Emily Watkins is a professional Millennial (read: precariously employed twenty-something). Each week, she will answer a generation-specific query from the depths of her on-brand existential crisis. This week, our Aunt-in-Residence breaks down a rather inappropriate pre-first-date request.
Please send any quandaries, issues, troubles or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org for a good dose of aunt-ing.
“I was going on a Hinge date and the guy messaged me before to say that he liked natural looking girls and not to wear makeup. I felt totally undermined, and decided not to meet him after all — he was surprised that I was offended. How do I explain how inappropriate his comment was?”
Aha, I see the trouble we’re having – a category error! This one of those it’s-not-what-you-said-it’s-the-fact-that-you-said-it faux pas.
Certainly, there’s nothing inherently good or bad about this guy’s preference – makeup no makeup, potato potahto. But there is plenty wrong with his impressing it upon you, not only unbidden but before you’d even met. As is so often the case in, um, normal adult life, context is key. So let’s dive in, shall we?
The context here was a date, stressful enough at the best of times – wondering if you’ve struck the right sartorial note (put-together but not try-hard, elegant but effortless), mustering all your most charming anecdotes ready to whip out ‘spontaneously’ over the aperitifs – and yet, a zone in which we’re meant to be feeling not only good but our best. The last thing you need as you steel yourself to walk out the door is a diktat as to what that ‘best’ ought to look like. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what you got; ‘undermining’, as you term it, is putting it mildly.
Cries of ‘it was just a message, can’t a man say anything these days?’ are wilfully blind to the real stakes of this scenario. Zoom out and imagine the actual sequence of actual thoughts that pushed this guy’s actual thumb down onto the actual send button: for ‘I’d like you to look like this’, read ‘my aesthetic pleasure matters more to me than your physical and psychological comfort’, and you’ll begin to see what all the fuss is about.
Whatever you think or don’t think about wearing makeup, a lot of people consider it part and parcel of looking their most attractive. Feeling attractive often entails feeling confident too, and it’s not just motivational instagram quotes that say confidence is sexy: it’s science. As a rule of thumb, we fancy people who feel good about themselves – but rules are made to be broken, and the world is also peppered with people who can’t feel like winners without someone else to be the loser. If you’d called before the date to tell him that you prefer men in glasses rather than contact lenses so could he wear the former please-and-thanks, he would (rightly) have told you to fuck off – so why should you be expected to kowtow?
Look: everyone has their likes and dislikes, each more unaccountable than the last – and that’s just part of life’s rich tapestry, baby. Luckily, there are as many people as there are preferences – as such, your nearly-date is encouraged to take prospective partners as they are rather than trying to fit them into a mould of his own making. Basically – broaden your criteria or keep it moving, buster.
To return to your question: if this has struck a chord and you’d like to send it along, please do – but don’t feel that you owe Mr. NoMakeup more of an explanation than you’ve already given for deciding not to meet. Of course, that’s up to you; and if you do ever see each other in real life, I’d advise you to wear as much makeup as humanly possible. Now, where did I put my contour brush?