“You’ll have to wait longer,” says the pretty little chicklet behind the Motor Vehicle counter, eyeing me warily. “Homeland Security red-flagged you. I gotta get my supervisor.” She takes a vague offhand look around the crowded room.
Now, I know that Husband, Son #1, Girlfriend of Son #1, and Son #2 all consider me a holy terror on occasion. Father, Mother, and Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 probably do, too. I didn’t know that word of my infamy had reached Big Brother.
“Excuse me?” I ask, in what I hope is a casual non-terrorizing tone. “Homeland Security red-flagged me for . . . what?”
“It’s your new ID photo,” she says, snapping her gum, squinting her eyes and holding the old license aloft to compare it to my real self. “Their computer can’t match it to your picture from before. They say it’s not the same person. I gotta get my supervisor.”
She trots off, leaving me to consider the ravages of time.
The old license was valid for a term of fifteen years. It featured one of the few good photos ever taken of me; I’d already been in mourning at having to replace it.
The rapid course of fifteen years — even in the dangerous currents of middle age – shouldn’t be enough to drown out the essentials of identity. Yes, my hair is short now and comes in a variety of different colors, depending upon whim and whatever is on sale at the drugstore. Yes, I wear bifocals instead of contact lenses. Yes, there’s a fine filigree of lines and wrinkles on my face, and my neck slopes gently down into what will become a turkey wattle.
But the eyes behind the progressive lenses haven’t changed (at least insofar as how they look; how they look at things and focus is another story). My grandmother’s chin is still there. The smile, even when somewhat forced, is still the same. I may not be my old self anymore, but I’m not yet the old self I’ll see one day in the mirror.
And I can always re-invent myself. Husband just caught me studying a Google search screen full of top-heavy fake-breasted women. I hasten to explain that I’m doing research. He casts his eyes at the screen and then at my modest bosoms (my Grammy always called them bosoms), eyebrows arched in a question. “Research for my blog,” I say, “not for my person.” To his credit, he seems relieved.
Whereas a new haircut can always change my life for the better (despite Homeland Security targeting), I really doubt that fake boobs would.
But consider Lacey Wildd, whose goal it is to have the largest breasts in the world. She has undergone countless surgeries and is now up to/out to an LLL cup. To harness up all that silicon, plastic surgeons actually had to create an internal body sling made of pigskin and her own muscles.
Lacey’s in the news because she wants to go bigger, but can’t find a doctor willing to help enlarge her horizons.
This before shot of Lacey was floating in the flotsam and jetsam of the over- inflated after ones bobbing around online. Wouldn’t this woman be a whole lot easier to maneuver into bed? Is there really any fun in fondling heavy globs of chemical Jello sewn under someone’s skin? Are men really that shallow?
We’ll let that be a rhetorical question.
We won’t question Lacey’s motives too carefully, either. I suspect I’m safe in assuming that she’s not out to make an ironic point (or two), willing to make a caricature of herself for the sake of busting our ludicrous collective obsession with appearance.
My eccentric and rather intimidating Aunt Joan (her brothers still pronounce her name “Choan,” always shaking their heads and smiling) decided at age 40 or so that she wanted big breasts and straight teeth. She stuck braces in her mouth and some early-1970’s hard plastic grapefruit halves on her chest, and, by God, she was happy. She always did things her way (segue here to Frank Sinatra).
Joan was beautiful, in her brusque burlesque way. After college, she ran off to New York City to become a model, caught up in the beatnik Breakfast at Tiffany’s intoxication of the 1950’s. She wound up marrying a Painter (capital letter hers), spent summers with him in Mexico, and once smuggled an ocelot kitten over the border in her pocketbook on the way back to the States.
I can still see that ocelot sitting atop my grandmother’s refrigerator, hissing down upon us on one otherwise Norman Rockwell-esque Thanksgiving morning. I was little, unable to interpret the undercurrents such seemingly sophisticated foreign things presented – strange bohemian NYC long-haired artists sitting at conservative traditional New England family holiday tables with larger-than-life renegade aunts and snarling wild animals. I do remember that my grandfather refused to carve the turkey until that growling ocelot was hauled away to stay at the local vet (and, yes, Aunt Joan would have been able to charm said vet into opening his office just for her on a major holiday).
Joan painted herself in bold abstract strokes of color. I wonder if her husband ever did? She’d swoop in for Christmas and tell us kids that a big truck would arrive with our present one day soon — it might be a puppy, or something else far too fabulous to imagine. We’d discount the thoughtful gifts my parents had taken pains to get for us and sit for weeks after the holiday, forlornly watching the road for the Aunt Joan extravagance that never came. It was cruel.
She never changed her tactics, either. Dying of lung cancer, she called me out of the blue one black night. “Missy!” she said, in her low gravely voice. “This is your dowager Aunt Joan.” We’d never talked on the phone, but wound up having a wide-ranging conversation. She promised solemnly that, since I was her very favorite niece, I would inherit all her jewelry.
I sat for weeks after her death forlornly watching the road for that final never-arriving present.
Not really. I was pleased, somehow, that she stayed absolutely true to herself and her thoughtless promises until the end.
She was also known for thoughtless cruelties (and I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt, here, in choosing “less” as my suffix rather than “ful”). On one of her infrequent visits, when she herself has developed a turkey neck, Aunt Joan stops theatrically before a mirror and says to my mother, “Isn’t it a goddamned shame, what time does to our appearance?”
Mother, who can take only so much of this sister-in-law, says with a shrug that it doesn’t matter much as long as we stay strong and healthy.
“Ah, but it’s harder for the beautiful women,” says Joan.
At 75, hospitalized and near death, Joan issues my Father an ultimatum forbidding his telling her partner of many years that her boobs are fake. She’s been advised to have them removed, since old leaking silicon isn’t doing her dying lungs any favors. But she can’t bear to part with them or to disillusion her boyfriend; such things are harder for the beautiful women.
The rest of us have an easier time with mirrors and photos and with Homeland Security scrutiny. The DMV supervisor took one look at me and my old license, rolled his eyes at the chicklet, apologized for the inconvenience, and pushed the OK button.
My new license is only good for five years. With luck, and if I don’t go in for new boobs, Big Brother might still be able to recognize me then.