Yikes! A Yearbook Photo

TO WIT

June 21, 1992|By DAVE BARRY

As I look out over your shining faces, I am reminded of the Bartlett's familiar quotation by the great Greek philosopher Socrates, who said, "Eventually your skin will clear up and your faces won't shine so much."

As is so often the case with great philosophers, he was lying. Your skin is a lifelong enemy, young people. It has millions of hardy zit cells that will continue to function perfectly, long after the rest of your organs have become aged and decrepit. Remember Ronald Reagan? No? Well, he used to be the president, off and on, and in 1985, after undergoing a medical procedure on his nose, he met with the press and made the following two statements, which I swear to you young people that I am not making up:

1. "It is true I had -- well, I guess for want of a better word -- a pimple on my nose."

2. "I violated all the rules. I picked at it and I squoze it and so forth and messed myself up a little."

And President Reagan was no spring chicken at the time. I believe that, at one point in his acting career, he actually was in a movie with Socrates. The point I am making, young people, is that your skin will never clear up. People have been known to break out with embarrassing blemishes at their own funerals.

But post-mortem acne is not what you young people should be thinking about today as you prepare to go out into the world, leaving behind the hallowed halls of your school, but not before sticking wads of gum on virtually every hallowed surface. Perhaps you think you have gotten away with this. You may be interested to learn that, thanks to a Used Gum Tracing procedure developed by the FBI, school authorities can now analyze the DNA in the dried spit molecules and, by cross-referencing with your permanent record, determine exactly who was chewing every single wad. This means that some day in the future -- perhaps at your wedding -- burly officers of the Gum Police will come barging in and arrest you.

Yes, young people, modern technology promises an exciting future. But you must also learn from the wisdom of your elders, and if there is one piece of advice that I would offer you, it is this: Burn your yearbook right now. Because otherwise, years from now, feeling nostalgic, you'll open it up to your photo, and this alien geek will be staring out at you, and your children will beg you to tell them that they're adopted.

It is a known scientific fact that, no matter how good your yearbook photo looks now, after 15 years of being pressed up against somebody else's face in the dark and mysterious yearbook environment, it will transmute itself into a humiliating picture of a total goober. This is true of everybody. If, in early 1991, the U.S. government had quietly contacted Saddam Hussein and threatened to publish his yearbook photo in the New York Times, he would have dropped Kuwait like a 250-pound maggot.

Yes, young people, old yearbook photos can be a powerful force for good. Yet the horrifying truth is that sometimes newspapers publish the yearbook photos of totally innocent people. Yes! In America! I know what I'm talking about, young people, because it happened to me. The March 1992 issue of Panther Tracks, the newspaper of my alma mater, Pleasantville (N.Y.) High School, has an article about me, and although I definitely remember looking normal in high school, there's a photograph of this solemn little junior certified public accountant wearing glasses styled by Mister Bob's House of Soviet Eyewear.

People I hadn't heard from in years mailed me this picture, along with heartwarming and thoughtful notes.

"Dave!" they'd say. "I forgot what a dweeb you were!"

Or: "Who styled your hair? Bigfoot?"

This is unfair, Class of '92. Let me assure you that I was very "hip" in high school. I distinctly remember an incident in 1964, when Lanny Watts and I got a stern lecture from the assistant principal, Mr. Sabella, because we showed up at a school dance with our sport-jacket collars turned under, so the jackets looked like they didn't have collars, because this was the style worn by the Dave Clark Five. Remember the Dave Clark Five, young people? No? Sure you do! You must! They had that big hit with the drum part that went whompa whompa whompa.

Wasn't that a great song, young people? Hey, are you laughing at me? Stop laughing at me, you little zitfaces!

Thank you.

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