July 15, 2024
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July 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I think that there’s something that we all have in common: We don’t like how we look in license photos. In fact, I think they take a horrible picture in the first place so that we’ll be embarrassed to get pulled over. And it’s even worse now that New Jersey no longer allows smiling on licenses. Apparently, it’s because some exaggerated facial expressions mess with the facial recognition software. Up until about a year ago, this wasn’t a problem, but apparently, technology is getting worse. So, no smiling. But frowning is okay. This is because, I guess, people can’t frown as wide as they can smile. You can smile from ear to ear, but you can’t frown from shoulder to shoulder.

This isn’t a huge deal. I always thought it was silly to smile for a license photo anyway. Why would you be smiling on a license? They’re used when the cop pulls you over, and he never pulls you over for a good thing. You want a picture of yourself smiling and taunting the guy?

So, my advice is to take some kind of picture in which you look apologetic; maybe even holding a bouquet of flowers or something.

But smiling is a reflex. We have a minhag nowadays to smile in pictures. We’re always told by professional photographers that we should be saying “cheese,” because when you say cheese, you look like you’re smiling, because pictures don’t have sound. Or thought balloons.

But in the old days, it didn’t occur to anyone to smile in pictures. You look at old black and white pictures and everyone’s all serious—even at your grandfather’s bar mitzvah. It’s like every day that a picture was taken was a funeral.

“This is how many of us are left. Everyone glare at the camera.”

Of course, one reason they didn’t smile is that cameras took forever. Just the film exposure often took 15 minutes or more. Can you hold a smile for 15 minutes? So people would hold a pose that they could comfortably keep for long periods of time. And, as we know, one pose that people can hold for long periods of time is “glaring.”

But nowadays, we smile for pictures. Why? Do we want to remember being happy, whether or not we actually were?

“Hey, remember that day? At the DMV? Good times.”

I think the truth is that we think that we always smile for pictures, which is why we want to smile on our licenses. But it’s not really that we smile for pictures as much as it’s that we mainly take pictures when we’re happy or having fun.

But the DMV knows better. That is why they make you wait on line for most of the day, dealing with various employees who are no happier to be there than you are, and then they snap your picture. “This is what you look like when you’re stressed.”

But they don’t actually say that they want you to look stressed. In fact, what I noticed, while waiting in the third line of the day to get my picture taken, was a sign that said, “When posing for your photo, please use a neutral expression as demonstrated above.” And above that were four pictures of people who looked like they were unsure what to make of the new law.

So I took my first picture, and I didn’t like it. I’d tried to look sorry, but one eye was way more open than the other, and my eyebrows were at two different heights. It looked horrible. Is this how I look when I’m sorry? No wonder my wife won’t drop it.

So I took a second picture, which I didn’t like either. But by then, there was a line building behind me of people who were frankly surprised that there was a line, despite this being their third line of the day. So I asked her to show me my two pictures side by side, so I could choose one, and she said, “I had to erase the first when I took the second.” Like this is something that happens to all cameras, and not just ones from the 1800s that the DMV is using where you have to stand in one place for a long time and you’re not allowed to smile.

So now I’m stuck with the second picture, in which I look like I just woke up. I guess that’s my neutral pose—looking like I just woke up. That’s how I usually look. I’m assuming.

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