Shannon Bardwell: Photograph phobia


Shannon Bardwell



"Ma''am I''d like to up my weight by a few pounds. That''s the weight I was when I got my learner''s permit. I''ve been meaning to change it for about 40 years, but I''m just now getting around to it."


The nice lady at the Division of Motor Vehicles stared for a minute then chuckled.


"If ever I turned up missing and they made those flyers," I continued, "I should probably look something like my description."



She asked the man in front of me if his weight or height had changed, but she didn''t ask me. I''m thinking they don''t ask middle-aged ladies, "Honey, you want to up that weight amount?" No siree, if you want your license to say you weigh 98 pounds, then they''re not going to say one word about it.


I try to take the best picture possible so I pick out my outfit even though only 2 centimeters shows at the neckline. I''ve wondered what they would do if you flipped your hair back like the "Breck girl" and pouted your lips like Angelina Jolie. All the younger generation flashes photogenic smiles like they are posing for the paparazzi. I just stand there and look nervous. That day I decided I might be a little overdressed in my smart black sweater, silver beads and charm bracelet. The young man behind me had five nose rings.


My history with photographs is not a pretty one. My momma said my senior portraits were terrible. Sam says old photographs don''t look like me, but it could have been the perm. I think the last time I took a cute picture I was wishing for my two front teeth.


When we started this column the editor asked me to come by for a photograph. I said, "I have one. I''ll send it to you." I received an e-mail: "That photo looks a little freakish, come by the office."


Kelly Tippett led me into the cavernous Dispatch office where there''s a studio with an Olan Mills looking backdrop and a camera that looked like Ansel Adams might have used it. I got nervous and the black box went poof, poof every time Kelly squeezed a bulb thing; then it broke.


So we walked across the street with me prattling about my poor picture-taking performance. Kelly made me laugh and I relaxed. I think he took about 300 pictures. The DMV won''t take 300 pictures or make you laugh.


"Stand against the blue board, your head on the X," the lady directed then she clicked, paused and frowned.


"Mrs. Bardwell, step back; this time lift your chin." She took another and handed me the license.


"Ma''am, you think I can get one of these in a 5-by-7, maybe some wallet size?"


Now I''d be pleased as puddin'' to whip out my driver''s license, but nobody''s asking.



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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