What Happens When You Only Use Aphrodisiac Products

There’s this really great passage in one of my favorite stories—”Pet Milk,” by Stuart Dybek—about aphrodisiacs. The narrator goes out with his girlfriend to celebrate his 22nd birthday, orders a dozen oysters and a bottle of champagne, and they proceed to slurp it all down. The story isn’t smutty (far from it), and I don’t know much about aphrodisiacs, but the rest of it is enough to make you only want to eat oysters and sip champagne for the rest of your life. Maybe it doesn’t help that my college boyfriend was the one to introduce me to Dybek’s book The Coast of Chicago. Whatever it is, I still really like oysters.

As for my personal experience with aphrodisiacs, I usually just spray on some Tom Ford Santal Blush and go out to dinner. (Have you ever woken up smelling that scent on your pillows? Magic, I’m telling you.) But a recent meeting got me thinking—perhaps I could be doing a little more to service the…mood when I go out with le boyfriend. Said meeting was with some PR reps (as many of my meetings are), and they introduced me to what they jokingly referred to as “date night lotion.” It was Neil’s Yard Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang Body Cream, both scents of which are considered sexy mood stimulators. “It works,” one of the reps told me. Hey, why not? I figured. I’m going to moisturize regardless, so why not do it with something that might make me alluring. Excuse me—more alluring.

For the purpose of literary effect, I didn’t just stop at the lotion, so herein lies what I hope can turn into the perfect date night (or any night, really) routine for when you’re feeling a little randy. I can’t say that I can share any of the concrete results of this experiment right here, right now, but I certainly felt good using all the products. And that’s probably half the battle. At least.

Leonor Greyl Masque Fleurs de Jasmin: Starting off strong with this one because, man, it is good. Pay no attention to whatever hair type this mask is meant for—just use it and discover the soft hair you were meant to have. That’s part of the sexiness right there: nice hair. Secondly, the scent—jasmine isn’t particularly girly, but it is a bit mysterious (especially to the untrained nose). And as we learned, hair has the best scent sillage. So let it flow, friends.

Nars Monoï Body Glow II: I’ve read a good deal about how straight-up, non-branded monoï oil smells incredible and makes you want to take your clothes off immediately. If I were more egalitarian in my product selection, I’d jump on Amazon and buy it right now. But if packaging makes you feel all warm and tingly on the inside, then the Nars version it is. Just don’t get too excited when applying. The bottle is definitely not kid-proof, so overzealous application to you and your loved ones may happen on accident.

Moon Juice Sex Dust: This one I can’t really speak for (tried it but can’t say my night went any better or worse than usual), but Gwyneth Paltrow endorses it, and she’s living her best divorce of all time. That’s enough for me.

Tata Harper Love Potion: If I’ve learned anything from a) dating men and b) articles like this, it’s that perfume in its fanciest form is irrelevant when it comes to attraction. It’s one of those things (like all things) that you buy and keep and love for yourself. But Tata Harper’s Love Potion is not particularly fancy. It comes in a tiny little rollerball—like her Be Well: Aromatic Mood Therapy Collection—and packs what claims to be 10 of the world’s most powerful aphrodisiacs in one convenient essential oil formula. So I’m assuming it’s things like free rent and home-cooked chicken piccata on Sunday nights. Either way, it’s sort of a nice, personal scent for when you want a break from your big, bad atomizer.

Fuchsia lipstick: Years ago, Tom Ford released what was possibly the most perfect fuchsia lipstick…called Aphrodisiac. Like all good things, it was limited edition and can now only be found on the back-est of Amazon back channels. For those unwilling to compromise the brand (and health code) integrity of their lipstick, there are a number of dupes out there. Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in L’Exubérante is my favorite. Just enough comes off when you make out to make it really worth your while.

—Emily Ferber

Image via Getty. Now that you’ve got your aphrodisiacs on, set the right mood music.

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How Do You Feel About Lipstick On A First Date?

If I had a dollar for every time I stood in front of a mirror, 10 minutes before a date, deliberating whether I should put on red lipstick, I would be rich. On one hand, if done right, there is nothing more effective than a swipe of Nars’ Jungle Red—it gives you a valid excuse to forgo eye makeup, relying solely on the casual cool of your natural hair and a white tee. And, in a perfect world, it makes you look Georgia May Jagger off-duty—the stuff male fantasies are made of. Yet, in the real world, you run the risk of being perceived like you’re trying too hard or, paradoxically enough, a prude on subliminal defense from a potential kiss (even if you do manage to surpass the kissing frontier, there is a high chance a pressed white button-down will be ruined). In short, red lipstick is a beauty danger zone to tread at your own risk.

And yet, no matter how much we might analyze this grave matter, the jury on whether the person across the table from you actually likes red lipstick is still out. To investigate, I start by asking every man in close proximity their take on a red lip. Among my male relatives, friends’ husbands, nerdy French colleagues, and sporadic Tinder dates, I keep expecting to find a manicorn who will profess his love for a pouty red bouche. Said confession never comes. Instead, all I get is ambiguous stares, shrugs, followed by hesitant “it depends.” Depends on what? After some more unenthused reflection, they tell me that red lipstick can look nice on certain people, in certain lighting, at certain times of the day. In short, if you look like Georgia May Jagger, you might be able to get away with it, but preferably in the dark.

Although my similarity to Jagger is questionable, I decide not to give up so quickly—after all, we are talking about a multimillion dollar industry here! I head to a bar in Williamsburg armed with my trusty tube of Nars. Five minutes after entering the bar, I meet a handsome British boy who had zero qualms chatting me up all evening, kissing me late into the night, and pursuing me the following day. Granted, when I ask him later on what he actually thinks of red lipstick, he gives me the customary equivocal response, ceasing to remember that it was that very lip trick that drew him in in the first place. A week later, I find success at a black-tie birthday party in a deep-plunge Saint-Laurent gown and a mouth painted bright with Chanel Rouge Allure in 98 Coromandel. For a beauty technique that is supposed to turn men off, red lipstick seems to be working in my favor. How so?

I turn to a beauty-savvy friend for advice. “People are attracted to a red lip intuitively—it shows that a person has confidence,” she says, adding a practical tip: “If there is a chance at a kiss, go for a stain mixed with balm for a less aggressive color payoff.” Another friend who is committed to red lipstick at a Gwen Stefani level tells me that her husband has grown to love it, knowing that it makes her feel great and they are guaranteed to have a fantastic time.

At the end of the day, it’s about presenting a full package: Very few of suiters care what lipstick a woman is wearing—in fact, most of them will hardly notice. What they care about is the woman wearing it, about the confidence she carries herself with, about whether or not she feels beautiful in her own skin.  And, if you happen to feel beautiful with a pouty red bouche, so be it. Trust me, that extra dry-cleaned shirt will be a small price to pay.

—Marina Khorosh

Photo by ITG. Marina Khorosh is a Russian living in Paris by way of New York. She writes the blog Dbag Dating.

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Some Notes On The Couple’s Massage

We are promised that there will be no rose petals, which is good—both because I refuse to participate in a genocide of flowers and because I do not want my boyfriend to flee the premises.

He and I have arrived at The Retreat at The Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island, to experience what the spa has been tactful enough to call a “massage à deux.” But we will not be fooled. This is a couple’s massage.

For the record, we do not do this. To date, Jason has never bought me me a box of chocolates or a Hallmark card. Over the holidays, he presented me with a gift certificate to the Cheesecake Factory—a joke! He swears! A few months ago, he gave me a cactus. Against all odds, we like each other. A lot.

I explain this to Brenda Brock, who greets me in the lobby. As the founder of beloved skincare line Farmaesthetics, Brock has masterminded both the products at and the overall environment of The Retreat. She is very sympathetic.

“It’s all about how you set it up and stage it,” she contends. “There can be champagne. It can be all about romance, but that is not what we wanted. We wanted this treatment to be about time together—to get people in the same place at the same time for something private.”

I relay this sentiment to Jason. He nods. It is so cute how he tries to suppress his panic. Great effort.

He and I are led to a small room outfitted in heavily patterned furniture. The concierge hands us basic questionnaires and cool glasses of water, leaving us to bask in amorous bliss. We sit down next to each other and begin to recount our medical histories. I leave an earnest note in which I detail poor circulation, dalliances with acupuncture, occasional migraines. Reclining in a tufted throne, Jason records his.

“Should I say that I’m pregnant?” He asks innocently.

I roll my eyes. This is our romance.

We complete the forms and are steered into a small room. The space is bright and cheerful and a little chilled, which strikes me as very genteel. I take in the yellow wallpaper and sloped ceilings and think of Ina Garten. I would estimate that I wonder at least every 10 days: “What would Ina do?”

As far as I am concerned, the Barefoot Contessa really knows how to live. She always seems to have a bottle of wine on ice and pals over for dinner. This is what I want for my future.

The fact that I can picture Ina and Jeffrey Garten at The Castle Hill Inn is a good omen for Jason and me. I tell him this. He does not respond. He should be honored. Jeffrey is a lucky man and never wants for fresh mozzarella.

Together, we walk inside. We wash up, strip down, and slide under our respective covers. Small children that we are, we cannot stop laughing. Jason is convinced that he will laugh in the middle of the massage, revealing us both to be infants. We agree to think of dead puppies and take deep breaths.

When our masseuses return, my lips are pressed into a tight line. I am determined to be expressionless. I am adult woman. I am worth a “massage à deux.” I am told I hold a lot of tension in my jaw.

But the strain abates. And for several dozen enchanted minutes, there is no sound. I am so relaxed I do not even remember how to be jaded. I am so relaxed I forget Jason is even there.

After more than an hour, I am slicked in oil—lissome and drowsy. I glance over and see Jason. Oh! That’s right. Him.

We both get dressed in a daze and amble back to the car.

“I never wanted it to ennnnndddddd,” Jason confesses, betraying an enthusiasm for extravagance that makes me smile.

“That was heaven,” I pronounce.

And yet it becomes evident: We have not resolved what we set out to. Massages for two are nice. But they are no nicer than “massages pour un.”

For all the elation, the twin tables did not make me fall deeper or further in love. Not even a charming set of matching bathrobes could do so much. When I visualize rose petals, I still see carnage. But at least my knots are gone this time.

—Mattie Kahn

Photos courtesy of the author. Next up: The Blurred Line Relationships With The People We Pay To Touch Us.

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Tinder Portraits: A User’s Guide

It’s ironic that I should be advising you on how you should look for your Tinder portrait. I’ve been in a relationship for six years, and the last time I dated, the “poke” option still existed on Facebook. “Tinder Portrait” is a term I first heard from my roommate, a photographer also in a relationship. He joked that if he started taking Tinder portraits (and only Tinder portraits) his business would boom. But there’s a certain truth to that. Almost everyone I know is on Tinder, Hinge, or Happn. The photos are singular representations of how attractive you are (which is a completely subjective thing), how much fun you promise (also subjective), and how great of a one-night-stand companion you can be (you get the picture).

Currently, two important women in my life are dating at opposite ends of the life spectrum: One of my best friends, who’s a pretty young thing at 24, and my mother, whose birthday this month will make her 58. Like clockwork, I’m there to hear their woes, their glories, their successes, and their failures. The idea of putting yourself out there to be criticized and matched is like small technological warfare with not just the pool of men on your radar, but also yourself. Though I may not be well versed on touch-screen swipes to a possible mate, I’m there to listen and empower them with stylistic choices, terminology I learned from some expensive feminism degree, and of course beauty tips. Here are some of my observations that may or may not help you.

First Impressions Are The Only Impressions
“For your first photo, you should not use a picture of a pineapple of fire.”

I recently had coffee with the author who runs the Tumblr, Tinder in Brooklyn. A vivacious, attractive, and quick spoken woman, she has had a number of fun dates, strange dates, and a date with a male model whose friend had mistaken her for the dog walker. “Without fail, there’s always the photo of the girl who looks like she dropped a coin casually over her shoulder.” Enacting the dropper, she turns her head over the side, and says, “Oh, what’s that? I must have dropped a penny!” In case this pose doesn’t work for you, I suggest a well-lit portrait in natural light with only you in the image. I’m partial to selfies and really enjoy when portraits are compositionally balanced and the subject stands in the center. There’s a dynamic quality to seeing you as the focal point. If you have time, have a friend take an image of you in late-afternoon light about 3-to-5 feet away. It’s hard not to look good during the magic hour.

Makeup
Flawless skin is key. My mother has never touched Botox. Instead, she regularly uses face masks and serums. Yes, she has wrinkles, but her skin is still clear as day, partially from genetics but also from her skillful usage of foundation. In photos, you can tell when foundation is too heavy, so opt for a light hand that covers imperfections. Then add a little highlighter and some blush (maybe it feels weird in person if you don’t use it, but it’s going to photograph well—trust). You don’t want to look too shiny, so some powder is always a good idea. When in doubt, VSCO Cam for an undetectable layer of filter.

Brand Yourself The Way You Want To Be Branded
Suit your wardrobe to your current place of residence. I tend to advise that if you live in New York, make sure not every picture is of you in a bikini. But then again, if you live on the beach or if that’s your most confident self, who am I to tell you otherwise? When in doubt, go with options: A friend of mine has a well-curated photo gallery starting with a well-lit portrait, then a photo of her during July 4th in a bikini top, jean shorts, and a flower crown, and a stylish picture of herself in a button-up floral top and a leather skirt. It doesn’t hurt that she looks like a cross between Charlotte Rampling and Sofia Coppola, but the images together offer a more complex idea of what she’s like. There’s personality. But with my mom, she does not want to look cute. Instead, she wants to read sophisticated. I helped her with her Match.com profile to which she receives multiple emails a day, so something’s working. There’s a photo of her enjoying afternoon tea in Hong Kong, a 35mm portrait of her by the water La Jetée-style, a photo—my favorite—in which she’s taking apart a lobster, and image of her wearing an amazing coat visiting the Met.

On that note, I want to say that these quick observations are very general ones that seem to work for two women out of many. In New York, there’s a running belief that single men and women are always looking for the next best thing. So how do we make an impression that last for more than a few seconds? What has worked for you? Share away, dear readers.

—Connie Tsang

Illustrations by Montana Azuelos. On a more morbid note read How To Break Up When There’s The Internet.

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How Do You Break Up When There’s The Internet?

Dating in the 21st century is weird. I met my last boyfriend on a random Tuesday night while wearing pajamas, applying a face mask, and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. By “met,” I mean we matched on Tinder, and I responded to his enticingly eloquent pick-up line of, “Hey, what’s up?” We chatted for a few days and eventually made plans to meet for drinks IRL, and the rest was history. (Just kidding—I went out with some friends before our planned first date, lost my phone, stood him up, asked for his forgiveness a few days later when I recovered said phone and eventually went on a date with him that involved drinks in a weird Midtown hotel lobby bar followed by drunk Indian food at a fluorescent-lit spot frequented by taxi drivers. The stuff of romance novels.)

What’s even weirder than dating in the 21st century? Breaking up. About six months after our unconventional first date, my Tinder boyfriend abruptly ended the relationship. It came as a total shock, and I was utterly and completely crushed. And while the rational version of me knew that the best way to cope with my heartbreak was to cut him out of my life, the internet had other plans.

First of all: dating apps. The unfortunate part of being in a relationship with someone from Tinder is that even if you’ve both deleted the app, when you re-install them, all your previous matches and messages load. So, you can start fanatically checking the app to see when your now-ex last logged on to swipe. This is information that you are 100 percent better off without. Plus, in my six-month hiatus from dating, other apps like Hinge had arisen that match you with people you share mutual Facebook friends with. Of course, my ex was being connected with all my single friends, and I was their unwitting matchmaker! Strike one for mental health and well-being.

Next problem: social media. If you are one of those people that has the strength and wherewithal to block, de-friend, and generally make an ex disappear from your mind, you are my idol. I did not do that, so I would be innocently flipping through Instagram at work one day or scrolling through my Facebook feed on a Sunday afternoon when photos of him would assault me out of the blue. I wasn’t even actively “stalking,” and yet, there he was smiling and having fun. Without me. Tears usually ensued.

Of course social media also has its perks. Namely, what I like to call “revengestagrams.” This is also known as pictures of you looking great and having so much fun with your friends (often staged directly before or after an onslaught of tears).

The internet, for all its evils, can also be very supportive of someone in the throes of a bad breakup. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, the Bronx Zoo announced their fundraising campaign that allowed you to name one of their resident cockroaches after an ex. For just $10, the zoo would send my ex an e-certificate to alert him of my generous gift. I had to stop myself from buying a whole cockroach family.

And when you’re ready to get rid of every single trace of your ex, there’s a site for that too. Never Liked it Anyway was founded by a girl going through a bad breakup, for other girls in the same boat. Essentially, it’s a marketplace to sell the unwanted gifts and other merch from your dating days and turn it into “bounce-back cash.” The site also features tons of breakup stories—from the hilarious to the downright traumatic—that are a welcome distraction from your own sob story. If I had known about this in the aftermath of my own heartbreak, I would have sold the dress I wore to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding (yes, that happened) and the one I wore to his dad’s wedding (uh huh, that too) and turned the cash into a great pair of revenge shoes. Ain’t no therapy like retail.

Bottom line: dating in the internet age is a crazy psychological minefield, and we’re all just trying to make it to the other side in one piece. So, it’s time to share: What’s your 21st-century dating story?

—Victoria Lewis

Image via Getty. Contribute your thoughts on more Open Threads here.

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