Friday, February 26, 2021

‘You Haven’t Changed a Bit!’

When people are at weddings or class reunions, what is the first thing they say when they meet an old friend they haven’t seen in years? They say, “Wow! You haven’t changed a bit!” which, of course, everyone understands is a polite way of saying, “Yikes! The years have not been kind to you, have they?”

If you’re at an event where politeness is considered a sign of weakness, such as the 40th college reunion I attended a couple of years ago, people might be a tad more blunt. For example, a dear fraternity brother friend saw me and blurted out, “Holy mackerel, Dunnster. You look like you died a few months ago!” In reply, I smiled and said, “It’s great to see you, too, Goober. Sorry I missed your funeral.” Then we embraced in a long hug, genuinely delighted to see each other after so many years.
The fact is, if you haven’t seen someone in a while, their appearance likely has changed. Now that we’re about to hit the one-year mark of social distancing, there are many friends and acquaintances we have not seen face-to-face since last March, and not just old college buddies or very distant relatives. (By the way, I don’t consider Zoom meetings or FaceTime calls to be face-to-face visits. For one thing, those little cameras always make everyone look ten years older and rather sickly — unless you’ve invested $10,000 in professional studio lighting equipment. Also, those laptop computer cameras are strategically located to gaze right up your nostrils.)
To give you an example, I have many close relatives who I normally see multiple times each year: Easter, 4th of July and Labor Day picnics, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But I haven’t seen them since Christmas of 2019. Also, in my sales/marketing job, there are at least 200 people I used to see in-person at least once per month, and in some cases once per week. Now, I’ve seen very few of them face-to-face (or more accurately, mask-to-mask) in over a year.

So, I think it’s safe to say many of these folks look a little different compared to the last time I saw them. Especially when you add in a couple of other annoying realities caused by this pandemic: quarantine snacking and limited access to hair salons and barbershops.
I’m very curious to see who has put on some weight, whose hair has turned gray, whose hair has turned loose, and who has accumulated a whole bunch of new wrinkles. I wonder who has shaved their head, who has grown a beard, and who has given up completely on the concept of personal grooming.

To be perfectly honest, the reason I’ve been thinking about this is because my stupid iPhone suddenly displayed a photo the other day, which it labeled “Memories.” It was a picture of me at a trade show in Florida in early 2020, and I didn’t recognize myself at first. Then I compared that photo with one taken of me just the other day. I looked at the recent snapshot and muttered, “Holy mackerel, Dunnster. You look like you died a few months ago!”

If and when this pandemic comes to an end and we finally can see our friends and acquaintances face-to-face, I’m sure I will be polite and say, “Wow! You haven’t changed a bit!” even if that’s not exactly my first thought.

However, if the situation does not require politeness, I might employ that old Fenway Park strategy: the best defense is a good offense. If I happen to say to someone, “Holy mackerel, you look like you died!” it means I love them very much but I’m just trying to beat them to the punch. 

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