The Way You Look

Remember as a kid when you would check yourself out in the mirror and you thought that one side of your face looked slightly different from the other? The left had a more rugged aspect and the right more preppy, and you liked having the best of both worlds and couldn’t pick a favorite side. I mean, it was obvious they both belonged to the same owner but one was West Coast and the other East.

No? That was just me? You’re lying.

Then one day, maybe at 11 or 12, you saw a photograph of yourself and thought “No, that can’t be right. That’s not what I look like. My face is more pleasant  than that–it certainly isn’t that skinny–and I know those aren’t my pecs. Why, this boy has no pecs at all, he’s just a scrawny little fellow. Must be a bad camera.”

Then the years bring hundreds more pictures carrying the same message and you’re compelled to accept that maybe this is what you truly look like. Maybe the mirrors of Earth are full of twisted reflections and broken promises and cameras are the honest ones after all. And on top of that, maybe the tape recorder hears your voice with higher fidelity than your ears and it really does sound a little Kermit the Frog-ish. But you hold on to hope and your faith in mirrors because every once in a while you come across a photo that looks like you, the real you. The you that a hand-crafted, million dollar German-made mirror would show.

“Finally, after 134 pictures we got one where the lighting and angle and facial expression and fit of the clothes were such that it produced an accurate reflection of how I really look in REAL life.  I mean, pictures don’t lie, you know; well this picture doesn’t lie at least, because it’s exactly what the mirrors have been showing me all these years and I wouldn’t be able to project this image I have in my head onto two totally different mediums.”

We all have a picture of ourselves in our heads. Mine is this, Davis pictures himself this way, and Ryan’s self image is here.

Then one night when you’re 25, you’re sitting around with your family enjoying one another’s company. Someone asks the group “Ok, if they were to make a movie of your life, which actor would play you?” People start to name actors who resemble each of us. Ben Afflec would play Ryan. Reese Witherspoon makes a great Macy, etc, etc.

mace

Reese and Ben

Then Ryan says that so and so could play Kook. It was a name we didn’t recognize.

“You know, the guy from Big Fish.”

The picture clicked with a lot of us and we agreed, and not wanting to look like a five year old, I fought down the kind of sloppy grin that commandeers all your facial muscles when you feel flattered. Macy took a couple seconds longer to file through her memories of the movie, then said sincerely:

“Ohhh, ya, I can see it. It’s not a perfect match but that’s really good.”

Ryan was talking about Billy Crudup.

Macy was talking about Matthew McGrory.

An experience like that delivers finality. Just deal with it. You might like to think of yourself more along these lines, but through the world’s eyes, you will always be this guy.

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19 Responses to The Way You Look

  1. Andrea W. says:

    I so hope that cameras are wrong and mirrors are right. Cameras are terrible awful self-esteem crushers. The sad thing is the worst pictures are always of the days when I specifically remember thinking I was looking pretty good that day.

    That last picture gets me everytime. I almost choked this morning when I pulled that beauty up. Such good stuff!

  2. Wade says:

    Same thing with voices. My voice on a video camera alway sound so wrong, and its wrong because who knows better than my own ears that are only like three inches away from the source.

  3. lindsey says:

    Oh my gosh, Christian. That last picture just made me laugh so hard drool came out.

  4. Eliza says:

    LOL. Wow, so dang funny. I totally have the same thing going on. I have the rare ability to look like shrek in one picture and then frankly kind of pretty in another one (those rare more rare, but they do happen). I’m with Andrea, its such a brutal reality check when you see a horrible picture, especially when you thought that was good day. And thank you so much for sacrificing your ego and putting that last picture up, it is so so so funny, and btw, it really doesn’t look like you.

  5. Rachel says:

    I can say this b/c we are technically related…you are SUCH a dork.

    When you started out with the story of you spending countless hours in the mirror examining your facial structure, I thought, “Yes, Christian is the only person I know that would do that”. Its perfect.

    Matthew McGrory? LO freakin’ L.

    I laughed so hard at the knight pic of Ryan…although I don’t really know him, it just felt right.

  6. Nathan says:

    This is all foreign to me. I’ve never taken a bad picture. Not true. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked good in a picture. Lindsey can attest to that. But, the best pictures of me seem to be when I was not aware it was being taken. Which makes me believe I look better in normal everyday life, than when I am peretending. At least that’s what I tell myself. Great stuff Christian.

  7. Davis says:

    Look, the post is interesting and funny, but you really could have just posted that last picture with no supporting text.

  8. Gina says:

    This is so true!

    I actually wrote a post about “who would play you if a movie was made about your life” and asked my readers to comment and tell me their answers. Some were real, true dopplegangers (lucky) others picked an actor based on personality or just a cool factor.

    And then one woman (yes, woman) said that she’s been told she looks like Jay Leno, but insisted the man who told her that was drunk, she doesn’t look at all like Jay Leno. I clicked through to her profile, planning to see her photo and tell her, “Oh, no you look nothing like Jay Leno, you look like ________”

    When I clicked on her profile, I was greeted by Jay Leno with curly brown hair.

    I didn’t have the heart to comment back

  9. Rebecca Bell says:

    i haven’t laughed this hard in a while. thanks. that moment when macy “got it” about which actor you looked like (McGrory) was one of the funniest moments ever and to this day never fails to make me laugh. thanks for sharing that last pic, though i’m not sure you’ll have a job tomorrow if your boss gets a hold of it.

  10. Macy Bell says:

    Kook, you and I have definitely had some good moments haven’t we? That was a great night. I cannot believe that Giant is what came to mind when someone said “Big Fish”. I mean you are tall and all, but………the other part I don’t know.

  11. Oh my word. I don’t understand how you three can write with such hilarity each week and be so spot on all the time. This post is so awesome. And I unfortunately have much to say in seconding what you have written.

    I really wish that the face I see in the mirror RIGHT after I do my hair and makeup was the “right” one, but I know better. Every now and then I catch that face in a picture, but for the most part it’s the Russian Dad that gets captured. Need a reminder about the Russian Dad? It pains me to do this, but check here: http://phillynelsons.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-i-did.html AND here for the Russian Dad part II: http://phillynelsons.blogspot.com/2008/11/sometimes-bad-haircut.html. While the awfulness of that haircut has passed, the inner Russian Dad that haircut awoke in me still wins out in photos all the time.

    It turns out, though, that I suffer from a strange delusion where I see other ladies in their cute outfits, all fit and looking great, and I think to myself, “I probably look like that too. I know I used to look like that in high school. I’m probably not far off from that today, even though ten years have passed and I’ve gained a bit of weight since I stopped swimming 5 hours a day ages ago.” Then I catch a glimpse of myself and am painfully reminded that I’m kidding myself. But somehow I’ve trained my mind not to focus on the me NOW and just go on with my little delusions. (Don’t get me wrong, I am still trying, for Zack’s sake as well as mine, to get back to that shapely Danica of days past…)

    Take, for instance, Zack’s graduation dinner from dental school in May. I was enjoying myself, a bit self-conscious in my trying-to-be-fancy modest blouse and skirt amid all the other female graduating dentists who were gorgeous in their revealing party dresses, but still having fun nonetheless because I was blissfully unaware of the stark contrast between us (due to said delusions). Then I saw myself in a mirror across the room. And about died. I seriously looked like the mother (or Russian Dad?) of any one of those girls. Just the saddest form and face staring back at me, seeming to ask, “Why don’t we look all feminine in a party gown too?” I understand I’ve been blessed with a masculine face, and now have a figure that more resembles a refrigerator than the shapely Danica of days gone by, and really, I’m okay with myself. I mean, come on, I married Zack Nelson. THE Zack Nelson, so I couldn’t have been all that bad back then, and I probably pretty much look the same as I did when we were dating…

    One more quick comment. I am super self-deprecating – I prefer to rip on myself and make a joke out of things. But I’ve realized that makes people uncomfortable too. If you don’t exaggerate enough and give people something to say, “Oh give me a break, you’re ridiculous!!” about, you instead force people to bumble and tell white lies out of common courtesy, which isn’t fun for anyone. It’s a tricky line, a tricky line.

  12. Tyler says:

    ah, great post, been a while since I have read the blog but loved the final photos. Fabulous shot of yourself.

  13. Braden says:

    Oh, Kook. Very funny post. I will always remember you walking like a model through mom’s living room in your new clothes you bought after your mission.

    I have always and only ever had one person who could possibly play me: JImmy Stewart. That was true when I was 13 and it’s true now.

  14. Ben Pratt says:

    More like The Way You Kook, am I right? Good stuff!

    As always, your observations and descriptions are spot on. “No? That was just me? You’re lying.” I would be lying if I answered in the negative. I’m pretty sure other people see this goofy, lanky fellow when they look at me. It’s like they don’t even *know* the tough-looking, serious fellow who shaves his face beyond the glass while I shave mine.

    While I shave with a cheap, disposable razor, I’m pretty sure Mirror Ben would be more comfortable using a Bowie knife.

  15. Andrea W. says:

    Wow, Danica, you are killing me the whole Russian Dad thing is about the funniest thing I’ve ever read. Such great stuff. Ben, “mirror Ben” shaving with a Bowie knife – LOL. Perhaps, as I didn’t write the post it’s presumptuous to comment on the comments but those were two good to go without mentioning.

  16. Andrea W. says:

    I meant those “two were too”

  17. Christian says:

    Of course I’m late on this, but there were way too many awesome comments not to respond.

    Andrea, “Cameras are terrible awful self-esteem crushers.” So very terrible. The worst.

    Wade, I remember hearing my voice for the first time on a tape recorder and I remember how mystified and disappointed I was. I wish you could all hear how I sound to myself. It’s nothing great, but it’s better than the version you’re getting.

    Lindsay, good to see you around here! I could picture you drooling over that picture.

    Eliza, I feel the exact same way about myself, and now you all have the proof. I’m not a great looking guy, but in a few pics I’m tempted to think I look a teeny bit handsome, in most I’m a 5, and then there is that last picture where I’m somewhere between a naked mole rat and Chunk from Goonies.

    Rachel, you had one more preppy and one more rugged sides too your face to if you’re honest about it. You just weren’t looking hard enough.

    Nathan, welcome! You have that gorgeous, voluminous curly hair of yours going on, boyfriend. And you’re skin is so soft looking, so don’t give me this baloney about not taking good pictures!

    Davis, thanks for taking that picture on your phone after we’d been playing softball all day, and for emailing it to me every year or more to keep it fresh in my memory, and always titling it “Retarded Kook.” Best brother a guy could ask for.

    Gina, lol. I emailed you about the Jay Leno lady. Her pic wasn’t on your blog and I’m really dying to see it.

    Reba, having a hot wife is my only solace for looking the way I do. You’re the best. I love you so much. You are my sensual lover and I think you’re so sweet and wonderful. I love you so much.

    Macy, I’m not quite to the point where I can laugh about this with you.

    Danica, lolololololololol. Holy freak. Russian Dad. You are so, so funny. I have the same thing where I think I might look the same in something as someone who’s really handsome looks. Then the picture only shows a Shawn Bradley looking fellow in a J-Crew shirt.

    Tyler, good to have you back man (yes, I did notice you’d been gone for a while.) I worry about you regular and semi-regular commenters when you disappear for months at a time. “Were they attacked by an animal? Did Ryan offend them?”

    Braden, Jimmy Stewart? No, Alfred Molina.

    Ben, lol. Mirror Ben. Mirror Kook. Thanks.

  18. Ohhhhhhhh your lover comment to Reba is the best thing ever. Zack and I were just joking with friends last weekend about the fact that I was giving a talk and threatening to say over the pulpit how grateful I am for Zack, my best friend and LOVER. The worst word ever created! It would have been an awesome way of getting back at him for telling our ward on our first week of church as newlyweds that I love pogs and always ask him to buy them for me as gifts. But in jacking him, I’d only be jacking myself. Sometimes worth it, but not this time.

  19. Ryan says:

    It’s like Liz Lemon says. . . “Ohh, that word should never be used unless sandwiched between ‘meat’ and ‘pizza.’

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