Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Somebodies: A YouTube Orchestra, by various YouTube musicians arranged by Gotye. 🎵
Karen and I celebrated 4 years since our first date on Tuesday. 4 years! It was the Obama administration, and Sapo and I looked like this:
In college I had a phone call with my mom where I was lonely and heartsick, and she said "it'll happen when you least expect it," to which I said "sure, but I've been least expecting it for 19 months." Karen came to our first date after a harrowing legal matter and a string of bad dates with guys in tech; I was severely distracted because it was the day after Sapo set a fire in my apartment. I suggested a place that we now agree is the worst bar in New York, so neither of us was expecting that we were meeting the person who'd so greatly love, support, challenge, and care for the other. My life is full of blessings but getting to share my life with someone so kind, brilliant, playful and gorgeous is the one I'm exceptionally grateful for.
I read some articles and had some thoughts like I do, so here are a few that tie back to Karen a bit.
Karen is a founder and the CTO of Ever/Body, an aesthetic dermatology company. We've learned a lot from each other, one of the things I've learned is I have skin and it's an organ you can care for. My parents forwarded an interview from the author of The Park Avenue Face, a book that details a ton about facial work you can get done. I read it, and if you can get through the initial (frankly unbearable) advertisement section where he plugs his own practice, there's a lot of decent instructional material there, especially if you're a novice like me.
Additionally, Karen tells me about being on a NYC Women at Google mailing list back when she worked there, and while people were sharing tips, one of them expressed something like "rather than fix wrinkles, why not prevent them from ever forming? I've been getting Botox and haven't frowned since I was 21," which seemed like sound advice.
Lastly, the ContraPoints video on Beauty, while pretty good all-around, has a few notable sections, like her expansive skincare regimen, and how the few Manly Men who've gotten into skincare have coded it in camo by calling it SKINMAXING.
From all these sources, what are some takeaways I'm trying to be mindful of.
Straight men, get on this, the bar is so low for us and you can get a lot from doing very little.
The main actually proven effective ingredient for preventing aging is Retinol, which requires a prescription for the concentrations that actually matter (if you buy a product that advertises Retinol without a script, it's not useful). Prescriptions are work, but B2C companies like Apostrophe can make it easier.
I read this article about a TikTok skin influencer which had a line I liked: "All you really need is SPF, moisturizer, and cleanser, and the best brands are at your local drug store." So after Retinol, get those three things. Clean the pores, protect from dryness, protect from sun. Don't sweat the rest unless you really want to.
And with all this said: Topical-based skincare won't get you results like neurotoxin or surgery. That's just a function of what skin is, how it's held up by muscle, and how much deeper than "topical" it all goes. To take from the Ever/Body Instagram account, which took from a tweet I haven't been able to find:
Botox can bruise and surgery is risky, and they have different cost profiles than topical regimens, but the results are much, much stronger.
- Facelifts aren't in the category of "regular work," but keep them in mind! They have pretty magical results. If I look fucking amazing at 50, you'll know I got one.
Not skin, but kind of relevant: if you like your hair and think you might lose it, it's much easier to preserve the hair you have instead of trying to put it back (though transplants and hair plugs are apparently far better than they were in the 90's and aughts? Ask Elon lol. Don't want to find out). In any case, Finasteride (Propecia) is also available easily from B2Cs like hims, though watch out, it might nuke your sex drive forever.
Obviously: "much of beauty culture" and "capitalism" are both independently horseshit, they combine to produce something nastier, there's a million ways in which one shouldn't have to play any of these games, and shit's mad unfair all over. A lot of disclaimers and links from my first body-shaping post about humans and their meat vessels apply. But if you can't find the exit to the unfair game you were born in, it can feel nice to take agency within it. I'm enjoying caring about aesthetics a little more than I have previously, but remain cognizant of why it's all a mess.
Online-ness and dating
I read this piece on "Media-Thirst guys" and it absolutely gutted me. I'm sure this would have been me if I were in the dating game longer than I was 4 years ago. A basic description:
"They aren't bros, but they aren't basic," says Rachel Greenspan, a reporter at Insider who recently commented about how many men have referenced their love for Naomi Fry on the apps. "They don't work in finance, law or business. They're in TV or advertising, something along those lines."
Greenspan sent over a screenshot of a Hinge profile that she deemed a "CLASSIC example." A man in a turquoise shallow V-neck clasps a cappuccino mug outside of an unmistakably Crown Heights-ish bistro. Above, he answered the prompt, "What is your love language?" with "Good tweets."
But this is the gut punch (emphasis mine):
Kaitlyn Tiffany, a staff writer at The Atlantic and one of the few bona fide Tinder scholars we have, puts it this way: These men are enraptured by their own self-consciousness, which has never been a suitable replacement for self-awareness. "They stand out simply by way of knowing all the tropes to avoid," she says. "They’ve seen the Reductress articles and the viral tweets. They’re not going to make a Future song their anthem, or use a Michael Scott joke in the bio, or post a picture of them at Santa-Con."
When meeting a Media-Thirst Guy for an actual date, the results are either charmingly congenial -- a reply guy overjoyed to finally crest the summit -- or indecently awkward, as all of their freakshow internet thoughts pour out of their mouth with disorienting abandon, forcing both parties to reconsider if relating to other people in an offline environment is even possible in 2020.
[...] the Media-Thirst Guy practices restraint. [...] they attempt a corny Jedi mind trick; peppering the night with enough pointed references to digital media until it becomes brutally clear that they harbor some misbegotten fascination with the culture and its various heroes and villains.
I don't think I'd have performed the cringey things described in the article, but the Kaitlyn Tiffany quote speaks to ways where I think I've grown a bit recently, and am therefore especially ashamed of right now. Today Pablo is doing things! I'm writing more, I'm loving fitness, I'm reading more books, and behind all that: I'm more than a sullen dude in the corner who's proud of some abstract "being in the know" resulting from being plugged into a feed of depressing, sardonic takes all the time.
I wouldn't have articulated it like this, but on some level, I felt like it was simply Being A Responsible Informed Citizen to hear today's way that Republicans were being racist ghouls, or recognizing specific dogwhistles of the most recent mutation of aggrieved young men. I carried some sense that this was some function of social responsibility, implying that the lack of this knowledge was irresponsible. I felt validated if someone could credit me for knowing things, and more lonely (and therefore, more resentful) if someone didn't know enough of these things.
Part of why I have some confidence that I wasn't irredeemable on this was, well, Karen and I continued dating! She's on Facebook, sometimes. She's absolutely hilarious but doesn't "get" dril. She doesn't know or care who Bari Weiss or Bret Stephens or David Books or Kevin Williamson or Tucker Carlson or Bill Maher are. She's just as informed on the news, it just doesn't involve this collection of paste-eaters with thesauruses dominating her emotions about it. She logs off.
Not to go entirely the other way: a lot of great jokes and perspectives come from Twitter. And when I have dated people who are plugged into the same stream, it's also a great, very different dynamic. But for a while I was probably overindexing on that shared bit of culture and to read about how that can come across in dating got me, man.
The "mosquito in amber" of my dating persona when meeting Karen is present in my dating profile, which is constructed in such a way I'm sure you can see elements of all this lol.
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