Real Men Talk: How Important Are First Date Impressions?

A new decade has officially begun. A new leaf is ready to turn. Though we’ve made plans for our New Year’s resolutions, how can we get them to stick if we’re still holding on to our comfort zone?

No matter how many times we try to break our bad habits, I have to say that the worst ones extend deeply into our romantic lives. No matter how many times you want to have fun or go on a deep soul searching journey to find love, there’s bound to be a lot of frogs you have to kiss before you can find a prince.

Speaking of men, I still have yet to be someone’s Khaleesi and the search has been a painful journey that’s full of dark and terrors. No matter how many times I went on Bumble and Tinder dates, I realize that a handful of straight men (regardless of age, body type, race or occupation) think that they have the pass to present themselves however they want, assuming that a woman like me doesn’t care too much about how smelly his breath is, how stained his teeth are (eew!), how many pimples he has on his face (seriously, WHY?!), how hungover he looks, what his hair color or length is and how hairy his chest is. Now that we are in a social media-centric society, it’s becoming inevitable for us to present an artificial avatar of ourselves to the world as we whittle down the sides of a waist, sculpt cheeks, widen eyes and blur out angry red bumps with swift flicks across a flat glass-covered screen.

This issue isn’t going away anytime soon, but I do hope that we can start a conversation about it now. Although I originally proposed this discussion on first date impressions at the start of 2019, it feels rightfully appropriate now as we’re still trying to figure out who we are, what are priorities are for a partner and how we struggle to be our best regardless of whether we feel happy or sad.

Whether you’re straight, gay, bi or pan, I feel that dating is such a universal issue that affects all of us. Irregardless of a man’s sexual orientation, I realize that men are heavily affected on this side of the pendulum. Here, I’ve got a steady roundup of men of various backgrounds: Alvin (celebrity makeup artist/stylist/La Prairie ambassador), Aaron (beverage director at Zén), Marc (barista), Tony (sales engineering director), Hayes (mechanical engineer) and Shawn (writer/model). Having this second roundtable discussion on Real Men Talk carries over the same spirit of wit, intellect and high energies that sync with my ever-scattered ADD Gemini brain.

We talk about everything from dye jobs, manscaping, avoiding BO and the pressure to look hot on dating apps.

Dye jobs are hot right now. Should you ever see a colorist before a date?

Alvin: I’m not a fan of coloring hair for men simply because I feel that healthy hair is fundamental, instead of dyes to change the natural hair color. Most men are already lazy to take good care of their face, let alone their skin. 

Marc: NO because you’ll never know what’s gonna come out of the dye job, plus you may be late for your date if you’re doing it on the day itself; dye jobs can take unexpectedly long.

Aaron: What’s a colorist?

Shawn: In my opinion, a sense of humor, a sense of intellect, a sense of banter will always outweigh a sense of highlight or a sense of black hair glaze. Frankly, I think the more natural the hair is, the sexier. And if natural means they feel most comfortable dyeing it a certain color, then that’s just as sexy. I don’t give a fuck. I just need a good conversation. (Attn: Gemini seeking Sagittarius).

For men who want to dye their hair, what should they anticipate?

M: Sitting in the chair for up to five hours, some irritation in your scalp if you have your roots bleached, constantly changing hair color and significantly drier hair.

You dye your hair very often and it’s not easy to maintain a dye job. What’s your secret to maintaining colored hair?

M: Shampoo and conditioner that’s meant for colored hair and have no harsh chemicals (especially sulfates). Shampoo max once a day and condition twice a day! (Shampoo makes the color run a lot faster) Always think of what your hair color will be post-fading cos that’s the color that lasts. Coconut oil is great for hair that’s been fried with bleach (just dip a teaspoon in the jar and put it on your ends).

Do you feel that you got more dates because you dyed your hair?

M: It may have helped start more conversations, but nah not dates.

H: Always; if you think about it, a consistent look is pretty important since people are likely to stalk your photos to see what kind of person you are/ how you look.

Do you feel like you get more attention because you have longer hair?

H: I do think I get more attention from girls because I have longer hair. I don’t really think it even matters what style of longer hair you have, just that you took the time to do your hair and make yourself look how you want. Having longer hair requires more self care, and it shows that you have enough pride in yourself to make that effort. I think girls pick up on that and want a guy who is going to take care of himself and takes pride in himself.

T: Not per se. I think some girls for sure more into long or short hair so it can resonate more with those preferences.

A: I get attention regardless of whether short or long hair! haha… I am always upgrading and changing my looks, so the hair is just a tool for me to achieve that. 

AA: I think women are just like men in this way: they all have different preferences and diff types they like.Attention from girls is like the waves in the ocean, it comes and goes and seems arbitrary, but has more to do with a specific girl and her underlying reasons for attraction that are hard to understand when not looking closely.

S: Honestly, I’ve never made any sort of connection with how much attention I receive to the length of my hair. Professionally, I’ve received equal amounts of attention. When I’m at the club, I’m dancing too much to take notice. 

How do you feel about having chest hair? How do you feel about men having chest hair? 

A: Personally I like being smooth but to each its own. Some women prefer men with hair, so its hard to say. To each its own. As long as they like it. 

T: I don’t typically think about it whatsoever. Not even as a humblebrag.

S: Love it if they love it! It’s just as much of a turn on for me if they wear what they feel most comfortable. As long as the one who’s got it, feels good. 

AA: And so it is. Men grow chest hair. Trim it if it’s like a gorilla, but shaving for the sake of it is insecure and insane and tedious. Also, most women like men [because] they are men and confident and chest hair is part of being a man and accepting yourself is a big part of being confident.

Should a man ever wax/shave before a first date?

H: Yes[,] a man should clean himself up before a first date. There’s a few reasons for this. First and foremost: confidence. One of the most attractive traits in a human is self confidence and everyone feels and acts more confident when they feel like they are looking like their best self. If you feel and look better shaved or waxed then you should definitely be getting it done. I definitely feel more confident when I get my eyebrows waxed and I have a clean shaven face. Secondly, it shows you care. If a guy shows up with an unkempt beard[,] the girl is definitely going to take note that you didn’t care enough about her or the date to put your best foot forward. It’s like showing up to an interview in your boxers. Even if you’re the best guy for the job, you aren’t getting hired if you show up in your boxers because the employer won’t be able to look past it.

AA: Up to the guy. It’s for sure nice if you are planning on hooking up with the person. No one likes a ton of pubic hair.

A: Certainly for sure! Unless she is into prehistoric realness. 

S: I think it should all depend on if that person wants to! I shave and trim for reasons that make me feel more confident and sexy in my own skin. That’s all that matters in any sort of partnership – if your person feels comfortable in their own skin. No one should ever feel like they have to show up to anyone or work to please anyone. 

T: I think that’s pretty excessive. Shaving your face can be a good move. You’d never want a girl to think that you’re a bum or a straight up pigeon.

Nowadays, I feel like men are becoming more self-conscious because of Instagram and Tinder. A pimple can be erased due to Photoshop. Men will post super staged pics of themselves where you won’t see a single scar, weight gain or pimple. Do you feel the pressure to look perfect because of using social media and dating apps?

A: I don’t think men should be more self-conscious because of social media. Men (or women) should be more self-conscious of their image even without social media because it is a form of self love! I want to look good because I want to look good, not because of anything or anyone. This form of self-love is also a form of social responsibility for me especially so when I am preaching anything related to looking good! 

S: I don’t feel pressure to look perfect because I think Instagram has tricked us into believing that a perfect image, body, face, bone structure, whatever exists when there’s no such thing. I hardly ever use filters (I only use a filter when there’s an issue with lighting) and I never use Photoshop, FaceTune or whatever else is out there to edit my photos. I would so much rather see the red in someone’s cornea than a photo altered with an app that gives someone’s corneas three Crest White Strips each. 

H: There’s definitely a pressure to look good on social media posts. Social media is somewhat of a resume of who you are and what you like to do. At least it is to the people who care about it. I think when I was younger I cared more about how I presented myself on it, but as I get older it is becoming more of a tool to cherish and reminisce on good memories with friends. I feel like I need to mention that the former (using it as a social resume) is what is making social media so toxic. People are only portraying their absolute best (and sometimes better than their best) moments and looks. Painting a picture of a fake life and a fake body. As social media has developed and face tuning, photoshopping and other editing tools have become common practice it’s creating a bigger disparity between what people wish their life was like (all the fake/edited posts) and what real life is (pores, stretch marks, acne, average body types)

AA: No. Haha. I almost never post photos of myself, but I would never think in those terms about a photo. It just feels like many people in my generation and younger allow themselves to get caught up in the insecurity culture of social media and don’t realize it’s the opposite of empowering to doctor a photo of yourself to achieve a projected norm.

M: Always; if you think about it, a consistent look is pretty important since people are likely to stalk your photos to see what kind of person you are/ how you look.

For men who have acne, what type of concealer should they buy? 

A: Get concealer that is hypoallergenic and dry(like a liquid base one) that will not block the skin. Make sure skin is cleansed properly after use

S: I do not have much acne, so I don’t have any recommendations:( but[,] I would recommend makeup free looks when breaking out! Give your skin a break. 

Should a man (straight or gay) ever buy makeup before getting ready for a first date? For men who aren’t familiar with using makeup (regardless of sexual orientation), what products should they start out with?

S: If they feel like that will make them feel more comfortable, then they should! If the person they’re going on a date with cares about that, then that person isn’t right for them. 

A: I think that is not necessary! Depending on how the makeup will make the guy feel! If it empowers the men into looking and feeling good, by all means [please] do it! Otherwise he may end up looking like he tries too hard! 

Trying too hard is a turn off if you ask me. I am old school in that sense, get your “foundation” (skin, hair, hygiene, body, health) in good condition and you will look just fine for your first date!
When you LOOK GOOD, you will FEEL GOOD! When you FEEL GOOD, you will definitely LOOK GOOD! It comes together! And remember, its a form of Self Love!!!

M: Once again depending on your skin; I’d say concealer is a start. A lot of my friends sheer out concealers with moisturizer to cover up eye bags and some blemishes.
I suppose the most basic set is foundation, concealer and bronzer if you’re gonna do your whole face, but really who has time to do that every day.

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These days, men are becoming more conscious about their skin. How do you maintain flawless skin?

M: My skin is definitely NOT flawless, but generally drinking a lot of water helps (I try to take around 2.5L) and having enough sleep. Also[,] keep a good skin routine; I tone, moisturize and apply sunblock in the day, and do the same thing (minus sunblock) at night but with a different moisturizer. Of course there’re other things like exfoliating, masks etc. but it really depends on your skin. (I’d exfoliate once a week and use some other serums once or twice a week).

S: I don’t think anyone has flawless skin. But I take care of my skin like I’m keeping it from going bad. Skin is like a loaf of bread – everyone will have saggy, wrinkly, expired skin at some point, so we should enjoy it while it’s here and take care of it as best we can. I use a lot of different brands for my skin: Jack Black, Baxter, Shiseido, Mario Badescu, fresh, the list goes on. However, even with all of these brands, I always prefer the products that are made with completely natural elements, including charcoal and rose clay masks. CBD has also been great for my skin, so I use it as an oil or face mask. I cleanse every night and every morning, exfoliate twice a week (maybe once a week if my skin is okay), do a mask once a week as well, use eye cream every night and sometimes eye masks during the day or evening, and I constantly moisturize my lips and skin. I’m careful to notice when my skin is reacting to anything and if it is then I just run it with water – I don’t use any product until it feels like it can take it healthily. 

A: My regime is quite simple if you ask me, though a lot of people assume I’m crazy with it. Sunblock is staple! I apply lots of good products and I try to mask everyday, for winter I mask up to twice a day. I am religious about my [K]orea trips (1-2 times a year) for my lasers. And I stay positive and happy with a good diet and exercise. Anti-aging is literally beauty inside/out! 

H: Well I’m glad someone thinks I have flawless skin, but in reality I don’t have much of a routine. I attribute most of it to eating clean 80% of the time and working out regularly. Your body can effect more change than a cream you can put on. Live healthy, and you’ll look healthy. I will add that I get a facial every once and awhile though to help the body along.

I’ve had to sit thru dates where men didn’t show proper hygiene – e.g. BO, excessive sweating and/or bad breath. Why do some men overlook hygiene? As a man, how important is hygiene to you?

H: The only reasons I can think of men ignoring hygiene are true ignorance or ambivalence. I’ve met a couple people that really didn’t realize they needed to shower more frequently and after they realized they had a bit of a stink[,] they started showering more often. Hygiene habits aren’t really discussed frequently between men, so we kinda have to figure it out on our own. Beyond ignorance, there are some that just don’t care. I don’t mean they don’t care about the date, but they don’t care about themselves. For me, hygiene is very important. Something my mom always told me was[,] “you never know who you’re going to run into or meet”. And it’s true whether its in the dating world or in the networking/career world you never know when or where you’ll run into someone. I’ve met people who had terrible breath and I couldn’t listen to a word they said, [so] all I could do was focus on how bad their breath was. To this day I don’t remember their name, but I remember their bad breath from that encounter. Making a good first impression is important in life and will take you far in dating and in your career. In dating it plays an even larger role. If I can’t brush my teeth or put on deodorant for a date, why should my date think I would be able to provide any level of care towards her. Self care is a bare minimum for dating. The point of dating and finding a SO is to be able to care for each other. If you’re showing up with signs that you can’t even care for yourself, theres no way your date is going to think you’re going to be a good partner.

M: Probably because it doesn’t bother them so they THINK it doesn’t bother everyone else. Hygiene is VERY IMPORTANT. I think it shows how much you care to groom yourself, not so much to present yourself to other people, but as a way of letting you be your best self.

S: I think it’s easy to overlook hygiene because it’s another daily task that might have to be worked into your routine for the day! I don’t blame some people for missing out on hygienic tasks. Sometimes when I REALLY want to go to bed in any exact position I’m resting in, the thought of having to get up to wash my face sends me to Hell and back. However, like anything, once you allow yourself the luxury of taking care of your skin or teeth, for like a week at least, then it won’t feel like a task. 

Hygiene is very important to me because you never know when bad hygiene will catch up to you – I intend to stay ahead of the ball. 

A: Most men are clueless about what is “nice” and what “isn’t”. Men with bad hygiene should be eliminated from this world. Self care is self love. If there is no self love, these men are simply polluting the world! 

T: Because we can be lazy af and often are like owls in that we give 0 hoots. I think it’s important and within reason to do the lil hygiene things in your own bathroom. As Jared Fried wisely says, first date[s] are all about controlling external factors. It’s crazy to think that someone would meet up a stranger (app date) or someone they drunkenly met at a bar so you don’t want to be a noodle and forget to comb your hair or brush your teeth.

AA: That’s gross. I have no idea why some men don’t. Can’t say why. Very very important to me. Cleanliness is next to godliness. And it’s just good old fashioned manners.

What’s your anti-hangover beauty routine like?

AA: Water, salad, gym.

T: Drunk booking ClassPass classes can be a move. Otherwise, just showering.

H: My only anti-hangover routine is to chug as much water as I can before I sleep and get a nice cardio workout in the next day. Extra points if you can hit the sauna and sweat it out. The key to the “beauty” portion of it is to just end the hangover as quick as possible. When I’m hungover[,] I tend to make poor diet choices, so the quicker I can get rid of a hangover the less impact it has on my “beauty”.

A: I don’t really drink because I get drunk easily but[,] there were times where I got really drunk and I was taught to induce myself to vomit before I sleep. Then pop Vitamin C and painkiller and zzz will solve this. I also recently learnt that taking enzymes will help hangovers. Of course, lots of mask the next morning. 

S: Oh my god. I used to work on the weekends, so looking like I didn’t take my sixth shot of vodka at 5 a.m. was always a MUST. First, I would wash my face (either Jack Black Pure Cleanser or, Shiseido Brightening Cleansing Foam), use an eye cream (Shiseido Wrinkle Smoothing Eye Cream), I would wake up about two hours before I had to leave the house, take my vitamins for the day (vitamins depend on your personal life habits), go for a run or exercise to get a sweat going, take a shower and wash my face (with cold water) with a cleanser once more, drink a mixture of water and Shilajit (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and energy booster), and cold press my eyelids for a few minutes! Also lots of water!!! So you can drink more coffee lol

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Michelle Varinata

Lapis - (n.) a layer Shrek once said that "onions have layers" as he was peeling one. Like an onion, I have layers. Born in Jakarta and raised in Singapore, I grew up being surrounded in a multicultural environment. Then, I moved to the States, where I lived in NYC and L.A. The creativity, hustle, bustle and vibe of those cities inspired me to become a blogger, journalist and influencer. Writing by day and living it up by night, I slay in the streets one OOTD at a time. Full-face makeup included, too. ;)

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