I am in line at the grocery store after successfully navigating all of the aisles for the 6 things I needed to gather for that evening’s dinner. I say 6, and by 6 I mean 10, which is 9 away from the 19 that my seven-year-old son Wally guessed I would end up with when I told him my very small list included only 6 items and could he and his sister please just stay with me without tears or begging or the general shenanigans and tomfoolery the mix of two children and a grocery cart always offers. If they could stay with me for these 6 (10) items and have just above moderate behavior, I had promised 30 minutes of device time when we returned home. Sure, they both agreed. And I believed them. Who wouldn’t?

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-19-24-pmFinally at checkout, they border on below moderate by touching every candy bar at eye level while we wait for the 2 people in front of us, approaching beg behavior at the sight of all of that grab-able bright colored goodness that somehow would be better than the 300 pieces of candy we have left over from Halloween a few weeks ago. Wally tries to convince me of the merits of a King Size Kit Kat by reminding me that it is his daddy’s favorite and could I please, please just get it when he is interrupted by the cashier’s bored, “Do you have your card?” I pull myself out of the conversation I had somehow been sucked into by Mr. 4-Foot-Tall Relentless who has never once convinced me to buy candy but somehow manages to engage me in a discussion. Every. Time.

The cashier starts ringing through my 6 (10) items and finally gets to the 12 pack of Goose Island beer. “ID?” she asks.

I hold up my wallet. I am 35, and used to the question. I went through several years of not being carded between 28 and 33, when a newborn, dark circles, and the inevitable gray hairs that come after 4 years of being a president or mom started to grow in. Then, though, my eyes became tired from midnights and 2 AM wake ups spent passing the time reading by as low of light as humanly possible to both see words and put an upset child to sleep. So one glorious day, I got glasses.

A few grocery trips later I discovered another benefit (besides seeing without pain) that the glasses offered—I was suddenly carded left and right. The first few times it happened, I found myself to be the embarrassing old lady who is so so flattered at the question. “You made my day!” I’d squee, too loudly, and the cashier, and everyone in line behind me, and everyone across the store, and everyone in the parking lot would blush on my behalf. It seems glasses both helped me see and, considering they have to card anyone who looks under 35, look my age again. Because I am, for one more year at least, a cardable age. So card me, dammit!

So here I stand, holding my ID out to the cashier, who squints at it between glances up at me. “Do you need me to take it out so you can read it better?” I ask, imagining she needs access to numbers to type in and move us along. I swat at my daughter Vivvi, who, meanwhile, is taking one of each kind of candy out and seeing if she can jam them back into the right spot, likely breaking most of them in half.

The cashier eyes me suspiciously, “No,” she says.

I scold Wally for taking our empty reusable grocery bag off the conveyer and putting it over his head. “What then?” I ask.

“This doesn’t look like you,” she says. And she glances back and forth between the photo ID and me.

I look at the photo, and choke on everything I want to say. Let’s run the scenarios here. My son just turned 7. If I am not old enough to buy this beer, I am at the oldest 20 years old. This means I had him when I was around 13 or 14 years old. At that age, I was my worst-looking self—as tall as I am now, but 30 pounds lighter, I looked like a sack of gangly bones with braces and a huge pimply forehead. My mom had allowed me to get a perm at around 11, so I had gorgeous curly hair. That one time. The perm stayed while my straight hair grew out, leaving me half straight on top, half curly on the bottom. My solution was to shower every morning, and then pull my wet hair into a half pony, serving the dual purpose of making my pulled back wet hair look constantly greasy and revealing my giant pimply forehead. Oh, but I left out the bangs! Feathered up bangs were in back in the early 90s. But no one showed me how to do this look—every morning I took the logical approach and held my bangs in an upward wave position and sprayed half a can of hair spray at it. It would look acceptable in the mirror, and then freeze into a solid rocky clump by the time I got to school. At home after school, when I wasn’t praying for boobs, I was crying because Animaniacs was over and I wasn’t sure how I would make it through the rest of the boring evening in my neighborhood with no other children in the middle of miles of cornfields. In other words, this 14-year-old was not getting any action. Nor was she getting action, having a baby, and proceeding to do the same again 2.5 years later to produce the other of these two whirling, swirling jamokes. So no, I am not an underage mother of these two.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-20-12-pmAnd scenario two? That I am a crazy (underaged) person who decided the best way to score some beer would be to rent or borrow two children who shenanigan and tomfoolery their way through a grocery store and touch every candy in the very grab-able boxes and put reusable grocery bags on their heads. And if that is the case, shouldn’t I be filling my cart to overflowing with something more worthwhile than a measly 12 pack of beer? To make the torture that is bringing two kids to the grocery store worth it—I assure you, there is not enough tequila in the store.

No, suspicious grocery store lady. This tired looking mama doesn’t match her picture because hair dye. Because glasses. Because 10 unshakable pounds post having these two tazmanian devils over here who are using this distraction opportunity to see who can poke the other the hardest in the ear hole. I am this close to the age where you don’t have to card me anymore. In fact, I am at the age where, if my pimply 14-year-old self did get some action and have a baby, that baby would currently be TWENTY-ONE AND LEGALLY ABLE TO PURCHASE THIS BEER RIGHT NOW.

Instead of saying these things, I shrug. “It’s me,” I say.

She reluctantly rings me up, and I leave the store with my (10) items that were almost 9, my kids circling my cart like a sharknado.

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