Public Shame by Photo I.D.

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Public Shame by Photo I.D.

Julie Heng, Staff Writer

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As I hear the telltale shrieking of the I.D. card machine printing, I cross my fingers, cross my toes, and even cross my arms behind my back. But yet again, another year, to no avail.

I don’t even need to look to know I am now the not-so-proud owner of (drumroll please) yet another horrific school I.D. But I do look, and unsurprisingly, it’s worse than I expected. It takes all my willpower not to vomit on my own shoes right then and there.

“Could I retake this?” I ask the photographer. “It doesn’t even look like me.”

“Keep moving,” she says, not even looking at me.

Okay. Well, I’m sorry. I understand that you’re doing your job, and that taking pictures for hundreds of high schoolers isn’t the most appealing way to spend one of those precious end-of-summer days, but it’s not necessary to, first, prohibit your subject from approving their likeness before printing said terrifying likeness and, second, act as if you’re doing them a favor by taking the picture in the first place.

I suppose it’s difficult to recognize how self-centered we are as teenagers nowadays, hyper-conscious of each minute detail of ourselves before posting a selfie or cringing audibly every single time we’re spotted blinking in a group picture (which, for the record, is a lot, so kudos to Murphy’s Law). Our image is an important part of our character, especially in this day and age, where social media is so pervasive that the school’s administration feels a need to stop impending Snapchat lawsuits from angry parents. For many teenagers, photographs can convey an impression even when no face-to-face contact occurs. Photos can be the only impression of us given to a person we may not encounter for a long time. You may never come across a friend in the halls, but might message them your life in pictures.

In that way, having these school I.D.s that attack our well-being on many fronts makes us even more self-conscious of our incapabilities. If looking into a mirror sadly every day wasn’t enough, now I have to tolerate watching people compare my face to this tiny caricature every time I go to an official function. They always laugh at the cartoonish circles around my eyes, squeal at the imaginary tan lines tracing my face. Pictures are first impressions, testaments to our character in a world where looks are often more important than even the first words out our mouths. I can’t help but think that I was already hiding a million selfish insecurities, and now my literal cover is blown, exposing raw flesh to a cold world.

What am I asking for? Well, I suppose I’d like to be able to see my photo before being shuffled off in a line to the slaughterhouse. We deserve to choose the cause of our own humiliation. We deserve to at least see our pictures before they are set to our names. We already might worry all day about outfits and hair and makeup. Knowing that, years from now, we will all be immortalized in yearbook pictures that do nothing for our crippling self-esteem, with a midlife crisis to boot? I’d rather end it all right here.

Just as the photographer was handing me my photo I.D., I heard someone nearby complain that they literally blended into the background, and another claim they turned out looking like a pedophile. “If you squint and hold it two feet from your face,” a nearby friend offered helpfully, “it might actually pass for you.”

The next student in line shoots me a worried look before sitting stiffly on the stool for her own photo. Her fake smile doesn’t betray the fear in her eyes. She clearly doesn’t wish to see her face printed out with the contrast setting turned from “Natural Lighting” all the way up to “Absolute Polychromatic.” And I definitely relate.