When it comes to the application of various powders and potions to my person, I aim for perfection.

It’s not that I don’t like myself as a person, the person I am without makeup. Sometimes, particularly when adorned in a hat of some sort, I’ll catch a glimpse of my reflection in a moving subway and think hmm, OK! 

But I do depend on a suite of products to make me feel my best. The Danish term “tandsmør” (“tooth butter”) — aka butter spread so thickly on bread that you can see tooth marks in it — best describes the layers upon layers I smooth across my cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead each and every day. 

The daily flex: cleanser, exfoliant, toner, chemical exfoliant, moisturizer, jade roller, sheet mask, sunscreen, foundation, concealer, blush, powder, eyebrow brush, eyebrow pencil, highlighter, bronzer, lip gloss, lip tint, eye shadow, mascara. 

And when it comes to a date, I go even bigger. For example, I would be lying if I said I had never dabbled in pre-date lymphatic drainage. Or dermablading. 

I would also be lying if I said that the thing I loathe the most about dating is the prep, because it is the one part of the experience I can fully control. Yet here I am vowing to go on one (read: just one) date without my armor, so to speak. 

The Lead-Up

Luke* and I match at 5.33 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. A gallop of exchanges leads to us meeting for a drink after work. It’s hot and balmy, and I’m hungover so my head and hands type yes.

I have 27 minutes between finishing work and needing to arrive at the wine bar. There will be no 45-minute shower with extra loofah love in the direction of my elbows. There will be no glass of Dutch courage, neat and over ice. 

To counteract my dread, I fondle through my bag for my flash kit, a series of miniature essentials to take me from A to Beautiful stat. It isn’t there. I beg my colleagues for scraps of complexion-solving substances. They come up with nothing.

On the way to meet Luke, I study my reflection in the subway window and note a small ink mark under my left eye. Feverishly, I rub. Then the doors open, and I am a block away from the bar. It is now that I must carry myself with the confidence of an urban pigeon. I may not have contoured, but I am holding close my opinions on last night’s “Great British Bake Off’s” sponge tragedy. It might be OK.

The Aftermath

The date went fine. Luke was kind, and I felt instantly fond-ish of him, the way I feel when I meet someone I recognize as more earnest or pure-hearted than me. We parted ways after one drink, because I was tired and the sponge recount didn’t quite fly. (Can I ever date someone who doesn’t stan “The Great British Bake Off?”) As he leaned in for a parting hug, his eyes darted toward the smudged pen on my face, and I feel like Joan of Arc or some sort of conqueress, because I feel OK, even knowing I didn’t look “perfect.”

I get it: Spending time primping my face as a form of self-actualizing and comfort is probably deemed a waste of time by most. However, as the list of things that offer me control in a chaotic world often feels slim at best, hyaluronic acid and brow brushing are some that suit me to lean into. So I’m going to stick with them.

Updated Tinder bio: high-maintenance primper, low-maintenance dater; knows everything.

*Names have been changed to protect innocent daters everywhere.