It began in typical fashion.
We met at a bar and his opening line wasn't the most ingenious ("Would you like a shot?"), but it worked. He laughed abruptly, didn't make enough eye contact, and fidgeted a lot when answering a question — it was endearing. So, I gave him my number.
Before our first date, I booked it home to my apartment to spruce up. I hadn't gone on a first date in a long time and forgot how many beauty processes I've been neglecting as a single girl. Where the hell was my razor and did I really need to shave so many body parts?
I painted my nails a mint green, smeared fragranced lotion on all my extremities, and actually wore lipstick — my usual lippy of choice is Blistex.
It took me forever to get ready for all the preliminary get-to-know-you outings spent at jazz bars, the ballet, late-night stops at Insomniac for cookies and milk, and walks through parks. But, with each successive date, the inevitable happened: I stopped preening. It began with going on a spontaneous movie date with a week-old chipped mani. What's some chipped polish when we can gaze into each other's eyes and talk about our country's raging debate on gun control?
When we were meeting for an afternoon show at the American Ballet Company, I didn't use my expensive fragranced lotion (Chloé really needs to mark those bad boys down), and slathered up with Aveeno instead. By date seven, I was showing up in dresses without shaving my legs, and when the dates stopped having numbers allotted to them, my brows became increasingly unkempt.
As our relationship progressed from the exciting first dates that lasted till the wee hours of the morning to the more comfortable afternoons spent on the couch, I watched as our growing intimacy had a direct, inverse relationship with my beauty upkeep. As Spock would say, it's only logical.
During the first few dates with someone, you're sizing him up, assessing your date's food preferences, the cut of his jeans, and judging whether you can deal with his mountain-man beard — and he's doing the same (well, maybe not the beard part). Being under scrutiny lends itself to the pressure of wanting to make the
right false impression, trying to pull off the charade that you always have hair-free legs or that your bangs never get oily.
But, the charade unravels quickly — especially when he decides to surprise you at work, like my guy did a few weeks ago. I was wearing one of my frumpier dresses. Earlier in the day, I busted my lip from absentmindedly chewing on it while trying to solve a mini-crisis, and I frustratingly tied all my hair up into a workaday bun.
When I rushed out, I was nervous and sweaty and didn't want to look him in the eye. Then he complimented me on everything — even my sneaks. It was then when I fully realized that I didn't have to obsess over plucking every stray hair on my body and planning the perfect date-night outfit. I never intentionally "let myself go," but reality pushed its way into the relationship. The more we saw each other, the more the "real" Sharon came through — and he didn't mind it, or rather, happily accepted it.
It was comforting, and extremely uplifting, to be with someone whose affection didn't depend on the manicures and hair coiffs. The pressure to be a hairless, perfectly primped Barbie doll gradually dissipated, which to me stood as a marker of a good guy who had the potential to be a good partner.
After a couple months, if you feel the pressure to impress like it's still date number one, that guy probably won't be the best champion for your self-esteem. And, I firmly believe in protecting your self-esteem as much as your heart when treading into a new relationship.
Now this doesn't mean I'm ditching my beauty routine altogether, just as I wouldn't appreciate it if he decided to stop wearing deodorant or didn't maintain his beard. But for now, I'm enjoying the new level of comfort, intimacy, and friendship that we reached. Is it love? Still too early to tell, but if shaving less is an indicator, I'm definitely on the right track.