Posted by: joha5 | April 24, 2010

Passport Picture Pressure

June 12th, 2010: the day that my passport expires.  I am not sad about saying goodbye to the physical manifestation of my passport and all of its stamps.  The passport, in and of itself, is clearly renewable – besides, I spilled apple juice on it 9 years ago and it has been warped for as long as I can remember having it.  I am sad, however, that I have to get a new picture taken that will last me for the next 10 years

The pressure is incredible.  I have a hard enough time coordinating my faculties as it is but to make sure that I have a picture where there is no double chin, no blinking, no weird mouth shapes, no nose or chin wrinkles, and especially no crazy hair cut is a daunting task for me.  No matter where you go or what you do, the instant that you whip our your driving license or your passport people clamor to see it.  I have never actually had a truly awful picture taken but dozens of my friend’s have and even though it certainly has not ruined their lives, it has come pretty close for some.  Of course I never tell them what I think to their face but some of their pictures are downright shocking and the thoughts that go through my head are unspeakable. 

You were that fat?  You had a bowl cut when you were 23?  Are you wearing coke bottles for glasses?  Who told you it would be a good idea to wear a sailor suit

I mean, even though I don’t say any of these things I think that they can probably tell by my violent physical reaction.  Facial contortions, whiplash, nausea, shock, and so on and so forth.  I just can’t control it.  The individual knows that the picture is bad so they watch you to see your gut reaction from the moment you look at it to get an idea of just how bad you really think it is.  It is specifically moments like this that cause this intense amount of pressure and stress to have a good picture taken. 

I am completely happy presenting my 18-year-old self to the world every time somebody asks to see my passport for personal or travel reasons.  In my eyes I see no difference from when I was 18 to how I look now at 28 and having to take a new picture – even though it is legally required – means admitting that I have gotten older and that I am no longer that person physically that I was 10 years ago.  Now I honestly have no problem about getting older, I would just like to have the option of when I choose to acknowledge it and when I choose to ignore it.  Having to discard this picture and get it replaced with a new one means that I have to come to terms with it and I just don’t particularly feel like doing that right now.

Thus, I must prepare for battle.  I am going to get my hair cut next week and it is no mistake that I will be renewing my passport the day or two after my hair appointment.  This haircut will be one of the most important ones for the next 10 years because it will literally be immortalized for the duration of that period.  I will make sure that the shirt that I am wearing doesn’t have anything too embarrassing on it and that it is a timeless and agreeable color.  I will make sure that I am well rested and not hung over from the night before.  And I will practice my facial control in the mirror at home prior to getting it renewed. 

Many of you will think that I am crazy and many of you will have undoubtedly done many of the same things that I plan on doing in preparation for this photo shoot – so to speak – and I don’t care either way.  This is a picture that I will have to deal with for 10 long years until I am 38 in 2020 (!!) so I want to make sure that I do everything I possibly can to look decent – and forgettable.  At some point over the next few years I will have forgotten all about the 18-year-old version of myself on my passport and it will have been supplanted by the ‘new’ 28-year-old me.  Life moves on.  All I want to do is avoid having to witness people physically recoiling from disgust when they see my picture over the next 10 years and I don’t think that is too much to ask.   

I just can’t wait until this whole ordeal is over and I can forget all about it…that is, until March 25th, 2012: the day my driving license expires.  Ugh.



  1. If it’s a truly awful photo, there’s always the option of not traveling out of the country for 10 years. That way no one has to see your passport! Or misplace your passport, like I did four years ago, so that you have to get a replacement photo taken (and pay a hundred bucks, and then find the lost passport a few months later…).

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