way. Filing your nails, trimming your nails (blech), and painting your nails should all be done either in the comfort of your home or by a professional at the salon.

Lipstick Application

If you have the option, it's best to keep touch-ups and primping to the ladies' room. But in some scenarios—and there will be grand dames rolling over in their graves as I say this—applying a quick swipe of lipstick/lip balm/etc. in public is just fine. For instance, if you're on your way to lunch and realize your lips are bare, there's nothing wrong with a moment's pause on the sidewalk to pop some color on your kisser. (Just be sure you're not blocking pedestrian traffic. That's bad manners.) Or, if you're at dinner with friends and they want a picture to commemorate the evening, your running to the bathroom to reapply your Revlon is going to be more of an inconvenience (and less considerate) than just puckering up at the table. The trick in all of this is not to draw attention to yourself: Make it quick, subtle, and as discreet as possible; this is not the time for making that smack-pop noise in your compact mirror. VERY IMPORTANT Editor's Note: All of this applies to tubesof lipstick/balm; you should never, ever apply any kind of lip product with your fingers in public. That is wrong on a cosmic level.

Hair Brushing/Braiding/Flipping/Twirling

Keep. Your. Hands. Away. From. Your. Hair. The only public place that's an appropriate spot to adjust your ‘do is the gym; goodness knows it's easier to run with your hair tied up in a ponytail than whipping around on its own accord. Of course, tucking your hair behind your ears while you eat is absolutely appropriate too; nobody wants to see your strands floating in your soup. But generally speaking, don't brush, braid, flip, twirl, or run your fingers through your hair in public. I can't exactly articulate why playing with your hair in public is such an etiquette faux pas, but it just is. Trust me on this.

In the Car

People often treat their cars as extensions of their homes, which is totally understandable. Breakfast en route to work is a lifesaver, and if you have to swipe on your mascara at the stoplight, so be it. But it's good to recognize that even though your car often feels like home (and is the ideal place for finetuning the key changes in your renditions of Dolly's greatest hits), you are still in view of the general public. One dear reader noted that she once saw a man flossing his teeth at a stoplight in his vehicle. Passable, maybe, if he had tinted windows. But this man was flossing with the top-down, putting him in the full line of sight of everyone at the intersection. We don't need to tell you how wrong that is. You already know.