The Best of Andy Rooney

Every once in a while, a newspaper or another publication of some kind will ask me for a picture of myself. I can never find one I want to send them.

Why don't pictures of us ever look the way we think of ourselves as looking? Occasionally, someone will take a picture of me that's flattering but even that doesn't look the way I think I look when I leave the mirror in the morning after shaving and combing my hair.

Just about every picture I've ever had taken of myself looks the way I look for about one instant every six months but not at all the way I look all day long on most days of my life. I don't want my picture to fool anyone by making me look handsome, I just want it to look like plain, old, everyday Andy Rooney. It never does.

This is as true with carefully posed group pictures as it is with casual snapshots taken when I wasn't even aware there was someone with a camera around.

In another 100 years, some great-great-grandchild of mine is going to find a picture of me in a box of old junk and say, "So that's what he looked like!"

No, great-great-grandchild, that's not what I looked like. That just happens to be the weird look I had on my face when the photographer snapped that picture. I never looked that way before that instant and I never looked that way again in my whole life.

Once in a while, I get out my old high school or college yearbook. There's one picture of me on the swim team that makes me look young, muscular and handsome. When anyone else looks at it they usually say, "You were really good-looking in high school, weren't you?"

I never tell them the truth, but the truth is, that picture didn't look any more like the way I really looked most of the time than the ones that made me look like a nerd.

It's hard to say what it is that doesn't really look like us when we have our pictures taken, and it's hard to say why we never look the same twice. Chances are Mona Lisa didn't recognize herself when Leonardo da Vinci showed her the portrait he painted with that enigmatic smile on her lips.

"Oh, Leo," I'll bet she said. "That doesn't look at all like me."

Some newspapers use a picture of me with this column and I don't want to spoil it for readers, but believe me -- that's not what I look like. I didn't even look like that 20 years ago when the picture was taken.

We had a lot of old photo albums in my family because my father took hundreds of pictures. Over the years, those albums piled up. One day years ago, we got them out to look at them, and one relative who didn't like the way she looked had removed every picture in which she appeared. We all feel like doing that sometimes.

They keep improving cameras by making them smaller with automatic this and automatic that. What they ought to invent is a camera that knows how to catch us looking the way we really look.

(Andy Rooney is ON VACATION. In his absence, we are reprinted a classic column originally published Feb. 10, 1995.)

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