Photos d’identité

mug shots

‘La photo d’identité’ or passport picture used to be something of a French specialty. They were de rigueur for just about everything — joining a club, getting a bus pass, starting school or applying for a job. There were automated photo booths in every supermarket and photographers’ shops on all the main strips did a booming trade in portraits.

In various wallets, purse pockets and drawers around my house is a jumble of old ID photos. These records of past lives capture moments, years, entire eras since I first arrived in France back in 1986.

Now you can get them done online and print them yourself. Although I’m not sure this is good enough for official passport purposes.

Like any good French wife and mother I always carried a few photos around as mementos and to be prepared if anyone asked about my family.

This collection documents most of my daughter’s journey from pre-school to young adulthood. The first one cracks me up. That expression! She wasn’t going to take any guff.

She briefly morphed into a mini-me when some well-intentioned professional recommended glasses to ensure she missed not a single letter of the vital early reading years. It was just after that that she rejected all efforts (mostly Belle-mère’s) to give her that cute little B-C-B-G look (bon chic, bon genre, a French version of the well-heeled chic). She grew her hair and became a tomboy par excellence before transforming into a beautiful young woman. More recent photos even show her smiling!

There are fewer ID photos of my son. This may be because he was in constant motion, especially in the early years. One teacher dubbed him ‘Zébulon’, a French cartoon character on a spring who simply can’t stay still. (If you’re interested, he shows up in the video below at about 20 seconds in.)

Husband matured from handsome young man to handsome older man. As he is still my junior by several years, he will always have youth over me. Although possibly not hair.

I am not sharing any recent ID photos. Since they changed the rules in line with the biometric passport, and you are no longer allowed to smile or even form your facial muscles into the semblance of an expression, I will spare you my slack-jawed mug shot.

But I’ll keep the collection for my memory box.

Do you keep a collection of ID photos?

Et/ou Madame

 

We get a lot of mail addressed to Monsieur ______ et/ou Madame.

I never thought of myself as an ‘and/or’ before I moved to France.

I kept my name when we got married, and this has mostly stuck. Although the French do have their own rules when it comes to names and married couples. Essentially you can do as you like but your spouse’s name will be used as the default when it comes to things like family, healthcare and taxes. Alternatively they will address you in full including both surnames and all given and middle names.

My husband’s family name, which for reasons of privacy I keep out of this blog, is not an easy one. Beau-père always joked that had it been Rothschild, I would have changed it. I think not.

Identity has always been extremely important to me. I yam what I yam, as Popeye the sailor man said. I don’t mind if you hate me. Just don’t ignore me.

But as a middle-aged woman, especially one with short hair and glasses, I find myself increasingly invisible. At the market, on the street, in public places. This will not do, so I stamp my foot and roll my accent around the r’s for effect. Usually once I open my mouth I get attention. Sometimes more than I bargain for.

When I saw the trailer for the film, Madame,  I knew I had to see it. I love Rossy de Palma, and the story of the maid who is invited to make up the numbers at the chi-chi Paris dinner party hosted by an American couple just resonates with me. She’s a woman who goes from being invisible (is there anyone less visible than a maid?) to standing out a bit more than she – or others – are comfortable with.

It’s just come out in France, although I see it was already released in Australia back in August. Maybe someone who understands international film distribution can explain that to me.

How about you: have you ever felt invisible?