How to have the grooming talk?Intimacy / Aug 18th 2017  at 10:26AM   /   0

Dear KC, I'm seeing a new guy who's a real outdoorsy type. He hikes and camps for extended periods, and is phenomenally fit yet unkempt, with excess hair everywhere (crotch, nose, eyebrows, ears). Also, he doesn't trim his nails well or enough (toenails especially, ugh) and the lack of basic grooming is a turn-off. The thing is, I really like him so what do I do?

It's a delicate situation. Handled well, the grooming talk can be a powerful win-win. Handled badly, it can end a budding relationship. Choose your words and timing carefully. It's unfortunate that many otherwise intelligent people have a bizarre disconnect in regard to standards of grooming (women included). That said, it's an opportunity to open lines of communication that will benefit you now and in the future. 

The goal is to convey your needs without triggering feelings of shame or inadequacy. You'll want to be clear, brief, and breezy enough that he won't feel he's lost any "man points" in your eyes. Men often see life as a string of win/lose moments, and these kinds of conversations can make them embarrassed and defensive. For men with very intrusive mothers (no small contingent of the population), it can be extra uncomfortable when a romantic partner comments on his personal habits. Indelicate phrasing (or flawless phrasing combined with bad timing) can derail the conversation instantly. 

By the same token, unkempt toenails are a sign someone's not trying very hard. Maybe he's being subconsciously rebellious. Maybe he's an Einstein-level genius, too distracted to remember to put on pants or use clippers twice a month. But unless he was raised by wolves, a conscientious person knows better. 

Navigating a partner's feelings is an inescapable part of human relationships. The best way to find the right words and approach is to consider how you'd feel in his place. Then move forward based on how you'd prefer to hear this type of thing from him. Both sexes can be reactionary when triggered. If he's a good man, he'll get over it, and will be glad in the end that you told him. (If it's an issue for you, it'll be an issue for other women if you guys breakup.) You're doing him a favor here; don't forget that. For all you know, his boss and coworkers are sick of looking at his nose hair too. (For the record, most people recoil at long unkempt toenails. It's a common complaint, in relationships and public spaces.)

Try giving him a gift card for an upscale barber or spa that offers grooming services, manicures, and pedicures for men. That alone should clue him in. If you're in Austin, I've heard great things about The Boardroom, a salon exclusively for men. They offer brow and body waxing, hand and foot grooming (main/pedis), and other services, in a distinctly masculine spa setting. 

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