I've been putting off renewing my passport for a year now. Part of the reason I've done nothing about this is that I've had nowhere to go.
The other more pertinent reason for not getting this menial task done is the chore of getting my passport photo taken.
To say that I hate having this done is an understatement. Given the choice of root canal surgery without anaesthetic or having my passport taken I'd have to think pretty hard about it.
Photos for government documents is not something I do well. Added to this, the fact that I'm not particularly photogenic. For the most part, I don't like having my photo taken, and I prefer if I have some editorial say in things. The only exception to this, I'm quite happy to have my photo taken when I'm working out or with friends working out. For some reason I'm quite comfortable with this - probably because I'm happy when I'm exercising.
There are a couple of other reasons why I don't like having my photo taken. There was a really unpleasant incident at work in London many years ago where my work photo was attached to some pornographic material and distributed around the company. It wasn't a good time, it went up though H.R. and I've been very reticent to let people have my image without my express permission ever since - and you have no idea what the government will do with your image once they have it.
Another, small, nonsensical reason why I hate having my photo taken is that like the aboriginals, I do believe that a bit of your soul is taken when your image is snapped. Think about, there are only so many pixels in the world. We must be getting close to the critical mass with pixels. Once the pixel critical mass is reached, then people will start to disappear. I don't want to disappear just yet.
Anyway, it's time to bite the bullet. Time to get the photos done.
A couple of weeks ago I gave it a go. It was lunch time. I'd just bought my new favourite red lipstick. Being near Christmas time, the post office was busy. I brushed my hair and applied some lipstick and waited my turn in line. When I finally made it to the counter, I was ready to go back the the office. The pictures were taken, shoved in an evelope and paid for.
A lot was made of the passport office requirements.
I've had run ins with them in the past. My first adult passport there was a signature missing off the back of one of my shots - it held up everything for a few weeks.
They also have very definite demands namely:
They also ask of the person having the photo taken:
I'm thankful that I'm not Swedish. The make you sit on the side and have your left ear showing.
The photo cannot be too light, too dark, have any shadows crossing your face, be out of balance, have you smiling, your mouth open, you can be too close or too far away, have you with red eyes or flash marks on the skin washing you out.... the list goes on an on.
I got back to the office and had a look. What ever they did made me look like an Oompa Loompa with a baboon's bum for a mouth and fifteen chins. My skin was an awful orange colour. Dire. These shots were lost in some paperwork that went into the shredder.
Another thing about passport photos - they are going to define you for ten years. Unless you lose, misplace or burn your passport, that is what you are stuck with for ten years.
So I bit the bullet today. I was off to see the hairdresser for my three monthly colour and cut. My eyebrows had been tamed on Thursday night - another thing that needed to be done. Left unchecked I'd be sporting brows that would belong on the lovechild of John Howard and Frida Kahlo.
Surely this might help things out. Go in feeling pretty, surely that would help take a better picture, surely.
The only flaw in this plan was that it was the hottest day in two years yesterday. It was still 35 degrees at midnight last night. I went to bed around midnight, woke at 2 pm - finally got back to sleep at 5 am and slept through til mid-morning, when I woke feeling lethargic and grumpy.
The haircut went well. Lee did her normal great job with the cut and colour. Saying that I was going to get my passport shots done, Rachael the make-up artist grabbed me and fixed my face up.
I'm not one for wearing a lot of make up and the thought of letting a make up artist near me sends shudders down my spine. I've recollections of walking out of department stores looking like baby prostitute or a drag queen after having my make up done. Rachael - who lives a goth lifestyle does amazing things - and she listens - and I left the salon feeling and looking lovely - and not feeling as if I wasn't wearing any make up at all. I've had Rachael fix my face on a number of occasions. Despite the fact that she is never seen without huge amounts of make up on herself, she tidied everything up well. In two minutes she'd evened out my skin tone, hid the spot on my chin, tidied my eyebrows and neatened my eyeliner.
She also suggested that when the shot was being taken to press my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Gives the face a better shape. A great model's trick.
The next stop, before heading off for a manicure and pedicure in a nearby suburb was to a camera shop to have the photos taken.
The lady was rather short with me. A couple of shots were taken. I said that I was looking for a shot that softened my features. She said she couldn't photoshop the image which I said I realised. I just wasn't after a dreadful photo, no bug eyes, multiple chins and strange skin tones. She guffawed and said that all passport shots were supposed to be awful.
I was shown the "best" one, said okay. I was in a rush. Come back in an hour to pick them up.
When I did I was horrified. Stunned mullet look, eyes bulging, hair looked like I had some sort of strange mullet (The woman made me tuck my hair back behind my ears, the fact that if kept falling forward had something to do with this)
This couldn't represent me for the next ten years.
On leaving the shop, the photos were ripped up and ditched as soon as I walked out the door.
The number of people who've said that passport photos are meant to be shocking doesn't surprise me. I've seen enough dreadful passport shots over the hears. Still, Doesn't mean that I have to be one of those people.
I've also recollections of an old colleague of Middle Eastern extraction who said that he always went to a professional photographer to get his passport photos done. Normal shots done at the post office always made him look like a mugger. The photographer seemed to capture his softer side - and it stopped him getting flagged at customs and immigration.
Anyway, I'm a Leo. I've vain.
I'm a Leo. My ego is everything.
And basically I don't need my still fragile-at -times self-esteem knocked around by a really ugly passport shot that I have to weild around until I'm 54 (or until I put said passport through the wash like I did with another one many years ago)
After a much needed feed and a coffee I made one more attempt at this passport photo lark. I tried a local chemist.
The girl behind the counter was friendly and helpful. She let me brush my hair and touch up my make up - and generally treated me like a human being. Actually it was some of the best customer service I'd received in years. She relaxed me with her manner, didn't rush me and let me somehow got my face to relax.
Third time lucky, though it's no oil painting, I've got a passport shot I can live with.
Now I just have to get myself to a post office to lodge the form, pay the money and hope that my shot comes up to scratch.