I resent looking younger than I am, but then I glimpsed the elderly me


Staff writer Robert Samuels is shown here in an actual photograph taken at his current age 29. The images of later ages were produced using computer technology developed by researchers at Face Aging Group at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. (The Washington Post)

Some of the more common questions in my life:

“Are you an intern?” “What college do you go to?” And — a particularly annoying one when all you want to do is see an R-rated movie — “Can I see your ID?”

I’ve always resented looking younger than I am. So I was pleased when the computer analyzed my head shot and did not make that mistake. Trouble was, it made an entirely different mistake.

On the first attempt, the computer perceived my age at 33, four years older than I am.

Perplexed as I was, I considered it a small victory. The small, fuzzy tuft of facial hair on my chin that took five months to sprout from my glacially maturing bod had thrown off the calculation.

How old does your face look? How the technology works.

My attempt at appearing more manly worked, but I questioned how great this technology could be if my sad semblance of a goatee had thrown it off. My victory was temporary. When the calculations were redone after I shaved my chin, it homed in on my youthful eyes and perceived my age as 27.

I am 29.

This was terrible news.

Then I saw the the rendering of what I may look like at 75.

My full lips had thinned and my cheeks had sagged. Wrinkles! Briefly, I liked looking younger than I am.

My co-workers saw my aged face and were disturbed. “The good thing is, you have a really charming smile,” said a colleague. (Not so in the photos; we were asked not to smile.)

Then it occurred to me that this version of me would never be asked whether he was old enough to see “22 Jump Street.”

For that alone, I was thankful.

Robert Samuels writes for the Post’s social issues team. In Maryland, he focuses on issues affecting low-income children and families. He also covers life in the District.
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