A Letter to the Teenage Grocery Store Clerk Who Did Not Card Me

by Keenan McGrath
Originally Published: 


Dear Teenage Grocery Store Clerk,

I think we need a little etiquette lesson, my friend.

I had just loaded my Bota boxes of wine onto the conveyer belt and was reaching into my bag to find my ID when you hit that little button, and the screen read: Cashier Has Bypassed Age Validation.

Translation: You look old.

According to the posted signs, the store requires identification when buying alcohol for anyone under 30 years of age. So from your 16-year-old perspective, I look to be in my thirties. This cannot be true—you must be in need of an eye examination.

You need to take a cue from your older coworkers. All cashiers in their golden years sweetly ask for proof of age, knowing full well that I have earned every drop of that wine by law and by life.

Not you, you smug little shit. You see the dark puffy eyes from a night sleeping with a toddler, the harassed look on my face from trying to talk my 5-year-old away from that horrible candy stand in front of the register, the diaper I have fished out of my purse-turned-diaper-bag in search of my wallet. You could think, this lady is in a grocery store with two young kids buying three boxes of wine on a Tuesday. Let’s cut her some slack and make her think she doesn’t look as bad as she feels. Instead, your smart ass thinks, let’s get this crazy old hag through the line as quickly as possible. Why has she let this happen to herself?

Look here, you teenage brat with your good metabolism and your full head of hair and your whole life ahead of you. Don’t you dare look at me with that expression of pity and fear and morbid fascination at the train wreck you imagine my life to be. I know exactly what I look like in my sweaty gym clothes, hair falling out of my ponytail, screaming at two urchins covered in crumbs from the free cookie box they just raided. Consider me the Ghost of Christmas Future, Tiny Tim, because these are shades of things to come. I was once a fresh-faced kid with the world at my fingertips, and I’m pretty sure that was like three weeks ago, so I’m not clear how I found myself in this grocery line or whose kids these are that keep calling me “Mommy!”

You don’t get to decide how old I look. I’m sure I don’t look a day over 28 and haven’t for a few years now. It’s clear I’m not 21, but maybe I can pass for under 30. I mean, throw an old bitch a bone! I know that it is probably ridiculous to expect to look like a twentysomething for the rest of my life, but right now while I’m still on the verge of youth, I’d just like a little recognition of the fact that I am trying to keep myself together.

But regardless of my personal flexible timeline, people who don’t even look old enough to drive are not accurately able to estimate the age of adults. If you consider Friends episodes to be retro TV, you’re clearly not playing with the same deck as the rest of us, and since you need us old folks for funding, transportation and most everything else, perhaps you’d like to reconsider what 30 looks like.

Of course, I may act annoyed at having to pry the little piece of plastic from my overstuffed wallet. I may roll my eyes and click my tongue at the inconvenience, but that’s all for show. Secretly I am thrilled to death to think that: one, my grey roots must not have grown out as much as I thought; two, the expense of all my anti-aging cosmetics is justifiable; and three, there’s a chance I’m only babysitting these mongrels and their real mother is coming to get them soon!

You will find, P.Y.T., all it takes to make a thirtysomething happy is to feed their twentysomething fantasy.

So, from now on, just card me!


Every Woman Age 28–40

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