The Way We Are Now

I thought I would take the opportunity of my 200th post to do a little housekeeping and thus deal with something that has been nagging me for a while.

Today, at work, I nipped in the bathroom with the camera and took a few quick snaps of myself in the mirror.

So that's me there on the right, as of eleven o'clock this morning.

"Who cares?" You may well say and I suppose the answer is that I do.

I generally hate having my picture taken and go to considerable pains to avoid it. So, since I started blogging, I've been using a few pictures everywhere which were taken some time ago.

I started doing this without thinking too hard about it - the pictures were smiley and accessible and that is how I tend to see myself and thus that was the image I wanted to project.

All good.

But over time a very curious 'Dorian Grey' effect began to take place. In real life, I have been aging, gaining a little weight, going grey, getting wrinkly, but my online presence has remained firmly rooted back in his thirties.

This actually started playing on my mind a bit. I was looking at these online pictures every day whilst also being faced with the true facts of my own, not unusual, deterioration.

When the issue first arose, I saw it as something of a challenge. "I must work," I decided, "and regain the youthful features my lying online portraits are presenting to the world." And, in truth, this didn't work out too badly - I managed to shed quite a few pounds and the scale is still to this day creeping in the right directions. But we can only do so much against the ravages of time, can't we?

So, today, when somebody asked me for a photo, I took the opportunity to take this snap and I resolved to make this the subject of my bi-centennial post in an attempt to burn my virtual portrait-in-the-attic once and for all. I will go now and work through the places where I use my image online and update it and perhaps I will update you on how this little tweak plays out in my own mind in the weeks to come.

Can I just say again that I wasn't using the older pictures for any vain reasons - at least I honestly don't think I was anyway. It seemed to me that those pictures reflected in some way the wry outlook on life I secretly think I have. When somebody somewhere first commented that the face in the picture had a 'cute smile' nobody was more astonished than me - I really am *not* an oil painting in real life.

Now that I've mentioned vanity, and if I'm really trying to be honest here, then perhaps vanity does have some part to play in all this.

Look at today's picture. I could have taken a much worse picture than that. My story is that I wanted to emulate the older photo to see if any vestige of the old wry smile can still be detected. But the fact is that the poor light in that bathroom helps to conceal the deep pock marks left from my war with teen acne, my nose is redder than it appears here and I think I've got my chin lifted up a bit to try and reduce the effect of the few extra pounds.

I'm a little vain after all, I guess, and for no good reason.

But at least I don't look thirty-five anymore and, seeing as how I'll be forty-six next week, that's probably just as well.


Claire said...

I know exactly where you're coming from Ken! I Have much the same problem. I hit a milestone birthday later this year, and I am honest enough to admint that I'm not looking forward to it, and have taken the most flattering photo I can muster to portray my own online image.
So I bow to your openness and unashamed frankness in your ability to tell it like it is. I am still hiding and pretending I'm youthful.
Well done you!

hope said...

I am now truly in awe of you...for I see the truth and it's still smiling. I never liked being on the lens end of a's weird, not a ego thing, just never thought my visage was important.

As to your new portrait... you know what? I still see that same mischievous twinkle in your eye as in the "previous photo".

Yep, you're still the Ken we've come to know and love. Because the real Ken has always been inside...the rest is just the packaging. ;)

Unknown said...

Awww...You still got that spark in your eyes.

And the fire in your writing...

And 46 is still young...I tell myself that everyday. My online photo is pretty much me as I am now..freckles, crows feet, crooked nose and all.

Peace - Rene

Jena Isle said...

He he he, same here, same here. My online photo is the best I cold When I was younger I didn't believe it when old people said that women usually stopped counting when they arrive at a certain age, but now I do.

When I reached middle age, I refuse to count I could not answer the simple question:"How old are you?" lol.

I like this "real" picture of you Ken. You look happier, more fulfilled and more handsome...(you look like Mel Gibson)...and I'm
not buttering you up!

lol, now where is my milkshake? (winks0

Susan at Stony River said...

Ken, that's a good face--a VERY good face! When I began reading "Today, at work, I nipped in the bathroom with the camera and took a few quick snaps of myself..." oh well, I won't tell you what I was hoping er thinking I was going to see. ROFL

My only comment would be that the old photo's background of summer foliage does you much better service, than gloomy bathroom tiles. And I'll say, you've got that great smile still.

Jena Isle said...

BTW advance happy, happy birthday Ken. may you have more to come and many more successes to come your way.

tata said...

Bullshit. I like this new picture of you and - like the others that have commented before me - I still see the twinkle in the eye and the wry smile. I do agree the bathroom tiles are a bit gloomy, though.

I daresay I find you more attractive now that you have revealed the new (and improved) you! :) You are a very handsome man and I find your humble approach to be very endearing.

You've also reminded me to update my photo in a few places.

Rachel Fox said...

The main change is the colour of you hair I suppose. I just dye mine now. I'm not big on vanity but I suppose that's one of mine. Just not ready for grey personally. Not yet.

Jim Murdoch said...

This is something that has intrigued me for a long time, why we choose the particular images that we do. There are so many sites where there's no picture at all and a lot of the time you have no idea even what gender the person is. When Jena was looking for a photo I went into my office and took about thirty photos, every one practically the same as it happens and none of them pleased me. I should really change my own picture. It wasn't too bad when I had the full thing but the head and shoulder image isn't very good. When you see it at its proper size and framed it's quite good. It's in our living room at the moment along with a few other images from our Dublin trip.

I'm not vain as such but I don't like to look a like tube. Carrie is still baffled after all these years at the things that upset me, items of clothing I refuse to wear or refuse to wear with other items. I know when things don't work. It's hard to explain. But it's not a vanity thing. When I'm out I want to be invisible. I guess that's pretty much how I feel online too. I recognise people's need to put a face to the name but why make it any more memorable than it needs to be, eh?

One of the side effects of the pills I'm on is weight gain and so I've been carrying around an extra 20lbs for quite a while now. The week I did by back in I decided enough was enough and I've been on a strict diet since then. 10lbs down and 10 to go. At the same time I decided I'd try and let my beard grow. I've always wanted a 'proper' beard but once it got to a certain length it would split and I'd have to cut it back. Well, somehow I've managed to get by that bit and the thing is filling out quite nicely. Maybe once I'm happy with it I'll change the photo. That said, I've been looking in the bathroom mirror for years and wondering who the hell that old bloke was looking back at me. I don't expect that to change probably ever.

Reese said...

You still have the same gleam in your eye. Your hair looks lighter, that's all.
I've always wonder what people really look like! I'm sure most post their own

Grannymar said...

Sure you are only a chicken. Wait until you get to my age. :(

ken armstrong said...

Claire: I think it matters not what image we choose to show online... so long as it matters not to ourselves. :)

Hope: Thank you Hope, that is a very nice comment.

Not The Rockefellers: Fire in the writing. Yes, I like that, I want to keep that.

Jena Isle: I don't believe I know your online pic - I thought you always used kids pics or far-off-shots. I'm going looking for you... quick, hide. :)

Susan: It's not a very good face but, sure, it's all I've got innit? :)

tata: Bullshit indeed! Most true comment ever. Seriously though, thanks, you're nice. :)

Rachel: I always thought the process would be 'get a grey hair, then another and watch them multiply' but, although there is an element of that, it is actually more a case of the brown 'draining' from my hair. Most odd really. Still the colour has lasted well up until now so I can't and won't complain.

Jim: The reason I hate most photographs of me is that the guy in the photo is patently not me. At least with these pics that I take of myself, I recognise the guy who's in them... isn't that an odd thing?

Reese: I do have a *fierce* gleam in my eye... so I do. :)

Cleveland Real Estate said...

You're like Michael Keeton and Jack Nicholson combined! -- (I love Michael Keaton)

I think you look awesome and very close to how I imagined... Thanks for sharing finally!

Personally, I could care less about appearance. It's all about the personality, especially humor... What if I marry Adonis and then am forced to talk with him on the phone or go blind into my 40s? How depressing.

Oh and ... You said your birthday was July 4th. How is that next week?

ken armstrong said...

Grannymar: You're only a chicken yerself! :)

Cecilia: Like I said in the post, I still think I've done okay by myself with this relatively low-light snap but thanks, I like Michael Thingie too! Can I be from his Pacific Heights period? Can I huh?

That's right, tell everyone my birthday! :) You're right of course, it's more like two weeks... but it's pass like it was one, won't it?

Cleveland Real Estate said...

Pacific Heights was the best movie ever. I totally fell in love with him after he filled their apartment with cockroaches... Dreamy...

And sorry I spilled the frosting!

I was just questioning my own mental facts as they're usually non-existent or confused to begin with.

I'm going to ask Iran to set off a missile for your birthday so everyone can see it. Yay!

Debbie said...

If I didn't love you enough before, now I am hopelessly lost. "Our day of fireworks" (spoken as a true? American) is your special day, doesn't surprise me somehow.

My blog pic is a few years old, my Twit pic is current and I gave up on worrying once I had kids who could remind me of my miserable age, looks and personality! Not to mention my lack of brilliance. But alas, I am old enuff to be cunning....

fragileheart said...

I think you've managed to age quite gracefully and I wouldn't ever dream of thinking of you in any other way other than, 'smiley, cute and funny' (and smart of course!!)

Thank you for sharing yourself with us. The world would be missing out on something absolutely wonderful if you weren't a little vain ;)

Laura Brown said...

I think men are more vain than women, really. I met a man online who started out telling me he was 30. When I said I wasn't interested in younger men (I was about 38 then) he admitted he was really 52. I ended it then. But he sent a lovely letter through snail mail so we later did end up meeting and went out awhile, even took a trip to Ottawa for the weekend with him. Anyway, men seem to lie about their age a lot!

You look quite boyish and I do still see your wry grin but it's more in your eyes than the lines on your face.

I still get a little bubble of happy when someone thinks I'm 30-something now that I am 44. But, I don't mind my age and I still like my face, though I am not thin by any measure.

Anyway, don't feel you can't share your photo, the old or the current. I post mine seldomly. Partly cause of the way I feel about being large sized and partly because I did have someone recognize me when they read my blog and realized I was local. That was an eerie, icky feeling. I have photos of myself when I was about 20 posted to Facebook. I hadn't looked at them for decades. It was a huge surprise to see how nice I looked.

Be happy cause you still look like the smiling Irish eyes to me. :)

ken armstrong said...

Cecilia: I love Pacific Heights too. As with all movies, I can still recall the time, place and circumstances in which I saw it (won't bore you) but it was memorable. If I'm a bit like him, I do. :)

Debbie: Your twit pic is awesome. Hypnotic dare one say. Darn, I've gone-and-diluted a genuine compliment there. sorry. :)

Reggie: I'm too old for you. Surely you realise that now. :)

Laura: Thanks. You carry such honesty with you and I trust your input for this reason. Just to say, I never would have lied about my age, 'wouldn't care to do that, but I was starting to look suspiciously youthful.

The first few days of this have been very positive. I don't feel there's a child on the Internet waiting to taunt me. :)

Fiendish said...

Sadly I cannot share in the pleasant surprise, as I have long known what you looked like, but it's still an interesting post.

As of now, the internet is overpopulated with photographs of me, that I myself have taken, in various poses and degrees of black-and-whiteness. Sometimes I'm being pretentious and arty and sometimes I'm just showing off, but I do notice that my favourite photos always end up being the ones that bear least resemblance to my actual self.

Whether this is because of vanity, or some writerly instinct to gloss absolutely everything over with a layer of fiction, I do not know.

ken armstrong said...

Fiendish: It's different for you, I think. You make art with your images as you do with everything you set your mind to.

And, of course, the original, which I know, looks damn good too. :)

Cellobella said...

Well I still think you're gorgeous.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Wow! I am so shocked. I feel deceived. You're not the person I thought you're OLDER! Such a crime. :) Just kidding buddy. I actually feel better. I still look like I did when I was 35, except I've lost a little more hair.

Age is a state of mind, my friend. Most everyone that meets me thinks I'm 3. We both need to lose a few pounds though. Care to start a Trans-Atlantic Biggest Loser Contest?

Ken Armstrong said...

Cellobella: Ditto Darlin' Ditto :)

Matt: See, there's no problem with the state of mind. In my mind, I may be inching towards 29 or 30. This post has just been a useful piece of housekeeping - taking one more little annoyance out of my day.

As for a contest? Pass. Big Time. :)