Dear well-meaning woman at the DMV,
It all started so well last Friday morning. You called my number and I hoisted my 6-month-old baby boy on my hip while balancing a purse and a coffee mug so clumsily. I just knew we should've brought the stroller in with us, but we didn't. You see, my husband Eric and I came together to renew our Idaho driver's licenses together, as they expired on the same day, and we figured one of us could hold Arlo while the other filled out paperwork and got a new photo, but, sigh, we were wrong.
Eight years ago we had just moved to Boise from Minneapolis. We'd left little 2-year-old Lucy at my mom's house where we were living in her front driveway in her camp trailer while searching for a new home. It was our sixth wedding anniversary and a hot summer day; my hair was shorter and less silver. I was wearing a cute striped tank top I'd got for a screamin' deal at Old Navy. My license photo was, dare I say, cute. After pouring over the Idaho drivers’ manual the night before, I'd just passed the written exam. Whew.
This morning Eric and I stared down at these old licenses we were about to surrender to you with delightful nostalgia. Look at these young kids, we said. So much life lived since then—different jobs, many more babies, a new home.
Not only did we look different—younger—I also looked back at this 30-year-old girl with fondness. She was about to get so much stronger than she ever imagined. Which is why, dear lady, when you asked if all the information on my driver’s license was the same, I laughed. Everything is different, I thought. But I said, No, my address is no longer my mother's driveway. It's a house, an important sanctuary I call home. Done, you said. Easy enough. Anything else?
Yes, my hair is no longer brown, obviously, I laughed. Looking at my side-swept silver locks with bright red highlights and back to the wee baby in my arms you seemed confused. Well, what are my other options? I asked. Sandy, red, white, gray……
Gray. My choice.
You eyed me conspicuously. Ummmmmm, okay. Anything else?
Yes. I have not weighed 140 pounds since I first got this license when I was 16 years old. I now weigh 226. No one has ever changed it. I'd like to change it.
You furrowed your brow and would not look up at me. I knew all these proclamations made you uncomfortable and I know you were trying to help, really. No, no, we can just put, how about, 180?
200? I countered.
You changed the subject to sweet Arlo and suggested I hold him down low, at my waist, so his head wouldn't be in the photo. I got to see the image on the screen, not a cute girl anymore, but a wise woman, nearly 40, with a double-chin. You filled out my paperwork for me, as my jiggling arms were full of motherhood and confusion and you cooed.
I didn't have the energy to fight the fight this time. Your 'helpfulness' (lying about my weight) did not really help me, though. In fact, it made me feel bad and shameful when I'm really proud and happy to now weigh 226 pounds.
Twenty-two years ago that 16-year-old girl would've never seen this day coming. But she'd be so proud of the big mama I've become. So, eight years from now in 2022 when I renew my driver's license again, maybe you'll listen to me. Maybe I'll speak louder, stronger and demand the 226.