I assume that there is an amount of working out, tanning, waxing, and grooming I could do in order to be a moderately more handsome person. I have no interest in doing this. My body icon isn’t a Hemsworth or a Tyrese. It’s Steve Martin, who has mastered the art of looking like the same person for as long as possible. Just like me.
More specifically, I’m trying to avoid the Alec Baldwin Trap. Alec Baldwin in the ‘80s was attractive in the way that someone who played sports in high school and maintained his physique is attractive. I’m thinking of She’s Having A Baby-era Baldwin. He wasn’t big, or imposing, but you could describe him as fit.
Then Baldwin became an action movie star, and so he got bigger, adding what seems to be a decent amount of muscle mass. This started around Hunt For Red October in 1992, and maybe peaked somewhere in 1994 when he co-starred with Kim Bassinger in The Getaway. He was jacked in the way of men for whom regular gym equipment is insufficient. Men who need weighty ropes, tractor tires, and abandoned ferris wheels to stay fit. This is Robert Downey, Jr. in the Marvel Universe.
That’s great if you can maintain it, but even with a ton of money and fame and personal trainers Alec Baldwin either couldn’t or, more realistically, decided it wasn’t worth it. Thus, when he showed up on 30 Rock, you could almost hear people staring at the TV mouthing the question “What happened?” They’d always pictured younger, stronger, bigger Baldwin and were disappointed to see that he was a normal human who wouldn’t spend all his hours trying to stay looking a certain way people expected.
Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t fair. Alec Baldwin was 48 when 30 Rock debuted and he still looked like a sweater model and sounded like a grizzly bear transformed into a man in a nicely tailored suit. I will never be as striking as most forms of Alec Baldwin... ever.
No one asks “What happened?!” when they see Steve Martin. I don’t care if they’re 10 or 100, they just say “Oh, it’s Steve Martin. I know it’s Steve Martin because that’s how Steve Martin has looked the entire time I’ve been alive.”
Steve Martin has chosen the appropriate appearance for himself. He’s never been as beefy as Baldwin, but he’s also rarely seemed shrimpy. It’s clear he does some kind of exercise, even if it leans towards cardio. There aren’t a lot of photos of Steve Martin hanging out in tight white sleeveless shirts a la Baldwin, but from his early stand up days through the Cheaper By The Dozen era there are enough photos of him to indicate that, yep, he basically looks like Steve Martin.
Granted, Steve Martin’s sandy blonde-white hair seems to have transitioned to just white so quickly that I can barely remember his hair looking another way. He’s also maintained roughly the same hair length for a few decades, though it was a little longer at first and he had a beard at least once.
And it’s not just Baldwin in this trap. Because Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin and Martin are frequent SNL hosts you can see, over time, how they’ve aged. While Steve Martin definitely shows the usual signs of getting older–hair that thins and ears that thicken–it’s never as jarring or obvious.
I’m not arguing that every man should try to look like Steve Martin. Genetics already has made that difficult without plastic surgery. Just pick the best version of yourself that you can reasonably attain and keep with the level of maintain you think you can handle. If you’re Vince McMahon and want to be jacked forever, go for it. I plan to be wealthy enough and comfortable enough to take it easy for a while and I’m hopeful that, when that day comes, I look basically the same as I look now.
In that vein, I’ve tried to adopt a routine of exercise and diet that I think I can maintain until at least my 70s unless sickness or robots take me down. This involves mostly running and yoga and a little cross training. I rarely use heavy weights, and I avoid trying to add too much muscle mass. Even when I had the time and energy to run or do yoga nearly every day no one said, “Damn, you’re looking fit!” outside of my wife humoring me. Mostly it was just, “Hey, you’re Matt!”
Even when I hit periods where I can’t eat as well as I’d like or workout as often as I should—for instance, when my wife had our first child—it doesn’t make that big of a difference. I feel soft and pudgy, but no one else seems to notice.
This is the goal! This is Steve Martining, and I’m doing it well.
Matt Hardigree is the Executive Editor of Publishing Partnerships for Gawker Media, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Jalopnik.
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