Here’s the deal, I’ve got a real hot streak of GLAMOUR shots on my driver’s license and I’m not ready or willing to give that self-imposed title up just yet. (My passport photos are another story, anyone except Taylor Swift who knows how to closed mouth smile and NOT look like a serial killer, get @ me with some tips.) These are supposed to be my peak years and I’m RAPIDLY approaching the swift drop on that rollercoaster, so I really need to capture it when I can. On my driver’s license is really the best way to do so. It’s a government issued document and one that I’ll have to show to a stranger every single time I enter a bar or order an adult bevvy. That’s a lot of eyes on one pic, and I say that knowing that I’ve never gotten more than 15 likes on anything I’ve ever posted on social media. ID PHOTOS ARE ALL I HAVE ANYMORE. I never thought this day would come.
On my 16th birthday, I took my driver’s test—told no one I was taking it so I didn’t have to tell them if I failed (old hockey trick)—and looked like a youthful babe soda in my very first license photo. I had a pre-summer tan, styled hair and an adorable teal dress. All of which could be seen as it was proportionately distanced and sized. In fact, anytime a friend, foe or stranger brought up their dreadful license photo, I paraded that shit around for all to see. Oh you look like you just drowned your kids in a bathtub in your photo? I look like a beauty queen, READ IT AND WEEP BITCHES!
It might be suggested that I annoyed everyone with how much I worked my ID into a conversation. I almost didn’t want to get a fake ID in college for fear of having a fake hideous photo. Fortunately, my sister provided my “fake” and she also takes a great pic. When I turned 21, I did everything in my power to keep my original photo. Unfortunately I was met with much frustration and eye rolls at the dear ole DMV. I took a shitty temp pic until I could get myself home to where my mom had recently become employed at the DMV and promised a full photoshoot to get the right headshot. I cannot stress this enough, I recommend everyone has a relative working at the DMV. Not only did I not have to wait in line and suffer years of my life in that soul-sucking place but I literally got to treat my license photo like a JCPenney portrait shoot minus the kickass 90’s backdrops. Plus my mom knows all of my best angles and I got as many reshoots as I demanded. Another stellar ID was created. Note the carefully curated white lace tank to once again, pop that bronze glow. (PRO tip.)
And now here we are in my 29th year, license expired. Thanks to COVID, I was able to push that renewal back for a solid 5 months before I could go into the DMV again safely. And you better BELIEVE I planned on preparing for this appointment with a full blowout and face of makeup after months of being a loungewear shut-in. Unfortunately for all involved, when the day arrived, I had a friend in town and poorly planned our morning. Eager to fit a scenic 14 mile bike ride in and soak up the sun before my appointment, I let the morning get away from me and all of a sudden I had 15 minutes to shower, dry my hair, put on makeup, curl my hair and pick out the perfect outfit to enhance my summer tan. On the 30 minute drive back to my house (in the opposite direction of the DMV) I began to panic that I would become * insert tone of absolute disgust here*: an UGLY ID holder. And not just like casual caught off guard for a pic ugly…unshowered, hair pulled up under a hat, just sweat my ass off in a high speed bike ride to try and make up for my poor time management, no makeup, in a tee with visible pit stains kind of UGLY. I wondered how horrible it would be to cancel my appointment. Or just commit to it and then immediately change my photo at a later date. All of these options were either incredibly inconvenient or more expensive. This is when I really had to look inward and have a stern talk with myself about what was important here. How I look in a photograph that’s the size of a stamp or keeping an appointment it took me a month to get for the renewal of my driver’s license that had been expired for almost half a year now. The answer was my looks and that is the most obvious thing on this earth. Having been born with naturally curly hair that I let air-dry, I cannot allow myself to be photographed within a few hours of my daily shower or I’ll look like ole ramen-head ass Justin Timberlake that immediately turned into a meme because of HOW BAD IT LOOKED. So it’s not even like I could trim time off of my prep by leaving my locks au naturel.
I arrived home and I’ve never gotten ready faster in my entire life. And you know what? I looked like a 10. From the front. I never dried my hair in the back. Too time consuming and the back of my head will never be featured on an ID. I selected a teal dress to accentuate the new race I had become from 4 straight months of baking in the sun and even tossed on my custom-made Salty Ju jean jacket on top of that for clout. All of my fans and supporters (my sister and my friend) applauded my Herculean effort to transform myself into a top model in 15 minutes flat. I expected paparazzi to be hiding in the bushes when I exited my house, shoveling peanut butter crackers in my cracker hole because I skipped lunch in favor of my looks. I got to the DMV with two minutes to spare and ready to do the cover of Vogue, should Rosie at counter 8 impromptu ask me to. We got the long-awaited photo out of the way first and when I tell you it was horrific, that is an understatement. It turns out, no matter how GREAT I look (or dress…my outfit didn’t even graze the photo), if you close crop my head in the square, there is REALLY no positive way to spin that. Rosie snapped away and showed me the pic for review where my jaw resided on the ground. I didn’t think it was possible to look like the poster child for my 600 lb life and yet a super zoom WILL DO THAT. My chins were abundant and falling out of frame as the square went from my forehead to my first chin, also giving me a buzz cut in the process–so much for drying and curling my precious locks. That was a proportion that Rosie felt comfortable with and to be honest I would’ve asked for a reshoot, but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to and it looked like the camera setup would be permanently unforgiving. I had just carefully curated a look and an outfit for a MEGAHEAD PHOTO THAT I’LL BE STUCK WITH FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS. But don’t worry, the guy at counter 10 who processed my renewal told me it’s a great photo and he doesn’t just tell everyone that. He also complimented my nail polish so obviously he was just trying to bang me. My perfect ID photo streak has come to an abrupt and aggressive end and I will forever curse this stupid day. Ten years from now, I’m bringing my own photographer.
And as if NY State wasn’t cruel enough, they double up on your mug, hologram style. So that Salty Ju Megahead can also float in space on the right side of my ID reminding me to invest in a neckline slimmer.
***Important February 2022 Addendum***: We’ve got a real good news, bad news sitch here. The good news is I wasn’t stuck with the fat face photo for 10 years. The bad news is what I have now is INFINITELY worse. A mere two years later and a move to a new state found me repeating this horrific process all over again. To put it simply, over my dead body did I want to get a New Jersey license and registration but Toyota narc’ed on me when they found out where I was living and I was on borrowed time for inevitably getting pulled over for having NY plates and daring to enter the left lane on the parkway. So I begrudgingly made my DMV appointment knowing for sure that the crowd would be a lot rougher in the Dirty Jerze than it was previously in E.Bumfuck Cicero, NY. And yet, ever the hopeful buzzing bee, I still felt like I was going to nail it this time. I arrived a half hour early for my appointment (scheduled 2 months in advance) armed with a folder overflowing with the required documentation and then some and decked out in full glam. From my leopard headband (so Jersey it hurts) to my coordinated sparkly eyeshadow, perfect mermaid waves and a mauve sweatshirt that complimented my olive skin tone.–Obviously I’m really pushing it here, it’s the dead of winter and I was going in for a license photo and already horrified that my alabaster skin was going to be sealed onto my ID forever so yes I did use as much bronzer as one could without looking like Snooki circa 2010. When your girl’s down bad, sometimes all it takes is a face of makeup and bomb hair to lift the spirits and if it ends up resulting in the best photo I’ve ever taken then it’s a win for all.
Shocking to no one: It…most certainly…did not go that way. After immediately being denied for switching my registration over because I have a lease (and was ill-informed by the website about what was needed, thus opening a whole can of worms that I’m still dealing with so 10/10 do not recommend ever moving from NY to NJ) I had a real bad taste in my mouth for how this license photo was about to go. I stood in front of the human equivalent of Roz from Monsters Inc. as she squared away my paper work when she finally told me to take a step back for the photo. I fluffed my hair, took off my jacket and my mask and assumed the position like any model would, with a slight head tilt and a wide open smile. She hit me with, “you can have a slight smile but you can’t show teeth.” I was so outraged that I borderline hysterically squeaked back “NO TEETH?! Are you SERIOUS?!” What I really should’ve said was, “That is a mugshot, ma’am.” And honestly, please explain to me how showing that you have a nice set of white chiclets alters the effectiveness of an ID. If anything it should help my cause if I’m ever pulled over. The cop can immediately assume I’ve invested in braces and/or regular dental visits and therefore I’m probably a pretty upstanding citizen who will pay whatever bogus ticket they throw at me to meet their monthly quota. Same with passports…if anything I look MORE like a terrorist without teeth so what gives with this dumbass rule?
Either way, the rule stands and as I mean mugged the camera and Roz asked me if I approved of my photo, I looked her dead in the eye and said, “it’s disgusting but I’m not a no-teeth smile kinda girl so it is what it is.” This is when Roz decided to have a bit of compassion (not sure why) and goes no, no, let’s retake it. I really didn’t want to. The stage was set. I’m not Tyra Banks smizing up a storm. I have not and will never perfect the art of the closed mouth smile like my sister and Taylor Swift have so effortlessly done. I’ll always either look pissed, stoned or be smirking like I have a secret. But I appeased Roz and took a step back for round 2. This time I was on the verge of tears and just wanted to get out of this seventh circle of hell. As you might’ve already assumed, the second photo was even worse than the first. And that’s what we ended up with. Roz’s grizzly smokes a pack a day “Welcome to New Jersey” as she handed me my paper license and sent me on my way could’ve been accompanied by the Jersey salute and it would’ve been appropriate for how this big life change is going for me so far. Here I am pictured below, with proper lighting and portrait mode (after I sobbed in my car on the way home, I might add) just to show you what DMV employees with an influencer start-up kit could accomplish if they even cared…or allowed genuine smiles.
And now for the big reveal…the new license photo I’ve been cursed with, which conveniently arrived on Valentine’s day to remind me that not only am I single, but I am also hideous.
If this photo doesn’t scream don’t mess with the Jersey Ju or she’ll take her gold hoops out and rough you up, I don’t know what does. Welcome to New Jersey, indeed.