I don't understand how I got this reputation as an exaggerator.
Even my own mother seems to think I blow things out of proportion. Can you believe it? You'd think I claimed to have a broken neck when I slept on it wrong. Or that my head exploded when I experienced slight tooth discomfort upon biting into a caramelized onion burger at the casino. Or that mouse turds flowed from my bathroom light/exhaust fan like an indoor Angel Falls. Huh. I guess I'll just have to get to the bottom of this character-assassination conspiracy one of these days.
When I told Mom that my driver's license photo made me look like Twain's description of Injun Joe, she kind of glossed over it. "Oh, honey. I'm sure it will look better when you get your license in the mail." A regular Pollyanna is she. Never has a bad word to say about anyone. People are always coming up to me and telling me that my mom is one in a million. Such a sweet lady. They just love her. If she was on Facebook, she would have eleventy-billion friends.
Friday afternoon, Mom met me on the Walmart parking lot to pick up The Pony for a sleepover. I motioned for her to climb into the Tahoe. The passenger seat was available, you know. Because The Pony insists on riding in the seat behind me. "Hey! I thought you might want to see my picture that's going to be on my driver's license for the next six years." I held up the paper, folded over, as I prepared her. "Now remember, this is your sweet baby girl. Your firstborn child. The one who's having a birthday next week. Remember those pictures from when I was little? The white hightop corrective shoes? The topknot of hair you made into a curl and tied up with a ribbon? The innocent toddler the camera loved? THAT'S NOT ME ANYMORE!" I thrust the picture under her nose.
"OH! Val..." She recoiled. I think I saw her suppress a retch. There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Uh...I thought you were exaggerating. But...that's TERRIBLE! It doesn't even look like you."
"Thank goodness. I tried to tell you."
"I've never seen anything like that!"
"Thanks. I'm a monster."
"I wouldn't even claim you."
"Your baby girl!"
"I would never have believed it was as bad as you said."
"Now you know."
"To look at that makes me think you've been on an all-night drinking binge." Let the record show that Val has been a teetotaler since May 29, 1992. Not that anybody's counting.
"Your sweet baby girl!"
"It's just that look on your face...You look twice as old as you are!" Which would make me older than my septuagenarian mother.
"This is terrible."
"It IS! I just can't believe how bad it is."
"Thanks, Mom. You're really making me feel better."
"I'd take that back and say, 'These are the comments I've been getting...'"
"They would laugh me out of that place. Especially after looking at the picture."
"Well, I'd tell them, 'I went to cash a check, and they wouldn't do it because they didn't think that was my picture!'"
"What if I go to the doctor, and they won't treat me because they think I'm committing insurance fraud?"
"They will have to do something. This is not right."
"You were kind of quiet when I first showed you."
"I think I was speechless."
"Maybe this will bring it back to you." I held up the paper, ready to expose the picture again.
"NO! I hope I don't have nightmares tonight."
"What is it? People open up a cross or something to keep things from attacking?"
"You mean vampires?"
"I know! I'll say I lost it. Then I'll go in, and pay for a new one, and get a new picture! I can't wait until my license gets here so I can 'lose' it. It wouldn't do to go in there and say I lost it before they even mailed it!"
"Oh, honey. Do you want me to call over there and ask if they'll take a new picture? I'll tell them I didn't even recognize you."
"No. Then they'll know it's me when I go in. They'll make it bad again. But not worse. That would be impossible."
"Something has to be done."
"I know. Your sweet baby girl..."
"Don't show me that picture again!"
Yeah. Even my angelic mother was bagging on my license likeness. It's THAT bad. I went to bed in good spirits Friday night. The solution all planned out. The loss of license. New photo. Then I woke up. And realized the license office would most likely just charge me a fee, and PRINT THE PICTURE ON FILE IN THEIR FACIAL RECOGNITION SOFTWARE.
Woe is me. And woeful is my photo.