'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL…
We recently had a roll of film developed, and a lot of the photos were taken at Christmas. I thought I looked pretty good in the photos, until I realized they were taken during Christmas 1996. Which is actually not bad for my family, since it normally takes us a full decade to finish using a roll of film.
But then we visited some relatives who showed us the photographs they had taken during Christmas—this past Christmas, less than two months ago. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: my relatives are weird. They take pictures at a party and use up the whole roll of film. And then they get the film developed—right away—so you can actually look at the photos during your lifetime. Strange people.
While looking at these photos I noticed something odd. But first, let’s be honest. When you look at family snapshots, whose is the first face you look for in each photo? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Aunt Sally and it’s not Cousin Louie. C’mon, be honest. It’s yourself! We all do it. As you flip through each photo, you look to see if you’re in it. If not, you scan it quickly, say, “Aw, that’s nice,” and move on to the next photo. If you are in the picture, you examine yourself closely to see if you have a goofy expression on your face or some potato salad stuck to the side of your mouth. Only then do you scan the rest of the picture, say, “Aw, that’s nice,” and move on.
Anyway, as I looked through the snapshots, I noticed that whenever I appeared in a photo, I looked pretty lousy. Almost as bad as my drivers license photo. And we all know drivers license photos don’t count because the DMV employees go through special training to make you look as bad as possible. They can make George Clooney look like George Washington. (And I mean the way George Washington looks today, after being dead for 200 years.)
I said to my sister-in-law, who took the photos, “Gee, I look terrible in these pictures. My cheeks look jowly, my eyes look baggy, and my hair looks so thin.” She smiled and replied diplomatically, “Oh no, you look fine!” (By the way, don’t go by the photo at the top of this column. I think it was taken during Christmas 1996.)
One of my daughters, always ready to offer a blunt and honest opinion, overheard our exchange and peered at the photos. “No Dad, she’s right. That’s exactly what you look like.”
Well, I’ve never been so insulted in my life! That’s not exactly what I look like, and I should know because I get a very good look at what I look like each morning in the bathroom mirror. And every morning I see that same handsome devil just a few years removed from college. (OK, class of ’79 means it’s a little more than a few years, but apparently I’ve aged well.)
And then it started to dawn on me that maybe what I see in the mirror each morning isn’t the exact truth. Maybe mirrors are different than photographs. Maybe with mirrors one part of my brain is able to edit and airbrush and digitally enhance the final image before showing it to the other part of my brain. Maybe with mirrors, my brain is just telling me what I want to hear (or more accurately, what I want to see).
There was only one way to find out the truth. So I shaved and showered and combed my hair just right. Then I made sure the lighting was good and had my daughter take a few portrait snapshots of me. When these pictures get developed I’ll accept whatever the results are. I should know in about ten years.
In the meantime I think I’ll go into the bathroom, take a good look in the mirror, and reassure myself.
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