No One Wants To Look Like A Badger In A Passport Photo
Some people hate to hear their own voices. Me, I hate to see my own face.
In pictures, that is.
In my mind, I’m still 20-something. I don’t have wrinkles, sun damage, jowls, eye bags or a neck like a terrapin.
So when I see a recent photo, it’s always a sobering experience. There’s a reason I hide when cameras appear. And I never pose for selfies.
Truthfully, even as a teenager I wasn’t what anyone would call photogenic. In fact, in high school I sat for three sets of senior portraits before I got one that wasn’t too heinous for the yearbook.
For years The Virginian-Pilot used blessedly small black and white mug shots that hid the fact that I looked like a badger in mine.
But when the paper switched to bigger, color portraits in 2006, I panicked.
I went to our assistant managing editor and begged her to let me go to Glamour Shots at the mall. That’s where all the Realtors went for their portraits, I pointed out.
They looked hot.
This was back when newspapers had money to burn and the editor OK’d the session. It yielded exactly two usable photos. One runs on this website.
Yes, it’s 12 years old. Get used to it. It won’t be changing any time soon.
Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department won’t accept a 12-year-old head shot for a passport. They want a recent unblinking, straight-on picture that they can run through facial recognition technology.
Aesthetics don’t matter.
So on Wednesday morning I showered, dried my hair and carefully applied makeup. I put on my favorite white shirt and headed to Walgreen’s.
The drug store passport photographer/cashier took one look at me and said he couldn’t take my picture.
“No white shirts,” he said. “New rule.”
No time to go home and change so I tried again Thursday.
Same routine. Styled and sprayed my hair. Slathered on some make-up. This time I grabbed a black turtleneck, which concealed my aging neck. I added a long string of pearls for a little style.
A different photographer/cashier was behind the counter.
“Put your hair behind your ears,” she ordered as she stood me in front of a stark white backdrop. “You can’t have any hair near your face.”
“If I hate it, can we take another?” I asked.
There were two poses to chose from. Equally awful.
“We’ll try again,” she offered.
I started to take the pearls off and she stopped me.
“They look nice, leave them on.”
She took a photo that didn’t appear to be horrific. I paid and left.
In the car I put on my glasses and examined the tiny prints. My pearls were askew. I was smirking. It was appallingly bad.
Too embarrassed to go back and ask for a do-over, I drove to another Walgreen’s. There’s one on every corner so it wasn’t far.
This photographer let me keep my hair in front of my ears, but made me brush back my bangs. No one’s seen my forehead in 30 years and there’s a reason for that.
She snapped a photo and I resolved to just be satisfied with it. This was getting expensive.
I paid. Again. And headed to the passport office where I filled out the renewal form, stapled a photo of someone I don’t think looks like me to the application and stuck it in the mail.
It’ll be 10 years before I have to do this again.
Here’s a depressing thought: What if in 2028 I look at this week’s ghastly portrait and wish I still looked that good.