Has It Really Become Acceptable to Pick Your Nose in Public?

Notes from the fashion apocalypse.
March 20 2014 8:13 AM

Throw Out the Rule Book!

Let’s reinvent etiquette for the 21st century.

Miley Cyrus
No blurred lines here, Miley: Nose-picking is not OK.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters.

He was scruffy. He was bearded. He was carrying a sustainable, earth-colored, cruelty-free man-bag, and … he was picking his nose.

I guess it was inevitable. If the goal of chic Brooklynites is to appear gritty and unprissy, then it was only to be expected that they might add this revolting activity to their repertoire of coded heritage signifiers. And add it they have. Every time I board the L train, I clock another organic pickle-maker taking a nosedive. A stroll through any organic brewery or boutique hotel will invariably result in a few sightings. Hey buddy! Give me a wave when you reach the bridge!

Simon Doonan Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.

As marketing gurus have pointed out, the faux-hemians of Brooklyn are a very influential group. Sure enough, I’ve observed the nose-picking trend spreading rapidly to nonhipster circles. Last week I flew to the U.K. on trendy Virgin Atlantic. The upscale lady across the aisle spent the entire flight looking at spreadsheets while sticking her forefinger into her schnoz. On the return journey an adjacent young banker-ish dude did exactly the same thing. This double whammy afforded me an unexpected insight: I found that I was significantly more appalled by the female picker than the male. Does this make me a misogynist? [Ed. note: Yes.]

Advertisement

One thing is for sure: I am a germ-phobic tissue addict. Even writing about nose-picking is making me feel queasy. But I am truly concerned that nose-picking is losing its taboo status. Type “celebrities caught picking their noses” into your Google search and you’ll see that even A-listers are doing it!

The topsy-turvy whirligig of contemporary life has clearly begun to erode modern manners, meddling with our judgment and screwing with our objectivity. We no longer have a clear sense of what constitutes appropriate behavior. But before we give snot-picking the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, may I propose a few alternatives? These new rules contravene tradition and will horrify the hidebound, but to my mind they just make good sense. Let’s update the etiquette books with these amendments instead.

New Rule No. 1: Shout-outs for shekels = good manners.

Nose-picking may be gaining wider acceptance, but posing blunt questions about money—How much do you earn? What did you pay for that asbestos-riddled ranch house?—remains totally verboten. This reticence has never made any sense, and now that everything is so bloody expensive, it needs to be jettisoned ASAP. It’s time to ditch the coyness about what things cost and open the record books.

The world of high fashion is the biggest culprit, as exemplified by those on-page photo credits that announce “price available upon request.” There is something intrinsically bad-mannered about dangling delectable schmattas in front of our eyeballs while simultaneously withholding the most critical info: the price. If that simple knee-grazing pique business skirt is $3,000, then for God’s sake have the decency to warn us. Henceforth, I decree that fashion models, while waddling down the runway, be obliged to carry placards bearing detailed pricing info.

New Rule No. 2: Asking if someone has had work done = good manners.

Why on earth is it considered bad manners to peek behind a friend’s ears looking for scars? If a chum has gone to all the time, agony, and expense of plastic surgery, the very least you can do is exclaim over the transformation, enquire about the nature of the procedure, and, as per No. 1, the cost.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?