Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Best pic was ‘left’ at the DMV

May 8, 2014

There’s reportedly a young woman in Great Britain who has the world’s most perfectly symmetrical face. The rest of us fall short of her blue-eyed, blonde, mathematical perfection.

For me, the left side of my face is better, something I’ve learned from years of being on TV cameras and, recently, of taking selfies. I’ve seen photos taken from my other side; there, my face manages to somehow be both bulbous and wrinkly, a situation I’ve learned to control by going through life with my head tilted slightly to the right.

And so, I was leading with my good left when I walked into the driver’s license bureau this week. Every fourth birthday necessitates a visit and a photo. I always dread the photo part: You’re always stuck with that picture for a long time. And the DMV camera booth is not known for its flattering lighting.

Still, I was happy to be getting rid of the old license. That photo was taken a year after chemotherapy, when my hair was just growing back. I was scowling, and sporting an inch-high thatch of scrubby curls I’d bleached the heck out of. Why? I can’t remember, but in May 2010, it apparently seemed like a fashionable choice.

A lot changes in four years. My hair is shoulder-length now, straight and nicely highlighted. Confident that my left side was cute enough, I took a number and sat down to wait my turn.

“Eighty-two,” said the clerk, and I walked to the desk to begin my photo shoot.

“Have a seat and look at the white dot,” she said. “You can smile if you want.”

They say you’re supposed to put your tongue behind your teeth when you smile for a photo, and so I did that. I smoothed my hair one last time, moved my chin to the right about 22 degrees and …

“Look straight forward,” she said.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, and squared my chin to the white dot.

And right before she clicked, I sneakily tipped my chin to the right. My faboo left side was going to show up on this license, even if I had to sneak it in.

“You’re tilting again,” she said.

“I look better a little off center,” I said.

“One more time, straight forward,” she said. And before I could object, she snapped the photo.

The DMV workers must wrangle with this all day. Cellphones allow all of us to be as photo-vain as we want. The thing about digital photography – and all those selfies –is that now we all know exactly what we look like. Back when we had to buy film and pay for every shot, none of us really knew.

And by now, we’ve seen a gazillion red carpet photos. Celebrities always turn to the side. The unfortunate head-on shots appear on the covers of supermarket tabloids, under the heading “Stars Having Bad Days.”

The woman with the perfect face is named Florence Colgate. You can look her up. Her driver’s license photo must be something to see.

Mine looks like the mug shot of someone who lost her license because of multiple criminal offenses years ago. In all my full-frontal-facial glory, I look like Deputy Dawg.

And the worst part is, I have to look at it for four years.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



blog comments powered by Disqus