A few months ago I bought a new lighter at the grocery store. One of those big, long stemmed ones that keeps you from burning finger tips when lighting candles. Apparently my municipality puts lighters in the same category as cold medicine and spray paint. It’s part of the playground of miscreants.
I got carded.
Well, kind of.
The teenaged punk manning the mother-station of the self check kiosks just waved at me and said not to worry about the “Please See Cashier” notice flashing on my screen. I then overheard him tell his cohort punk that he just puts in random birthdays from 1978 when that comes up. Because anyone born 1978 is pretty old.
*Wait a minute. I was born in 1978.*
My head almost exploded. Then I fought back tears. And I know I will never be able to forget the heart crushing reality of the first time someone called me old. My mom gets pissy about being called ‘mam. I’ve never had much of an issue with this, because I can write it off as regionalisms and good manners, not a slam on perceived age. This kid though, he flat out said, “31 is pretty old.” Bastard.
While I was convalescing on the couch this past Saturday, I spent an unprecedented amount of time watching TV. I flipped though all the channels and watched more than my fair share of Hallmark movies. Then I remembered my beloved HBO In-Demand. Front and center was 17 Again. Score, it is something Matt would never watch.
This morning, while sorting through all the Facebook posts I missed over the weekend, I saw my 16 year old cousin Kat posted a quote from the movie. “You can plunder my dungeon anytime!” She and her high-school herd had also been taking advantage of Zac Efron’s free presence on HBO this weekend. So I commented.
And you know what? She too unintentionally called me old, by calling Efron old. She said, ‘Yeah, he’s a lot older than he looks. He’s like in his mid-twenties.’
And my heart once again stopped beating for a minute. First of all, I totally thought the kid was jail bait. Second, 22 IS NOT mid-twenties. Third, if 22 is old, then what is 32??
I know I am having this theoretical conversation with a 16 year old. I get that, but WTF.
The more I think about it though, the more I have to realize that maybe she is right. I like to pretend that I am still 20 in my head. Living just a toe over on the wild side. Not having to answer to anyone. Flirting my way into college bars with a barely passable ID. Parties that I didn’t always remember the end of. Sleeping until 5pm and then waking to do it all over again.
Now, I go to bed at 9:30pm. I wake before the sun finds it decent to be up. I dress conservatively and wipe butts and smile at the other daycare moms. A wild night is having an hour and a half dinner without interruption and an extended bedtime of 11pm. Which I then pay for the next day.
Am I old?
I cried when I turned 25. I tried to ignore my 30th birthday. Is the lighter punk onto something that I am completely missing? I don’t have wrinkles. I’m a young mother, not the Grandma. I still get carded at the liquor store… but is that because my signature is worn off the back of my debit card?
I guess that is the answer though. I am old enough. I am old enough to have my own life, family and money which has allowed me the ability to pay cash for my purchases via my debit card. Something I didn’t even come close to having at 20, much less 16. And I don’t want go back there. I love my life and the last twelve years that have turned me into a random old age to punch into a cash register when buying controlled substances.
The spiteful part of me just has to remember: Karma is a bitch and in 2025 it will be you standing in a random line being called old by some other teenaged punk making minim wage kid.