As the UK gradually comes out of lockdown, ever so slowly, we are faced with, after months of celibacy (if we have been good, law abiding citizens) a new and unfamiliar prospect: how on earth do we flirt in a facemask?
Though most of history, and many cultures, have utilised facial coverings of various kinds for different reasons, this is not something your typical London swinger has ever been faced with.
I found myself in a small shop the other day, suddenly noticing a rather lovely shop attendant behind the counter. Usually, I’d have an armoury of little tricks to inspire the random love of a stranger. As it was, I was covered nose to neck by a surgical mask, hair tied back in a scarf and looking as unsexy as could possibly be imagined. Though my bantering words were still at my disposal, all the other aspects I would normally utilise- a smile, an expression, an unmuffled tone of voice, were suddenly gone. Hence, so was my confidence.
This got me to thinking. How do we retrain ourselves to be the smouldering hot sexy people we are used to being in this weird ‘new normal’?
Ultimately, we are going to have to expect that facemasks are going to be a part of our lives in public for a long time to come. And as for those who wish to display their bravado by forgoing one? I blame them for the fact that we are still not free to go about our business over 3 months later, when logically this whole thing could have been over in three weeks if everyone did what they were supposed to (including the politicians). Hell hath no fury like a veteran-swinger-cougar deprived of her stress-relief.
Yet the situation is what it is, so let’s have a look at how we can recreate our sexy selves in the new era we find ourselves unwillingly thrust into:
This has always been the first, and most important, aspect of flirting. It’s reputed that staring into someone’s eyes for 4 minutes can make them fall in love. It is also something many of us struggle with. The forced intimacy with a stranger, peering into your soul, is enough to bring out the bashful in anyone. For this reason, we must make sure that we are feeling our best, and presenting ourselves as well as we possibly can under the circumstances. It is worth bearing in mind that even after months of enforced celibacy, and often a desperate desire for physical contact, people are not themselves. We have recreated the twitchy, shy adolescent within us all. Nobody is feeling their best.
The body language
One string we still have to our bow is body language. Shoulders back, wide, expansive gestures and stances that show comfort and confidence in the situation are still possible, and always a winner. Yes, we must stay two metres away, but within the context of someone you’ve just met, that is an appropriate and non-intimidating level of personal space anyway. We cannot initiate non-threatening physical contact. We cannot step into the ‘circle of intimacy’. But we can certainly still showcase.
We need to become comfortable with peacocking and showing that we can own and thrive in the new situation. Colour co-ordinate with your facemask. Choose a flattering shape and style. We are so used to accessorising with watches, handbags, belts- this is just going to be a new thing. And it is the first thing people will see when they look at you. We have to find a way to own these alien face-huggers, and make them our own. It goes without saying not to wear them around your neck or under your nose- not only will they not work, it makes everyone look like an idiot. Get comfortable with it.
Lipstick is currently a non-starter. Apart from smearing all over the place, best case scenario, nobody is going to see it. Ditto for lip fillers and contouring to the lower cheeks. That hipster beard is now incognito. What do we still have? Our forehead, our cheekbones, our neck, and of course, our eyes.
We want to make sure what’s on show is looking tip-top. Three months of TV, booze, garden sunbathing and change of diet to whatever was available is going to show in your skin. Cosmetic clinics have been closed, meaning no botox, no fillers and no facials (of any kind). Men and women alike have no longer had the excuse of being too busy, nor the patchwork cover-alls that were afforded by a little money and an hour in the clinic. We’ve had to be low maintenance.
One thing that has been afforded us is time. A few of us have been making the most of our restricted, and then unrestricted, exercise. Catching up on years of missed sleep. Living our best lives when suddenly that rarest of commodities – free time- flooded the market. I’m not one of them.
Here’s how to get what you can still have on show looking its best:
Though we are still awaiting the hairdresser, and many a home-job has been disastrous, as with most things, one can pull it off with a bit of style. That home-ombre so bad it needs to be shaved off completely? Just do it. Overgrown roots staring bleakly out at the world? Embrace it as grunge and still wash and style your hair like it’s the latest look. Crop grown out to a man bun? It can still be rocked with panache.
Though the last thing you want at the moment is wisps of hair getting all over your face and mouth, there are plenty of options that are both practical and stylish. How about a 1940’s crochet hair net for a retro look? Twists and braids? A funky biker bandana? A conversation-starting hat?
As long as you match how you’ve styled your hair to the rest of yourself, it’s not going to look out of place. Consider it an opportunity to experiment with breaking your rut.
If there’s one thing to make sure nobody even notices your face, it’s your cleavage. I’m going to extend this to a delightful masculine chest, with toned pecs and the slight suggestion of hair brimming from the undone extra shirt button. Even in summer, a nicely pressed shirt with well rolled sleeves and a good breathable material will be a practical option, and get a lot more admiring glances than a baggy old T shirt. Clothes need to fit well and be well cared for, even if they are not new. People notice details.
One benefit many women have experienced with the lockdown weight gain is the sudden blooming of ample cleavage. You just haven’t noticed yet, because nobody has worn a bra since March. Pack those puppies into a nice push-up, choose a flattering top that shows them off, and let your concerns about love-handles melt away under the admiring gaze of the recently sex-starved citizens of London.
Summer is a great time to show off a nice pair of legs. The vast majority of men, in my opinion, do not have attractive legs. Women, on the other hand, often do. It’s the perfect season for a flirty skirt, summer dress and sandals or a nice pair of short shorts. If you’ve been a recent maniacal jogger and sunbather, so much the better, but in honesty beautiful legs come in so many shapes and sizes. You can wear stockings (sexy under any outfit), use fake tan or even decorate them with temporary tattoos or henna if you can’t bear to bare. High-rise sandals that come up the legs with straps or rope are also alluring, and disguise and add a feeling of being covered if you don’t feel comfortable fully exposed. Heels and wedges look amazing on pretty much everyone.
Put this all together and what do you have? An amazing, sexy person, who happens to be wearing a facemask. Who wouldn’t want to flirt with you?
*all images used of the models are heavily edited and filtered, with hair, age, gender and general appearance adjusted and bear no resemblance to the models. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.