I know I was a far better collector of such items when I was a teenager, since I was almost as overzealous about facial products. Even though I never had bad skin, I saw my flesh as the one thing I had control over growing up. My parents didn't wield too much power in the world as far as I was concerned, it was other teens. Since I was not often invited into their company, I directed my need for control on myself. Scrubs, astringents to dry the oily parts, lotions to soothe the dry spots. Loofahs, sponges and cotton balls. Tweezers, waxes, razors, and Band-Aids. And don't even get me started on makeup.

But now, in the nearer present, it all began with a membership to a gym in September of last year. Suddenly I had more mirrors than I knew what to do with. Hours each week spent facing my own image as I sat in various positions, lifting and releasing the same brick-shaped, predetermined weights. I could see muscle pushing its way to the surface, through fat, approaching skin, and re-formatting my outer shell. Then I started working on the outside in.

I quit smoking, and after a while, my hair wasn't as oily. I had been using whitening toothpaste for most of the seven years I was a pack-a-day smoker of cloves, but now my tongue wasn't coated with brown muck, or at least, it wasn't coated with nicotine. Coffee is still the main stain, and always will be. A few weeks ago, I started taking steps to eat better, especially at work, where the main fare is the fast food morsels of suburbia. Dragging bags of groceries to my office, where I spent 10 hours of each day with a dorm fridge, microwave, and toaster to be my wife, my reminder that $3.99 can go a lot further than I had initially been led to believe. Bottled water, bags of pre-washed salad, wheat bread and turkey slices.

It's addictive, once you get started, the act of self-improvement, even when, in my case, there is no one else I am doing it for but myself. But it also reminded me daily how my past treatment of my body had to be dealt with in a severely repetitive manner. Your body takes your lead on your efforts and responds, but only after it's been set into a pattern of expectation. I bought St. John's Wort, nature's Prozac, in theory, and have to pop those three times a day for two weeks to see if anything's going to come of it. I bought and began taking a multivitamin. I went out and bought a tube of Vitamin K oil to dab under my eyes in an effort to see if my life long curse of dark circles could be magically lifted from my life. Dark circles from a regimen of no more than five hours of sleep per night since I was in middle school. Always staying up late, contemplating the world, hating it, falling in love with it and forgiving it all in the course of one novel, one movie, one long childhood alone. This stuff should show results in two weeks. I suppose I've waited this long. What's two more weeks?

And why, you ask, am I doing all this?

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