Monday, August 14, 2017


I know what you're thinking.


If you're an online reader of this column, you might have no idea what I'm talking about. But if you're reading this in the actual newspaper, you've probably caught it: They updated my photo that runs alongside this column.

Seemingly overnight, I've gone from youthful exuberance to middle-aged pudge. Fat seeps from every corner of my face. My chin has another chin, and a third one seems to be coming in nicely. My eyes, once gleaming with hope of an exciting future, now peer from dark circles that clearly say I have not managed my mischief well.

So what happened? Did I trip and fall into a vat of butter and forced to eat my way out? How can this healthy prime example of youth suddenly look gelatinous in the span of a week?

Well, the answer comes in the form of two confessions:

CONFESSION #1: This is the first time my photo's changed since starting this column in 2004. That's 13 years of aging overnight. I dare you to find somebody who can go 13 years without looking like they've aged a day. Actually, I take that back. Those people DO exist, and we should all hate them a lot.

CONFESSION #2: My original photo never really looked a whole lot like me. Let's just come clean -- it's been long enough. Over the years, I've made many friends at the paper, and among them was a former newsroom artist. He never wanted me to tell this story, because he was afraid of getting in trouble at the time. But he hasn't worked here for over a decade now, so I think it's safe to admit it now:

That picture was crazy Photoshopped. He went in and fixed me, and fixed me good.

In my old photo, I appeared to be wearing a black turtleneck. Nope. In reality, it was just a black t-shirt. Even thirteen years ago, I was already well on my day to developing the double chin I now wear with pride, but my buddy went in and replaced that secondary chin with a fake turtleneck.

The same goes for the dark circles under my eyes. I've had those my whole life. I come from a long line of zombies: my grandfather had 'em. My great-grandfather had 'em. But after my buddy got ahold of that pic, the circles were gone and I had the complexion of a newborn baby.

I've never been especially worried about my appearance (with the exception of high school years 1986-1988, when it was of absolute importance.) But when my friend showed me the pic AFTER smoothing out my complexion and extricating my double chin, I was like, "Who's THIS sexy fella?"

That's not to say that my old pic wasn't without problems.

For one, it was taken during that ill-advised time in my life when my stylist convinced me to rock blonde highlights in my hair. This experiment ended abruptly when a pack of junior-high kids saw me with foil-wrapped hair under a pink dryer at the salon and then spent a good 20 minutes outside pointing and laughing.

But the biggest problem with that pic was the look on my face. It was NOT the expression of a guy who writes columns about cats and girls and dumb TV shows. It was the expression of a funeral director. If that photo could talk, the only thing it would say is, "I am terribly sorry for your loss."

So why did I pose like the "before" photo in an ad for Zoloft? I'd like to think of myself as a relatively well-adjusted human being. But point a camera at this well-adjusted human being and bad things happen. My head tilts like a confused puppy. My brain will send the command to smile, but my mouth will respond by twisting up like a crazy person. Every picture taken of me trying to smile instead looks like I'm aggressively constipated. I take the WORST pictures ever.

So the fact that my new photo looks somewhat normal is a testament to our expert photography staff. That's a legitimate smile on my face, not a posed one where I look deranged. Someone had to have cracked a pretty good joke to catch me actually enjoying myself at a photo shoot.

Any job where you can take a picture of me and I DON'T look like a murderous bogeyman is worth keeping. I might be a little chubbier and a little saggier. The highlights in my hair might be grey instead of blonde. But I'm in it for the long haul if you'll have me. Hopefully you like the new pic. You're stuck with it for at least the next thirteen years.

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