Column

Passport Photos

There’s nothing like new middle-aged passport photos to bring on a bucket load of self-doubt.

In earlier years, a new passport photograph elicited excitement—there was international travel pending! But with age, the excitement is momentarily marred by the stark reminder that photoshopping and soft lighting is a valuable and most necessary tool. Instead, you are left in the questionable photographic hands of anyone who happens to be behind the post office counter.

Admittedly, you could have looked slightly better enlisting the help of a more sympathetic photographer. But who has the vanity or time?

So, there you are in all your glory, planted in front of a wonky white screen, totally at the mercy of ‘Barry’ brandishing a camera and trying to aim in your general direction. He is of course, totally unaware that you may well need counselling after the passport photo reveal. No, far more concerned is he that your ears and eyebrows are exposed because these are apparently telling. You know way before he’s even finished that the end result is not going to be good. And you can’t request a few more snaps just in case.

That would be vain. And what’s more, customers are watching.

As predicted, my picture looked exactly like the second to last mug shot in those photographic accounts of a drug addict’s demise. What I mean is that I didn’t look terribly gorgeous at all. Shadowed and a little liverish, more like it. So there I was, stuck for the next seven years and unceremoniously sent off to be sealed and silenced in my new passport.

Back home, with my spares for all to see, I asked the inevitable, “Be honest now, is this what I really look like?”

By now I’m hoping against logic that the camera sometimes lies. My daughter chooses to dodge the question.

“It’s not as though anyone’s actually going to see your passport,” she says.

Don’t think I didn’t see that half-suppressed snigger. Well, yes, actually they are. I’ve heard the LAX airport officials are rude to the point of plain facetious … will they laugh out loud, I wonder? And if they do, am I allowed to tell them they’re nasty. Apparently not. They won’t let me in if I do.

The truth is that no matter how youthful I felt pre-passport photo, that instantly disappeared in that one moment of photo reveal. Suddenly I need Botox, fillers (what are those anyway?), and anything else my smooth-faced eyebrow therapist should suggest. Is that why she sent me the buy one, get two face peel offers? It’s all making sense now.

Why didn’t she tell me my face had collapsed? And why didn’t my friends reveal? Or my husband? Please explain.

Perhaps it’s self-interest. Apparently we’d have to sell the house and one of my organs to pay for ‘those procedures’. I use plural because I’d imagine it’s a bit like renovating an old house. You start with one room and suddenly everything else needs refurbishment. I’m not ready to give up an organ. I’d far rather have an overseas holiday. And I can’t help thinking how many hungry mouths that ‘procedure’ would feed.

The heartening thought is that I’m not alone in my ageing process. And I’m delighted to say most of my close friends agree in theory—that with age, we should be more focussed on the inside.The exterior is bound to give up the ghost at some stage anyway. It’s been encouraging to see that on the whole these friends have kept their word. That said, one has already broken ranks. We all know who you are. And we’re watching you.

The rest of us, have been committed to growing old gracefully—some teetering towards disgracefully.

Admittedly it’s hard to tell, swollen goldfish lips aside, who’s had a refreshing holiday or who’s really kept their word. Participants don’t generally tuck and tell. One friend did. She went on a girls’ weekend away and decided to throw caution to the wind and sneak a little Botox on her frown lines.

My friend’s forehead became smooth as a baby’s bottom. She revealed that while she enjoyed being wrinkle free for a while, she felt as though she’d had a stroke. She couldn’t move her forehead for ages—her brow literally frozen in time. This explained Nicole Kidman’s face in the movie, ‘Australia’. My lasting impression was her singular expression of permanent surprise supposedly covering happy, sad or smouldering. There wasn’t a large range there.

And I suppose those are the immortals we should leave it to. The one’s with their faces plastered on billboards and movie screens. I’m yet to have my mug on a billboard but I can imagine the pressure to look pretty darn perfect.
Me?

I’m just going to remove my specs and take another look at myself … Soft focus, now that’s more like it.

Actually not half bad for an old girl.

© Lois Nicholls 2016