ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
For years I've heard that if you want change, to look at the person in the mirror first. The problem is, when I look in the mirror, I see someone who's fairly good-looking, healthy, and young-looking for his age. I have no incentive to change that person in the mirror. But when I see photographs of myself, I see a fat, graying slob.
Should the "look in the mirror" cliche be junked, or am I just overly-critical of my photogenicicity?
You raise some important questions. First of all, when do men look in mirrors? Second, when do men get photographed?
To show you what I mean, here is the same letter, except from a hypothetical woman. (I say "hypothetical" because women never write letters to Dear Jon.)
I am a woman. Therefore I hate my body.
(The next ten thousand words emote and process the specific feeling.)
This would be my answer to Toledo-Anne,
First of all, Toledo-Anne is a great name.
Second, you are a woman. Therefore you have a great body.
Please get over self-esteem dumps, ask a sistah which outfit flatters your assets, then go out with her and two other girl-friends and feed on male egos for an evening. You will feel much better about yourself.
But I cannot give this answer to you, Todd, who are both male and straight. I can tell you are straight because this would have been the same letter from a gay man, or possibly a metro:
Why is that I look great in a mirror, but photographs seem to MAGNIFY the tacky little threads of lint on my turtle-necks? I could just DIE!
This would be my answer:
Don't be such a goose. It's nothing a little tape can't fix.
So Todd, I am assuming you are a straight non-metro man because no one else describes themselves as "fat, graying slobs." Honestly, no one else can be described that way, either. So here is the deal:
Men do not notice themselves in mirrors unless they are double-checking to see that they are cutting a sharp image. So the man who is brushing his teeth does not see himself. However the man who is putting on his tie and a tailored sport-coat and moussing his hair for a cousin's wedding, studies himself and is satisfied.
But while women arrange professional studio photo-shoots for Christmas cards and so on, men are usually photographed in so-called "candid" situations. The candid is taken when the man has taken off his sport-coat and loosened his tie because his cousin got married on a really hot day, plus the reception hall is dark so the flash explodes all the shadows that come with normal light, and brings out the oily drops of sweat on the brow because the man has just sat down with a beer after cutting a rug doing the Hokey Pokey.
The moral of the story is this: Fat graying slobs can feel good about themselves when they dress well for special occasions, which is really the only time they care about the way they look anyway. So yes, Todd, you can trust the impression you make in the mirror, because those rare occasions that it matters to you are the only times you are checking. As for candid photographs, who cares? Everyone laughs at everyone else.
Anyone who is not a fat, graying slob, meaning, those who are female, or gay, or metro-sexual, need to get over your collective dumps about your body image. Not that we want you to stop trying. No way! All of us fat graying slobs really appreciate your effort at looking good most of the time rather than just occasionally, and all of us fat graying slobs think that most of the time you all look great.