Those chortling over the Santorum yearbook photo should remember that both time and photos can be cruel

Yesterday, my sister emailed me a “cheer up” email that’s making the rounds.  It’s intended for women, who tend to feel more strongly than men do that the mirror is their enemy.  The tag line is “It isn’t just us who suffer changes over the years!”  The rest of the email is photos of former male sex symbols in their prime and now.  Here, see for yourself:

Val Kilmer

Mickey Rourke

Russel Crowe

Brendan Fraser

Alec Baldwin

Pierce Brosnan

Richard Gere

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Roger Moore

Clint Eastwood

Rod Stewart

I wasn’t amused by these photos nor did I have a pleasant frisson of schadenfreude.  Instead, I was saddened.  Age is cruel.  Maybe I’m more aware of that right now than I would have been otherwise because of my mother’s health issues.  A certain part of my memory has her locked into place as a fresh, vital, energetic, extremely pretty woman, about the age I am now.  But the lady I’m dealing with today is so very, very different:  she’s fragile, shrunken, wrinkled, sad, and tired.  She’s still my mother, and I love her, but she also feels like a stranger to me.

Famous people, the ones who had their gorgeous youth played out in the spotlight, have an exceptionally sad fate when they age:  We laugh at them.  People delight in the fact that the same people who used to make them feel inferior are now suffering the same fate as everyone else.  Unless you want to take the punk rocker advice of “die young, stay pretty,” age will lay its hands upon you.

The Santorum yearbook photo demonstrates that aging is a process that places its benefits and burdens on different people at different times.  For those who didn’t peak young, age can be a blessing.  Rick Santorum is a very nice looking man.  He doesn’t make my heart beat faster (that privilege is reserved for Keanu) but I do think that, for a guy in the middle of middle age, he’s got nothing to be embarrassed about.

For the MSM, Santorum’s ordinary good guy looks are a problem.  Fortunately, help is on the way in the form of a yearbook picture that isn’t very flattering, unless you’re a fan of Napoleon Dynamite:

Rick Santorum high school picture

Rick’s features are good, but the disco design shirt, the wide lapels, the huge square glasses, and the bowl haircut (complete with sideburns) are, well, in a word “dorky.”  At The Atlantic, you can feel the thrill of excitement:

A quick office straw poll here at The Atlantic, conducted amidst uproarious laughter, confirms that this is, in fact, the single worst year book photo that most of us have ever seen. An outright disaster. I suppose it’s Santorum’s misfortune to have been in high school during this era. I’m pretty sure that 1976 wasn’t too kind to anyone. But still. Wow–he looks like McLovin in polyester. I have yet to meet the political consultant talented enough to spin this one. My condolences to Santorum. Brave of him to have struggled through this and made something of this life.

The Atlantic includes yearbook pictures of the other Republican candidates at the same link.  Mitt was good-looking then, and he’s good-looking now, but everyone else has changed.  They all look young, they all look very much like products of their own time period, and in all of them, in the smile, the eyes, and the bone-structure, you can see the adults they would become.  Some have improved, some have just aged.  Again, rather than feeling smug when I look at them, I’m simply awed by Time’s power.

The Anchoress, naturally, makes a very good point about these photos.  For most of us, high school was not our peak time:

Let’s face it, yearbook photos suck. They just do. They’re a snapshot of a moment, and usually not a great moment. I think everyone tries to do the best they can.

In the interests of fairness, The Anchoress includes at her post high school (and college) pictures of the past Democrat candidates.  Obama looks like an extra in Kentucky Fried Movie; John Kerry looks as if he was auditioning for the part of Lurch in the Addams Family, except that he overacted and lost the part; and Al Gore looks pompous (so I guess some things never change).  Mostly, they look young, and they look like their peers.  That’s life — and to savage a candidate or even a movie star, because he looked bad then or looks bad now is, as The Anchoress says, “high schoolish.”

As for me, unlike The Anchoress, I will not include a photo of myself here (and hers is much prettier than she would give you to believe).   Aside from my commitment to my anonymity, I am notorious for shying away from cameras.  I don’t take pictures, I don’t like having my picture taken, and, when pictures of me exist, I don’t spread them around.

 

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  • jj

    If the Atlantic thinks that’s the single worst yearbook photo they ever saw, the only conclusion possible is that the Atlantic don’t get around much, do it.  (Not a question, you’ll note.  A conclusion.)

  • Mike Devx

    This is another one I just don’t get.  I look at Santorum’s old yearbook photo and my reaction is one big, “So what?”
    It’s a perfectly normal picture to me.  In those years we didn’t dress in suits for yearbook pics, we just showed up in normal school clothes.  And there were, to say the least, some odd styles going around.  Santorum looked serious and thoughtful.  What’s to criticize?

    I’ll take that yearbook photo of Santorum, any time, over THIS picture of Obama in his younger days.

    http://www.antiobamablog.com/2009/02/photo-of-obama-smoking-marijuana-obama-admits-marijuana-and-cocaine-use/
     

    If you’re looking for something to criticize that’s worth criticizing.

     

  • SADIE

    Mike – Obviously a doctored photo. I am sure it’s more recent. :)

  • Pingback: Yearbook Photos; Cruelest Part of Politics « The Anchoress()

  • http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu Rhymes With Right

    I graduated from Carmel High School in Mundelein, Illinois five years after Rick Santorum — and having looked at the class photos outside the school chapel many times during my high school years, I can tell you that his isn’t even the worst one from the class of 1976.

  • Wolf Howling

    I think your confused Book, that’s not Santorum, it’s John Oliver.  The mistake is understandable.

    As to the rest of the pictures . . . . yes, the clock is cruel.     

  • Ellen

    I graduated in 1969.  When I look at my pictures, I see that the glasses I am wearing then are are back in style, and my hair looks pretty good.  I was never in style back then.  I didn’t do the Jackie Kennedy bouffant hair that was still popular then, and I didn’t wear white lipstick like some of my peers did.   We had to wear dark jewel neck sweaters for our pictures and that style is never out.  So my high school yearbook picture isn’t embarrassing.

  • http://castrapraetoria1.blogspot.com/ Americas 1stSgt

    Keanu? Really?

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Americas 1stSgt:  Yeah, the Keanu thing bewilders even me.  My daughter’s reaction to him is “Oh, Mom, he’s gross.”  (Of course, she just outgrew the Justin Beiber stage — thank God — so what does she know?)  Still, ever since Speed . . . well, what can I say?

    I do know that a lot of my Keanu-liking has to do with the fact that, off screen, he keeps his mouth shut.  No talk about politics or climate change.  No flaunting girlfriends or boyfriends.  He keeps himself to himself.

  • Libby

    I’ll take a little paunch and gray/receding hair on an aging celebrity (or anyone) over the frightening results of plastic surgery and botox. What I see in these pictures are men who have accepted aging (except for Rourke), which is a heck of a lot more humanizing than the futile attempts by Kenny Rogers, Michael Douglas, Burt Reynolds, and Peter O’Toole to deny reality.
    Oh, and I’m totally with you on Keanu. It was Speed that got to me.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The left behaves much like a tyrannical high school clique, now that you think about it.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Whart was the first movie you saw Keanu Reeves in Book?

  • MacG

    Given that the left is all about Hollywood, Celebrity and looks this is not surprising that so many can be catty little girl Pomeranians.  When all they know is the surface it is so important to them. As I mentioned in another thread remember Michelle’s arms and how strong they were and how beautiful she is and on and on.  Shallow techy people and it seems they have always been so.  Even the Duke recognized this in this link that I found on Marooned in Marin.  No room for other opinions when they screech er, uh, talk to fill the air.