I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

(Excerpt from Bob Dylan’s song, My Back Pages)

When you think about it, how apt that title sounds…

Consider this, we’ve probably all seen those “Before and After” photos in the back of a magazine or two once or twice in our lifetimes. If not, we’ve probably at least caught a glance at them as they roll by on the television with a disclaimer that flashes by that would make Evelyn Wood make her re-think her course in speed reading. Usually they’re tucked in the back of the magazine with the rest of the ads or appear in the dead of night on late night television. “My Back Pages” to be sure…

Anyway, I don’t care what the topic of these “before and after” photos might be. I don’t care if it’s Jared, from The Subway Conspiracy who lost a bazillion pounds stuffing his face with an endless parade of sandwiches, if it’s someone who had more wrinkles on her face than Irene Ryan in her glory days of playing Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies who suddenly overnight is transformed into a beauty queen, if it’s someone who looked like they went ten rounds with Mike Tyson in his heyday and their teeth are spread out like a picket fence when they smile. Nope, I don’t care if it’s the tale of the balding dude who couldn’t find any in a women’s prison even if he had a fistful of pardons in his hand but suddenly is adorned with a bevy of hotties that he has to beat away with a stick because his hair is “perfect” and doesn’t fall off when he dives in a pool.

They all seem to share one thing in common. Well, maybe two. Besides trying to sell you something, they all seem to send a message that “After” is always better than "Before".

After all, who wouldn’t long for the days when you were slim and trim? When you could dazzle the object of your affection with a mere flash of your pearly whites and the wink of an eye? When you could shake your mane after coming out of the pool and your hair would fall back into place like soldiers standing in formation? Maybe these kinds of things are trying to re-kindle a flame that was never lit in the first place for many folks who have spent a portion of their lives pondering the great “What if?” question.

Recent events, especially those that have occurred over the last month or so, involving me and my friends have given me pause to take stock over what has happened and what is going to happen in the near future. I’m down two friends and some of those that are still here aren’t the same either. They wander around with a “lost” kind of look in their eyes and the eggshells that they seem to be walking on are getting more fragile as more and more weight is put upon them. There’s times when I glance in the mirror and I wonder if the face staring back at me is really me at all.

As it stands now, if I could turn back the hands of time, I’d go to the “Before” picture. That was when the worries that we shared brought us together rather than separated us and kept us apart. That was when the smiles we exchanged were genuine and weren’t fraught with a tinge of regret.

Yes, that was when even though we weren’t “beautiful”, we were at least happy.

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