How do you look?
I look like, a shoulders-sloping geezer in baggy jeans, pretty much the old farmer that the barn in the background suggests.
But that is not how I think that I look.
I think that I look like the man in the other photo, the one in the jacket.
When I saw a photo of me as an old farmer, I chuckled. That is not how I picture myself.
I have a computer folder of photos of myself. During my working years I needed “mug shots” from time to time, and saved photos croppable into head-and-shoulders views.
So I popped open the folder. I found the one of me in the jacket.
“That,” I said, “is how I look, at least to myself.”
Then I looked at the “created” date in the metadata information that accompanies the photo: 1987!
Women look closely at their faces every day. They apply makeup. But they might focus on eyebrows or lips or hair as they apply camouflage called “makeup,” and never once see how good they look when displaying a relaxed, friendly smile.
Most men look at their faces every day, too. I did — when I shaved every day. With a full beard, I can get by with my eyelids at half-mast while I wash up, and trim the beard only once a week.
But my face alone is not me.
There are my shoulders, once aligned precisely between spine and scalp, now bending like elms before the winds of autumnal storms.
There is my waist, in schoolboy days tucked in beneath my rib cage, now protruding pillow-like from where my belt used to be visible.
I think I look like the fellow in the jacket, whereas in reality I look like the geezer straining to figure out how to use the smartphone.
What does this matter?
The psychologists have fancy terms: self-image, self-actualization, and even more polysyllabic gobbledygook.
In plain language, if we do not like ourselves, we are highly likely to be grumpy, defensive and out-of-sorts with other people, in our families and at our schools or jobs.
“Beautiful People” are the core of advertisements enticing us to buy stuff. It goes beyond razors or makeup. “Beautiful People” drive sexy new cars or manly new trucks. “Beautiful People” are the heroes and heroines in our motion pictures and TV shows. Scary people are usually the villains. Not-beautiful people are usually the hapless victims.
So it does matter how we see ourselves, up to a point.
Me? Hey, I’m bumping up against 75 years of age. When I do look at a photo or in a mirror, if the image I see is not framed by the padding inside a coffin, I consider myself to be ahead of the game.
Instead of being saddened or angered by the reality that I have morphed into a pear-bellied geezer with shoulders that slant like a porch roof, I am bemused, even amused.
My advantage is that even when I was at my most handsome, I never was movie star handsome or scary-monster ugly. I blended into crowds back in 1987. I still do in 2017.
I used to wish that I were better looking. That was before a full one-half of my Class of 1960 high school classmates had died. Today, as long as the mirror does not show a blank where my face should be, I am happy.
I can be cheery around my wife, children, friends and family. The fact that I am often grumpy has much to do with my cantankerous personality and not a bit to do with how I look.
Would I want to look again the way I looked in 1989?
A lot of baggage goes along with that: On the verge of being unemployed, still living paycheck-to-paycheck, kids simultaneously in college and in grade school, not enough hours in the day and, to top it off, the agony of knowing that I could no longer break 90 on the golf course, let alone break 80.
No, thank you.
There is a serenity that accompanies accepting how we look. Even if we resolve to improve our looks, lose weight, build up muscles, etc., we still show up in the mirror. That sure beats the pine-box alternative.
[Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren, and former publisher of The Leader-Vindicator. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.]