The truth about licenses

Oct. 19, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

Drivers’ licenses are like personal ads; they are more of a reflection of the way we would like to be than of the way we are.

I am always taller and thinner on my driver’s license than I am in real life.

I am not a compulsive liar by nature, but I just hate to put down unfavorable information on a document that I am going to have to carry around with me for the next four years, especially since I am often required to show it to strangers, including the hot new barista at the Caribou.

Maybe it is just a matter of wishful thinking.

I suspect that a lot of people stretch the facts when it comes to the vital information on their licenses. We know we should tell the truth, but we justify the fabrication on our renewal forms by telling ourselves that we really are going to go out and lose a few pounds, so the license will be accurate at some point during its term, even if not today.

An informal survey has revealed that many people have their own formula for determining what to put on their driver’s license. Their “published” weight is indexed to their current weight, and is perhaps five or 10 pounds less than their current weight at the time they renew their license.

Some people try to stay (at least on their license) at their ideal weight forever, but in license land, as in real life, this doesn’t always work out.

I remember talking to a woman once who was mildly indignant because the clerk at the department of motor vehicles had increased the weight on the woman’s license by 10 pounds without her approval.

The woman had apparently decided that she was happy with her weight when she was first married, so she never changed the weight listed on her license.

Several years and a few children later, the woman had put on a few pounds, and apparently the clerk at the license bureau decided that this was too much fiction to allow.

The woman was annoyed, even though she admitted that the new weight on her license was still less than what she actually weighed.

In addition to the vital information, drivers’ licenses include that most notorious of images, the driver’s license photo.

Men and women view these photos in very different ways.

To a woman, a driver’s license, like everything else she owns, is a fashion statement.

The first thing a woman does when she get’s a new driver’s licence is to compare it to her previous one.

This isn’t just a quick glance, mind you. It is a thorough examination. She will compare her hair style, her wardrobe, the quality of her tan, and do a close inspection to determine if any new beauty lines have appeared on her face.

This applies to women of all ages. Women are always concerned about how old they look in one photo compared to another.

Women might agonize over the fact that they look “puffier” in one photo than they did the time before.

You will never hear a man stressing over a whether he looks “puffier” in a photo, even if he does. We don’t understand what that even means.

One would hesitate to use the word “obsessive,” but a woman will even whip out her license at parties when she gets a new one, and show friends or even complete strangers her license photo. She will explain the photo’s shortcomings, and why it really doesn’t look like her.

In short, women care a lot more about their drivers’ license photos than men do.

If women ran the world, drivers’ license photos would be handled by Glamour Shots, or at least by a competent professional photography studio, rather than being left to the whims of the DMV.

If women were in charge, drivers’ license photos would be taken with professional studio lighting, not under the harsh, sterile glow of government-issued fluorescent tubes.

Instead of getting one shot and being forced to live with it, women would insist on a series of proofs in various poses, and would have the opportunity to select the one that they liked best.

Now that we have digital photography, women might even hold out for the right to do some minor photo editing to fix any unflattering details that the camera might reveal.

The government has found a way to make money by selling “vanity” license plates, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see “vanity” drivers’ licenses in the future. They would come in a variety of designer colors and have a range of photo options to fit the needs of the discriminating motorist.

Credit card companies have already figured out the benefits of personalization, and it seems likely that it will only be a matter of time before the government follows.