“The Rule of Attraction” (Fiction, 02/29/08) Doc. #014

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The Text:

THE RULE OF ATTRACTION

Written February 29, 2008 (Age 21)

Standing naked in front of a mirror it’s hard to be objective. I scan the lines of my body hoping to see something about myself in the curve of my shoulders, or the constellations formed by freckles.

I don’t see anything.

As I take in the sight of my body, one word repeats itself in my mind: average.

Average, average, average.

I wish I were average in every way. I wish I were 5’ 9’’ with a bit of flab, a little patch of chest hair, and brown eyes. No such luck. Instead, I am uniquely average, singularly unspecial. I am shorter than average, hairier than average, slimmer and curvier than average. I am more or less in every aspect.

I try to see myself through the eyes of a woman. My passions are not ignited.

I feel… cute. I don’t want to feel cute.

Clothing doesn’t help, doesn’t make me feel more attractive. I dress in T-shirts and jeans, sneakers and white socks. I try not to draw attention to myself; it’s a sort of protest.

Fashion, to me, is a scam. Every season new styles and designs are celebrated. If you don’t celebrate with everyone else, if you don’t buy whatever is fashionable at that moment, you’re somewhat less… something, than those who do. (this needs another coat of polish, it feels rushed and sloppy.)

What makes it all the more scam-like insidious is the fact that the styles are in rotation is limited. Ever notice how plaid tends to come and go on a five year rotation cycle? By the time plaid becomes popular again, everyone has thrown away their old plaid; they have to go out and buy new plaid.

It’s the most shallow and needless cycle on the planet, and it works. Young women wear skirts in January, and I don’t think anything looks quite as good on a woman as hypothermia. (this comes out of nowhere)

People are impressed by the well-dressed. I look at my wardrobe and it is not impressive.


One day, the lack of social life that resulted from my non-wardrobe started to get to me. My friend Ginger, who has an eye for these sorts of things, gave me an image makeover like they do on those reality shows. She took me out shopping. I tried on more clothing that day than I think I have in the past three years combined. It reminded me of back-to-school shopping with my mother, her picking things out and me grudgingly trying them on.

I got a haircut. I got contact lenses. I started using hair gel and face cream. Ginger even convinced me to wax my chest. I have to admit, she knew what she was doing. By the end, I looked great, like I had been pulled from the pages of a magazine.

Ginger took me out to the bar to celebrate my new image. I stood at the bar next to her as she ordered us drinks. Less than five minutes later I made eye contact with a girl at the other end of the bar. She was gorgeous; blonde hair, blue eyes, light red lipstick. She was wearing a black spaghetti string tank top and Capri pants. She smiled at me and started walking over.

I started to panic. I turned to Ginger, “I think someone is coming to talk to me.”

Ginger looked at me as if I had just spoken Dutch. “So talk,” she said.

The girl with the spaghetti strings was in front of me now. She smiled as I watched her eyes give me the once over. “Hi, I’m Cindy,” she said.

“Hi, I’m Cameron.”

Cindy extended her hand, I took it. “Nice to meet you Cameron,” she took a drink of her beer. “You go to school at the college?”

“Yeah,” I said, trying my best not to stare.

“What’s your major?” she asked.

“Philosophy.”

Ginger left the bar twenty minutes later.


Over the next seven drinks I learned that Cindy was a theater major, she lived with two girlfriends in a duplex down the street and thought that the music in the bar was bitchin’. 

She told me a secret: she was wasn’t wearing underwear. Shortly after she told me this she asked if I wanted to come back to her place, which, or course, I did.

We stumbled down the street until we got to her place apartment, Cindy holding onto my arm. As soon as we got into her room she threw herself at me.

I caught.


The next morning was awkward. I woke up naked next to Cindy feeling instantly exposed. I sat up, my head throbbed. I got out of bed and found my pants on the floor. While I was dressing I looked at Cindy’s naked body. She was still gorgeous, even with her mouth hanging open, her eyeliner smudged and a bit of drool on her pillow. She was thin and curvy, she was everything girls were supposed to be.

I realized in that moment that this was the only reason I had followed her home. Our conversation wasn’t that interesting. She did most of the talking. I asked questions and tried to be funny. She was a bit annoying and naïve. Still, I found myself terrified of saying something stupid.

I couldn’t help it, she was so damn pretty. It was like I was hypnotized. I couldn’t stop checking out her body. She noticed. She started touching my arm and giving me “that look”.

Now I was standing shirtless and hairless over her sleeping body. I looked around her messy room and contemplated the door. If I left, I wouldn’t have to deal with whatever was going to happen when she woke up.

I couldn’t do that to her, I got back into bed and started rubbing her arm. She opened her eyes. She looked confused for a second, then she smiled. “Hey,” she said dreamily.

We ate Captain Crunch on her couch and watched MTV. I hate MTV. The spell was broken. Whatever was happening the night before was over. She seemed to feel it too. When I left, without her phone number, she didn’t seem that sad to see me go.


I have suffered the fortunate tragedy of having been in love. For four years I was in a relationship with a girl named Kristina. Kristina was not the alpha female that Cindy was, but I loved her and her body regardless. I got to know her more thoroughly than anyone else. She was brilliant and funny and complemented me like no one else. For a while I thought we were going to get married.

To make a long story short, I fucked up. Now I’m alone.

Beautiful women break my heart on a daily basis. When you begin to look beyond clothing and make-up you start to see them everywhere. I often find myself wondering about these girls dressed in inconspicuous sweaters and flat shoes. I try to picture them without their glasses. I try to picture them in beautiful dresses.

Here’s the problem with fashion; there aren’t any outfits to say the things that really matter. They don’t sell sweaters at the Gap that say “I am a caring person.” Hollister doesn’t make jackets that say “I’m not a cheater.” You can’t find gloves that say “I’ve been hurt” at Old Navy. And if you write these things on them, people will think you’re crazy.

I stopped putting gel in my hair and I never waxed my chest again. My wardrobe has gotten stale. I don’t really care.

I remember times, lying naked with Kristina, feeling so comfortable in my own skin. I know I’ll never feel that comfortable in clothing, no matter what I wear.

Critique:

“The Rule of Attraction” is an interesting, occasionally well-written, underdeveloped short story. The plot is logical though a bit uncomplicated. Cameron, the main character, is believable and his tone as narrator is consistent throughout.

Cameron really is the highlight of the story, most of the other elements are underdeveloped. Ginger, for example, is indescribable, because the author doesn’t describe her. The shops they go to, the bar where Cameron meets Cindy, the bedroom he  wakes up in the next morning, all are left completely to the imagination of the reader as the author ends his description of these places by naming them.

When the narration meanders into social criticism, the writing becomes lazy. The author fails to clearly explain or defend his character’s thoughts.

There is a quality story in here somewhere, but as it stands, it just seems like a thinly disguised “Dear Penthouse” letter. Grade: B-

Reflection:

“The Rule of Attraction” is another one of my thinly-disguised autobiographical pieces. Cameron is basically me my Sophomore year of college, complete with backstory and makeover.

I had just broken up with my highschool girlfriend, Aeris, at the end of the summer, after a year of trying to make things work long-distance with us living in different parts of the state. If I were able to appreciate back then what I have learned to appreciate now, I would have married Aeris. She was an amazing woman: smart, adorable, funny, and undyingly faithful.

I, however, was reckless, hormonal, impatient, and selfish. I was surrounded by attractive, available young women, and the emotional bond I shared with Aeris had faded in in the face of temptation and possibility. I would occasionally flirt with girls I met on campus, and I knew if only I cast off the “baggage” of my girlfriend, I could enjoy an exciting and active dating life.

I think I knew going into that summer that I was about to end things, but I wanted to enjoy a few more months of fun and sex and I didn’t have the nerve to face a summer where half of my friends hated me for hurting Aeris, which was unavoidable. Instead, I broke up with her over the phone about a month after we went back to school, because I was such a classy gentleman.

I’ll talk more about Aeris some other time, let’s get back to my college makeover. I wasn’t dating in high school, I had a girlfriend. She didn’t really give a flying f*** about fashion, so I dressed like an unemployed, married man: t-shirts, denim shorts, white socks and New Balance sneakers. My hair was out of control and my bright red mutton-chops were ridiculous. I fit in well at bowling allies and county fairs, but I was an ugly ducking in the singles world of bars, house parties, and rock concerts.

I had been casually flirting with this girl, Zelda, since the breakup, and spending some time with her and her close friend, Hilda. Hilda was from New York City and looked the part. She was the most awesomely stylish person I have ever met. When she became aware of my interest in dating, she jumped on the opportunity to “help” me.

We went shopping at thrift stores for a new wardrobe which she picked out and I only had veto power over. She taught me how to dress in layers and how to roll my sleeves up to look extra casual yet stylish. I got a haircut and she taught me how to put product in (start at the roots!). She put a hemp necklace on me and a ring. She even convinced me to get my cartilage pierced. (Thank God I didn’t let her talk me into a tattoo!)

Just like in the story, the makeover worked. More girls started showing an interest in me, but it was Zelda that I ended up dating for a year. I don’t think that Zelda intended for Hilda to spruce me up for the purpose of making me acceptable dating material (though it would be an interesting premise for a twist on the story). Zelda had her own fashion sense, but it was very hippie-homemaker. Six months into dating her, my style had devolved a bit, back into t-shirts with no button-downs over top and hair that was wild and too long. At least the mutton chops didn’t come back.

I doubt I’ll ever be as consistently stylish as I was that semester. Now I am a married man, and I do wear t-shirts a lot, but they’re really cool shirts now, and I still have the two piercings in my left ear. I remember the training Hilda gave me, and can still clean up nicely when work or society calls. My hair’s not that long, and I have some salon-quality product to tame it with. I even own a suit in case someone gets married or I end up in court.

But I also am free to dress ridiculously. I have a Back to the Future 2 hat that I love and wear around town when I don’t feel like fixing my hair. I own plaid and camouflage cargo shorts. I wear a visually unappealing necklace with four unrelated charms on it. My wife even let me wear Crocs for a year until my therapist was able to work me through it. I am comfortable in my fashion choices and allow myself to acquire new clothing at my own pace, trends be damned.

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please click one of those SHARE buttons below! Thanks for reading!

~Sean

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