The first thing you change is your clothes. Your shirts sprout collars and buttons, the iron comes out of the closet and a good pair of not jeans are liberated from the Salvation Army 'round the corner from work. Dress for the girl you want, not the girl you don't have. Work on your posture. Get that ratty old coat of yours drycleaned. See if that works.

When it doesn't you start eating less and lifting more, figuring that everybody could stand to lose a few pounds and, yeah, those midnight trips to Taco Bell probably aren't the greatest thing for your anything. Tell yourself that refried beans have been proven to make your hair fall out enough times and you start to believe it; gullibility has its advantages. Beer makes way for hard liquor - fewer calories and you like the way the glass feels in your hand anyway, but singing into anything other than a longneck feels off. You get used to it; sing in your head.

When that doesn't work, or when that Wendy's 'round the other corner from work with their dollar bacon cheeseburgers finally sucks you in and welcomes you home, you get a haircut. If you work a job where every day is casual friday and your boss shows up wearing Hawaiian shirts and birks on a Tuesday afternoon, you do it yourself. Clear out around your ears to show off that piercing you almost forget you had. Get a friend to trim the back, a mullet being a bigger turnoff than those twenty dollar plastic payless shoes you just turned in for a good pair of pavement pounders. Cut the front, too, so you can see who you're not hitting it off with, still.

This is about the point where things start seeming 'Edgy,' to you, though you'd never admit that you'd ever use that word without air-quotes.

Your friends go next - somewhere in here you realized that your looks don't do much good if you're sitting in the same bar with the same three guys night after night, talking about all the parties going on in the thousands of other bars rattling their foundations on a Friday night in New York City as if there were a password you didn't know keeping you on the street. Empty bars with awful music and character are replaced with places too packed to breathe, let alone hold a conversation, with new music and hair so crinkly you could lose an eye to an errant strand of it. It's hot and boring and you haven't got around to learning how to dance yet, but at least there are girls around. Could be worse.

And when none of this works, when you wake up on monday morning with four hours of drunken work to struggle through before you can even begin to think about being hungover, you decide to grow a beard.

- - -

Two weeks later, looking in the mirror and wiping the shaving cream out from behind your ears before a night on the town, you see this man staring back at you. He's clean and poised and smiling, disheveled in that sexy, 'man, what a day' sort of way. Never got around to buying a good suit, but if you did, the jacket'd look damn good slung over your shoulder right now, a dockers' ad in stockinged feet. This time, it's different; you're different.

This time, you go out looking for a woman.

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