"Do you have anything more recent?" was what the publicist asked me in an email, after I sent her my standard headshot.
The photo is only about five years old -- I've known actors to use even older ones -- but they were apparently five crucial years in the skin-elasticity department. I'm not sure where all of that collagen went, but in the five years spanning my early forties to my none-of-your-business, I seem to have lost most of it. Things that used to bounce back now sag; things that used to sag naturally now rub along the floor. The headshot I've been using has made its way through the four stages of usefulness: looks like you, looks like a thinner version of you, looks like a photoshopped version of you, and makes everyone sad.
My old headshot was deep into stage four: it made the publicist sad. She probably could have asked a little more nicely, but I may as well face facts. I need a new headshot.
I'm old, in other words. When I'm described in trades, it's always as a "comedy vet" or a "seasoned showrunner," which everyone recognizes as code for "Why is he still in the business? Doesn't he have enough money by now?"
Because in Hollywood, the trick is to get rich before you get old, so that when you do start getting old you can move somewhere else, probably to Montecito. But if you're unlucky enough to be none-of-your-business and still working, you really only have two choices: you can look younger, or you can dress younger.
Looking younger involves painful injections and surgical procedures, which are out of the question for your basic coward. It's not the knife that frightens me. It's the irreversible quality of plastic surgery. I'm convinced I'll go in for a discreet little trim, and come out looking like some kind of Real Housewife. I'd rather look old than look fully amphibious.
That leaves outpatient stuff. Although my dermatologist insists that a little Botox here and there would do wonders for me -- he's even shown me studies that suggest that Botox, by inhibiting the frowning mechanisms of the facial muscles, can actually relieve minor depression -- I have yet to let him do anything other than check me all over for oddly-shaped dots on my skin. My livelihood is based in no small part on my ability to cock an eyebrow at a network executive or express mild annoyance at an irritating star -- the kind of subtle and deniable facial expressions that Botox wipes clear. I can either look wrinkle free or I can earn a living. I cannot do both.
So it's Option Two for me: I just have to dress younger. Lucky for me, the fashion of the day is pretty identical to what I've been wearing since college. Unlucky, though, are the sizes. I'm not what anyone would call "slender," but nor am I so morbidly obese as to need, as I discovered on a recent shopping trip, an XXXL.
"How many eight year-old boys," I barked at the guy in the store, "are rich enough to buy these clothes?"
He rolled his eyes at me. And he was right to. I sounded like an old complaining pain in the ass. And that's the real trouble -- worse than looking old or dressing old is sounding old, because there's no medication for that.
On the other hand, if you have to get old, you may as well do it as grumpily as possible. Which is why I called the publicist back and told her to shut up and use the old headshot. I'm an old man. I don't many pleasures left, so I'm not about to give up yelling at publicists.