Q. My girlfriend and I are both widowed and we go out to lunch, dinner, the theater and movies a lot together. We became good friends a couple of years ago after our husbands both passed away, so we know each other, but we’re not like sisters who can talk to each other about everything. So here is my dilemma: As we get older, we ladies sometimes start growing fine long hairs on our chins and necks. Since I go to have my hair done each week, I ask my regular beautician to remove those for me because I have a hard time seeing them on myself. My girlfriend does her own hair and does a great job, so she rarely goes to the beauty shop. She has a lot of long hairs under her chin and on her neck which I guess she can’t see. She is a beautiful lady. Should I tell her about them? If I did, what should I say? I would not want to offend her or upset her.
A. Yes, this is a delicate subject to bring up with someone who is very private and possibly sensitive; however, there is an unwritten etiquette rule which is very applicable: if you notice a very visible embarrassing etiquette issue about a person, and it is fixable (this is the important factor), you owe it to that person, even a stranger, to politely and tactfully tell them about it, so they can fix it or get it fixed. A good example is quietly telling a lady her dress or blouse tag is sticking out and asking her if you can tuck it back in.
The situation you described about your girlfriend is also “fixable.” Your concern about her is very considerate of you and one which, if reversed, you would want her to discuss with you. Therefore, at the very first next opportunity when the two of you are alone together, you could bring up the subject in this manner:
“I don’t want to embarrass you, but I want to talk to you about a very private subject. As I have gotten older, I have noticed that I have these fine, long hairs growing below my chin and neck and they are very hard to see. My beautician always removes them for me during my weekly hair appointment. I see you have them, too, but since you don’t have to go to the beauty shop very often, I wanted to tell you there are very safe depilatories made for removing those which you can purchase at beauty supply shops and use at home. And, if you ever see one on me which my beautician missed, please tell me.”
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I am certain your girlfriend will thank you for telling her.