Blog: The past tense

Burt Ross

The other day a friend of mine upon seeing a college photo of me said rather casually, “You were handsome.” For those of you who might think this was  a compliment, I assure you it was not remotely that. You see, she did not say, “You are handsome,” but rather, “You were handsome.” The use of the past tense makes all the difference. 

The implication couldn’t be clearer-I am  not handsome now-something I have known for decades. You see when I was in my twenties, I looked a lot like Omar Sharif, but as the decades passed it was all downhill until my 50’s when a stranger thought I looked a lot like Abe Vigoda. With all due respect to the departed Abe, the gap between him and Omar is let’s say as humongous as it gets.

Occasionally somebody will tell me, “You look good,” followed by a pause and then, “for your age.” I guess they are telling me I look good compared to somebody who has been buried for at least six months. Imagine were somebody to tell you when you were twenty or thirty that you looked good “for your age.”

I have now become accustomed to the slings and arrows of Father Time (I don’t know why it is not Mother Time).  As I continue to be ravaged by the aging process, I cannot help but ponder whether Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous quote, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” might be rephrased to something like this, “tis better to have been good looking once upon a time and lost your looks than never to have had them in the first place.” By the way, nobody has ever compared me to Tennyson.

I trust the philosophers can dwell on this subject for a long time while I take a well deserved nap.