There are two types of people in this world: those who tell you when you have lipstick on your teeth, and those who don't.
I was reminded of this the other day when I was stopped in a crowded shopping centre by a lovely woman who apologetically told me that I hadn't cut the price tag off my T-shirt. "Holy hell," I said, while furiously reaching for the tag.
"How much does it say?" I asked the lady.
"$15," she said.
"A bit steep for Kmart," I noted.
I thanked her, double-checked that my fly was up, and went on my way.
She needn't have been sheepish about pointing out my unintentional accessory.
I was grateful for her intervention.
I was also happy that it was barely 10am. There have been times when I have wandered around well into the afternoon with some abomination on my person.
My only hope is that someone - anyone - will bring it to my attention, discreetly.
But I'm never confident.
Some people are afraid that if they point out someone's unintentional clothing malfunction it will elicit a weird reaction. It happens. I remember standing in line at a bakery once when I noticed the woman in front of me had her work shirt on inside out.
She had clearly had a hectic morning.
I tapped her on the shoulder and whispered the information. Her reaction was a mixture of flustered embarrassment, then mild anger that I had said something, which inevitably drew way more attention than I think she would have liked. I offered quietly that I thought she could just nick into the nearby Ladies and sort it out as, god knows, I'd been in that situation plenty of times.
Anyway, she couldn't pay for her bread fast enough in order to get away from me. Strange.
I can trace my willingness to flag clothing malfunctions to my high school years when one fateful day I walked around for at least half an hour with my undies on show. My stupid backpack had hitched up my skirt at the back. Strangely, I didn't feel the breeze on my backside, but I did hear the snide comments and giggling from the other girls as I confidently strode past.
Curiously, there was little sound from the boys, who were always reticent about flagging when they were copping an eyeful.
I only realised what was happening when I reached into my pocket for my bus pass and found that it was hiding in the same place as my dignity.
I loudly thanked my peers for allowing me to share my undies with them, and that I hoped they enjoyed the show. I wore my ugly navy trousers from then on.
But there's nothing worse than your mates not telling you when you have lipstick on your choppers. It's a simple test of friendship. It's also a simple act.
You don't even have to speak. Just catch the eye of the clueless victim and gesture in crazy circular motions at your teeth.
Your target will instantly understand, rectify the situation, and hopefully buy you a drink as a thank you.
Bottoms up! Or, maybe not . . .
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