My New Passport Photo

My passport actually expired a few years ago, which made me uncomfortable. I’ve had a valid passport since I was a baby, and not having one was at odds with my self-image of being an international traveller. Oh, never mind that I haven’t been abroad in nearly 5 years, and I have no income but I do have two young children, one of whom has a school schedule he needs to adhere to. You never know when, say, an airline’s glitchy booking system is going to offer $79 flights from San Francisco to Mumbai (as happened a few years ago), or Peter realizes his frequent flyer miles are about to expire and if we don’t go to Australia next week, we never will. When that happens I don’t want to pass up the opportunity, just because my passport is out of date.

I also happen to think my passport is a nifty form of identification, even at home. Whenever I start a new job, I have to prove citizenship: the passport does it as a single document. It’s also cooler than a driver’s license for getting into nightclubs.

But I dragged my feet on the renewal for years, just because of passport photo anxiety. The picture that ends up in my new passport will be there for 10 years, and I better have a damn good excuse if I want a new passport within that time. I tried to tell myself only border control agents will see the picture, but I knew better than that. If I go missing in a foreign country, the first place the locals will go for information is to the U.S. State Department. And the only picture of me the U.S. State Department will have on file to share with them is my passport photo. In my nightmare, the Italian fashionista underground will impound me for wearing Payless shoes in the Piazza of San Marco, and my passport picture will be on Roman billboards scaring the Pope, small children, and pigeons.

Peter actually took a new passport photo of me when my passport had just expired, but I didn’t like the picture because I looked tired in it. But as the years passed, I came to accept that having a bad passport picture is better than having no passport at all. So I went to Kinko’s, where they advertised that they wouldn’t print the passport picture until you approved it. I put on some makeup I hoped would make me look better, convinced Peter to watch Kelly so she wouldn’t distract me, and went off to get the picture taken. Peter advised me to just accept that fact that it would be a bad photo.

It was. I didn’t fight it. I just accepted the first photo they took, because there just wasn’t a whole lot I could have done with my expression to make it look better. I could have grinned like an idiot, and looked more American, or looked old and serious, and looked more German. I ended up somewhere in between, as well as looking really tired (even though I wasn’t) and slightly obese (even though I’m not.)

Whatever. At least in a few weeks, I’ll have a valid passport again. I’ll just have to be extra careful not to get into trouble abroad.

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