How To Wear A Mask On A First Date Without It Getting Awkward

From body language to beauty tips, Georgia Aspinall explores the new dating dilemma... to mask, or not to mask?

Masks and wine

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

‘If I went on a date that wasn’t outdoors or social distanced, I would absolutely wear a mask and I’d want them to. It’s hard to catfish people nowadays with chatting on social media or FaceTime, all of which I usually do before dating someone in person anyway.’

Sophie, 25, from Milton Keynes has been on a few dates during lockdown – once it was acceptable to meet other households, of course. Most of them have been outdoors with easy social distancing and thus, she felt, no real need for a mask. But as pubs and restaurants open for business and the dawn of the first date dinner returns, she’s found herself in a new conundrum: to mask up on a date or not?

‘I think it will absolutely be more awkward especially if I’m wearing one and they’re not, I’d feel like they were judging me or think I was overreacting.’ she says. ‘But I just wouldn’t feel comfortable in a public place right now without a mask. I wouldn’t demand they wear one, but I’d definitely want at least one of us to.’

According to data from AdultFriendFinder (AFF), women are 30% more likely to wear a face mask on a first date right now compared to men. Particularly interesting though, is the age gap, with people under 30 three times more likely to mask up for a date than those over 50.

But this poses an interesting new set of anxieties when it comes to dating in 2020. First things first, the ‘will they, won’t they’ wear a mask question starts the date off on decidedly awkward footing. Do you have the conversation beforehand to make sure you’re on the same page or just wait and see? ‘I would definitely warn them I was wearing one and ask if they were,’ Sophie says. But for Amy, 30, an author from Hertfordshire, having the ‘how safe are we being here’ conversation didn’t matter when it came to the actual date.

He was so judgemental and insistent it's all a conspiracy.

‘I recently went on a date where we had discussed socially distancing before and I'd made it clear that's the way I wanted to play it,’ she says. ‘When I arrived in the park, he sat so close to me I felt so utterly self-conscious and I could pretty much feel his breath on me. However, my inner people pleaser found it basically impossible to say anything to him and every time I tried to shuffle away from him subtly, he would edge nearer again.

‘Eventually, I said he “felt a bit near” to which he barked “Oh are you doing that distancing thing?” and then was so judgemental and insistent it's all an unnecessary conspiracy. It was awful.’

So if you can’t count on social distancing playing out the way you expect, it seems wearing a mask might be the only way many feel comfortable on a date – whether the date respects it or not. And when you really think about it, it could turn out a good thing. Because, if they’re an arsehole about it, at least you know there and then, your values are simply too different to continue forward.

But what if you are both on the same page? Going on a date both wearing masks might make you both feel safer, but the romance itself then might need work. ‘I wore a mask on a first date about a month ago,’ says Clare, 33 from Birmingham. ‘I was upfront with my date beforehand that I would be wearing one because I was living with my Mum who hadn’t been out of the house since lockdown. I asked him whether he felt comfortable wearing one and he said he understood and wore a mask on the date.

‘We met in a park and I tried to keep two metres apart but I was still on edge because he kept on closing the gap between us,’ Clare continued. ‘I just gave up after a while. From the way he was fiddling with his mask and a sarcastic comment he made about it, I could tell that he didn't really want to wear it and it took a lot of the usual fun and excitement of meeting someone for the first time out of the date.’

Couple on date
©Getty Images

That very conundrum is exactly what’s kept Evelyn, 25 from Liverpool, from wearing a mask on a first date. ‘I’d wear one to and from the date but during I would take it off just to be able to see their facial cues,’ she says. ‘It would already be so much less flirty being socially distanced, so to then have half your face covered too I think you would just lose everything that makes going on a date fun.’

But is there a way to flirt with body language instead of facial cues? Sure, we can all master the Tyra Banks 'smize' - that is, smiling with your eyes - but can we actually flirt with our bodies alone? Life coach Rebecca Lockwood certainly thinks so.

'The best way to instil some passion and flirtation is to watch for eye movements and body language,' she advises. 'Keep your own body language open trying not to fold your arms. Keep yourself centred by paying attention to the space just under your belly button, this will help ground you if you are feeling nervous. To keep the energy alive and give off some passionate energy, use your imagination to think about being close to the other person in a sensual way that feels good to you.'

So now that we've mastered the art of body language, there’s just one final problem, how do we look our normal fabulous first-date ready selves when wearing a mask? Do we go heavy on the eye-makeup? Focus on a statement hair-do?

First of all, you'll be happy to know that many fashion brands are selling masks to match an outfit, meaning you can find a flattering one that brings your whole outfit together if you really want to (just check out this handy guide). But when it comes to beauty, according to Grazia's in-house experts, beauty and health director Joely Walker and editor Annie Vischer, we should be looking at this as more of an exciting challenge to reinvent our beauty routines than a problem.

‘If there was ever a time to master that winged liner or a subtly smoky eye, it’s now,' says Joely. 'With all attention on the eyes, a quick slick of liner applied right up against the lash line will add definition and make the eyes pop. I also love a subtly glittery eye crayon scribbled under the lower lash line like Bobbi Brown Longwear Cream Shadow Stick in Goldstone, £32 – it’s a playful, fool-proof and sophisticated way to bring glitter into the equation, with minimal effort.

'For hair, if you’re opting for an up do, leaving out the section around the front of your face will help frame the style and detract from the mask. But finally – have fun with your beauty look. With so much of your personality usually shining through your smile, you want your individual style to come across.’

Eyes are the big focus now, it’s time to emphasise, define and line.

'I love a bit of a beauty challenge and the whole having to wear a face mask on a date situation presents just that,' she says. 'If you normally rely on a statement lip colour to give you confidence the moment has come to switch things up – eyes are the big focus now. It’s time to emphasise, define and line.

'You can keep things subtle with a hint of earth-toned eyeshadow (think browns, bronze shades and dark golds) across your lower and upper lash lines and a slick of mascara, or really amp things up with a Debbie Harry-esque smudge of black kohl,' Annie continues. 'Kohl has undergone a bit of a revival and was everywhere backstage at the Spring/Summer ‘20 shows. I, personally, love a French-girl-chic sweep of liquid liner across the top lash line. It’s simple, subtle and makes eyes look wide and doll-like.’

So there you have it, with our body-language tips and beauty experts, there's no excuse not to wear a mask on a first date anymore. Let the era of mask-dating begin...

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