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:
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’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.