Your Driver's License
Look Like Your Evil Twin?
By Marty Rauch
that picture on your drivers license? Could it be your evil
twin? Do people hand it back to you with a sympathetic chuckle?
is drop-dead gorgeous!
Ive gone through photos so unappealing I had to conceal them
from my therapist. Surely that squint-eyed, wrinkled head askew on
a deformed neck pictured on that precious little card is not the real
me. Many others, glimpsed accidentally or disclosed shame-facedly,
are so unattractive they generate conspiracy theories about the Department
of Motor Vehicles. Is this a concerted effort to put us in our places?
To prove the naked power of the department and its ability to reduce
did I latch onto the Francesco Scavullo of DMV photographers? Not
the Richard Avedon, who stands his subjects against a blank background,
though there is a similar lack of background frivolity at the department.
Critics discuss how this strips the subject of all pretensions, revealing
warts and all honesty. This is supposedly fraught with meaning. I
doubt this is the goal of the DMV. Certainly there is no Annie Leibowitz
whimsy in this straightforward, look-at-the-red-light sort of picture.
not big on conspiracy theories; it seems unbelievable that that many
people could organize themselves that well. Still, I couldnt
understand the sudden demand that I remove my glasses for my photo.
How could I be identified minus the glasses Ive worn since I
was 10 years old? I wear them on my first trip to the bathroom each
morning. On January 17, 1994, the day of the Northridge (California)
earthquake, I remember putting them on while it was dark and shaking.
Why take our picture sans specs? Who can recognize our naked faces?
when we tote restricted licenses, we are required by law to wear those
glasses when operating a motor vehicle. I agree that wearing glasses,
or contact lenses, is not a prerequisite for cashing a check or charging
Farragamo shoes, but that is the picture ID so often used at the airport
and at some HMOs. What if I like rhinestone rimmed fashion eye-wear,
super-sized? Could you still identify me?
stood in those long lines, a smidgen stressed, holding a purse, my
keys, and assorted pieces of paper; Ive stepped on the line,
looked straight at the light, and gone on. Ive watched people,
seventh or eighth in line, suddenly noticing it is time to do something
about their hair, like combing it. I heard the plea from the surprised
woman who said, Oh, I wasnt ready. Please take another
one. She didnt get sympathy, let alone another pose.
owned the picture: wrinkles, unflattering angle and light, expressionless,
depicting my great resemblance to my mother, never before noticed.
Pared down to the bone structure, thats what I would look like
in 25 years, should there be no surgical intervention.
comes the renewal morning when I am first in line. I go through the
paperwork and stand before the camera. He snaps and I prepare to leave
when the amazing photographer says, One more; you wouldnt
like me if we go with that one. Stunned, but always obedient
to the DMV, I pose for one more. He makes approving sounds. But Im
curious. How come? I ask. Well, he says, theres
no waiting, and I give three chances for a good one if I have the
picture so flatters me that I pass it around at dinner parties to
prove extra dimensions in human behavior. I didnt look that
good 15 years ago. Im very relaxed, having this charming conversation
with a delightful person who tells me the no-glasses directive is
to eliminate glare from the heavy-duty flash in DMV cameras.
course, I dont know the photographers name and didnt
even know the quality of his work until that license showed up in
the mail six weeks later. Francesco is at the DMV office in Santa
Monica, California. Go very early, before the DMV and the photographer
collapse from the crowds, and you too can look great for four years.