Life can be awkward. That’s why we’ve turned to etiquette expert Julie Rottenberg, from Real Simple magazine, to help you sort through a couple of social challenges.

  • What’s the best order for exiting an elevator? Ladies first? Elders first? Annoying people with giant briefcases first? Rottenberg says generally, elders and people who are physically challenged should exit first. Then let someone with their big burdensome package - or stroller or toddler - off next. After that, it gets a little dicier. The “ladies first” rule is nice, but often feels outdated. The considerate thing to do is defer to the other people on the elevator - male and female - and allow them to get off before you leave. Of course if everyone did this, no one would ever exit. So, if you do find yourself stuck in an awkward, overly-polite “After you!” “No, after you!” standoff - it’s fine to accept the offer to get out of there first. Since most people are always in a hurry, the thing everyone appreciates even more than protocol is speed.
  • Is it impolite to put on lipstick and makeup while sitting at a table at a restaurant? Rottenberg says YES, ladies - it is. Although there is one exception: if you’re with a close friend and you simply must apply a layer of lipstick, then go ahead – but lower your head so the whole restaurant doesn’t have to watch. Anything other than lipstick though is pushing it, and degrades the whole experience of going out to a restaurant for the rest of the patrons. Rottenberg says this rule also applies when you’re traveling on buses, subways or trains. You’re still in a public place, and there’s something inappropriate about having to watch someone else tend to their personal hygiene. This should be limited to the privacy of your own bathroom.