Hair apparent

At one time, our whole bodies were covered in hair. Hair, once merely a protection against the harsh elements of nature, is now symbolic of everything from virility to athletic prowess to financial status to sexuality to sensuality to youth to creativity to gang affiliation. All for a mass of dead protein cells with emotional impact on the mating ritual we call a date. If your hair looks great, you feel great. If it resembles road kill, you'll feel just about as flat and lifeless.

Women: One way to tell that you're not ready to go all the way is if you don't shave your legs before a big date. Men: One way to tell that you're not ready to make out with a woman is if you don't shave your stubble.

Don't get a haircut on the day of the date. Men always have a harsh white scalp line on the back of their necks, and women can't stop staring at their hair until they've lived with it a day or two. Getting your hair done is a different story. If it's a big date (wedding, formal, dinner at the White House), a professional do will do quite nicely.

Women lose about as much hair as men do — they just lose it all over their heads instead of the more obvious pattern of male baldness.

Let your hair dictate the style, not the other way around. Go, literally, with its flow instead of your own. Your hair will fall into its own place by the end of the evening anyway, so why fight it?

To make sure you covered all the bases, check out this D-day hygiene checklist:

□ Clip or file your nails (don't forget your toenails — hey, you never know).

□ Shave (face, legs, armpits). Note: "Hairless" is not a synonym for "clean." Personal preference rules.

□ Pluck. (Guys: pay special attention to the bridge of your nose and ear-lobes; women: don't skip the chinny chin chin.)

□ Apply deodorant (go for the gold; use an antiperspirant).

□ Wear clean underwear (Mom was right again).

□ Wear freshly laundered clothes.

Make sure you take care of these four essential areas in advance: time, transportation, money, and directions.

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