In this week’s Valentimes, Aoife Valentine recounts the perils of using mascara in a moving vehicle and the lack of transport etiquette shown by fellow commuters

Last week a quite elderly man sat down on the seat next to me on the bus to work and told me what I was doing was unbecoming of a lady. I wasn’t swearing like a sailor at him, nor was I spitting in children’s faces. I hadn’t even yet resorted to feeling more sorry for myself than the rest of the planet does for themselves, which was almost an achievement in itself considering Twitter wouldn’t load on my iPhone and I really needed to tell the world how unbecoming this man thought I was.

No, I was innocently putting on some foundation. It was 7.30am, I had only just started my two-hour commute to UCD, and I was sleepy. My body isn’t equipped to cope with getting up while it’s still dark, so I was already running late for an early-morning interview.

This is the problem with living two hours away from UCD. I’m doomed from the beginning. Not only do I have to use almost every mode of transport there is to get to college, but I have to try my very best not to fall over while doing it. Add in the fact that I’m unwilling to rush the four minutes I like to spend brushing my teeth, and there’s a lot of running for buses and flailing around on the opposite side of the road, trying to make the bus driver see me, take pity on me and wait a second until I won’t die crossing the road.

This has all cumulated in the most regimented morning routine, where I can be out of the house, showered, dressed, looking vaguely presentable down at the bus stop, in 13 minutes flat. The only thing I cannot do in that time is put on my make up. If you had my bed, you wouldn’t be wasting your time not being in it. Not even five tiny minutes. So I do what I can on the daily commute.

It’s really not that bad. It’s not like I’m whipping out tweezers and having good pluck of my eyebrows. Nor do I bring out the nail clippers or nail files, and leave bits of my nails all over public transport. More importantly than all of those, I have never once brought dental floss in the general vicinity of a bus, nor have I ever eaten a tuna sandwich on one. Other people do all of those things and are perfectly becoming. Or at least, they weren’t given out to for being downright disgusting.

One rather flustered woman did once get on a packed 145 recently and ask some woman who was sitting down if she would let the flustered lady sit down so she could apply her face. I’m not her either. If the bus or train is packed, I just use my incredible ability to sleep standing up while I can, and arrive to the office looking a little more dead than usual.

I just sit quietly and put on my make up. I’m not bothering anyone. It’s not like I’m using an eyelash curlers to perform cruel acts of small torture on my fellow commuters. Though, I do sometimes worry that instead of ending up in the office, I’ll wake up blind in some A&E after one too many times testing fate, yielding a mascara wand to my eyes just as the bus takes a swift turn around a sharp bend.

You quickly learn to move with the bus, rather than fighting it, once you’ve stabbed yourself in the eye/nose area with a black eyeliner pencil enough times. It’s both in an effort to save what little sight you have left, and also to avoid looking like a sap with soot on their face for the rest of the day.

The lovely man beside me informed be that I was performing private activities, and that it was impolite of me to destroy the world’s image that all women are lovely, naturally and that no one wears make up, or some bollocks. Besides the fact that we all know that much worse crimes against a natural image have been committed by the tangoed tan team, who often barely resemble people, it’s also clear that nothing about my make up routine is private. My face is allowed be naked in public. It’s grand.

He concluded that was I was doing was terribly unsanitary and that I should be extremely embarrassed. Well, when you hold a mirror up in front of your face, open your mouth like a fish and try to apply mascara on a moving vehicle, you quickly learn to not care who is looking at you. Also, children wander around buses licking poles and stuff. That’s unsanitary. Putting your own make up on your own face with clean hands and brushes is identical to doing the same in your bathroom at home.

Numerous people do terrible, terrible things on public transport, from vomiting, to have full on domestics with their various other halves, to engaging in eh, actually intimate and private activities. It’s ‘impolite’ to talk so loudly on your phone that everyone knows your life story by the time they get off the bus, and it’s just plain annoying when people insist on asking you about what you’re reading, even though you’ve got earphones in and are, well, reading; both obvious signs that you’re not on the bus to make a new friend.

When you put it in perspective, applying your make up is really quite an innocuous activity. We should instead be targeting all those men who take up two seats everywhere they go, simply by virtue of the fact that they seem to find it completely impossible to close their legs. What is that? Those are the people who are the scourge of society. I’m lovely. And becoming.

Read: The Valentimes: Dear Mr Potter