Has Anybody Seen My Lost Looks?

Jenny Allen
Photograph: Martin Timmerman

Tempus fugit, baby. And how. Oh, the cruelty of passport renewal.

The last time they took your two-by-two-inch photo, back in the day, you were OK-looking, even in that ghoulish post office fluorescence. You didn’t think you looked OK at the time, but it turns out you were incorrect.

You should have appreciated the medium-attractive looks you had. Standard rather than “interesting,” but, you know, so what? You could have taken pleasure in them! You could have used them to get people to sleep with you and buy you things!

Particularly in light of recent events. Recent events being that your looks seem to have gone away. Just straight down the toity.

This time when they took your passport picture—oy. When you playfully placed it next to your old photo, it was like . . . like what? Like something you can’t quite remember. Oh no, oh god, you’ve got it now. You know those before and after pictures of crystal meth addicts? How they looked before they started snorting crystal meth (attractive) and after (ruined)? And you thought, lord in heaven, these poor people are so far gone they don’t see what’s happened to them! That is so sad!

But that is what your two passport pictures look like. Before and after. Of course, the “after” is not as bad as the crystal meth people, but it is more like than not. All you would need to do is not wash your hair for two weeks and you would look exactly alike.

You just didn’t see that things had gotten to this point. You knew, but you didn’t know. You weren’t thinking enough about why Hispanic people now call you mami, and why the only men who flirt with you are very drunk and live in subway tunnels.

You used to have gums between the tops of your teeth but now your gums are retreating—like the tide, only never to return. Now you have gums only above your upper teeth and below your lower teeth, but in between your teeth is empty space. That’s why you are so often getting a sesame seed stuck there. In order to dislodge the seed, you have to shoot some air through that space, directing the air with your tongue. And then the seed is out, but it’s usually on someone’s sport coat lapel or fresh white blouse, and you have to flick it off while you both pretend not to be dismayed.

You have so many flossing regrets.

Also, the front of your hair is missing. Like your gums, your hairline is ebbing. If this trend continues, by next Tuesday you are going to look like George Washington or Queen Victoria. If it continues further, you will be an old lady whose remaining hair can be rolled onto one roller, and the girl at the salon will have to spend an hour fluffing out the wisps. You will look like a dandelion going to seed.

Absent too, now, is your chin line. Your chin used to join your neck via a horizontal line to your throat. Now, instead, that line goes straight down from your chin to the two little bony knobs at the base of your neck. You have the profile of a bullfrog.

When did your lips turn the same color as your face? When did it happen that you had to paint your lips with lipstick so it looks like you have any?

All the contours of your face are getting blurrier, out of focus. You had sort of counted on getting into sharper focus as you got older so that you would be all lines, in a good way: cheekbones, jawline. A Myrna Loy type. Now you see you are going to be more of a Shirley Booth type. A doughy type. A puffy type. A type that looks like she drinks too much, even if you gave it up. Why did you give it up if you’re going to look like this anyway?

For that matter, if you’re going to look like this anyway, you could have been taking drugs all these years and walking around in a total, fantastic, irresponsible stupor. You could have not filed your taxes, slept until three o’clock, ordered in. You could have tossed the dirty cat food cans right into the regular trash instead of rinsing them out—instead of having to touch those stubborn pieces of disgusting cat food that cling to the side of the can—and placing them in the recycling bin. You could have not signed up for trick-or-treaters at your door on Halloween.

My god, you could have skipped Curriculum Night. No, no, mustn’t dwell on the might-have-beens. That way lies self-pity.

Share Your Thoughts!


therese paget03.21.2011

i went through a lot of steps signing up to be a member of MORE'S community in order to make a comment on this article. i STILL have tears streaming down my face from laughter...ridiculously insightful and hysterically funny. i had not known of jenny allen before stumbling upon this piece. i asked my hairdresser's approval to tear it out of the magazine in order to share it with my sister. as anticipated, we were choking with laughter throughout the reading....jenny allen you are incredibly talented and i/we intend to follow you. thank you for the laughs and the smiles.

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