Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Can I see some I.D., please?"

They're really over-zealous about I.D.-ing people purchasing alcohol in the States.  When I want a glass of wine in a US restaurant, I feel like I'm doing something really taboo, or committing a crime.  My mom is a senior citizen, like, officially.  Last year, when we bought a bottle of Moet for my dad's birthday at Target, my mom was I.D.-ed by the spotty teenage cashier.  I thought it was hilarious, but my mother was annoyed.  "Young man," she said, her voice rising with anger.  "This is RIDICULOUS.  My daughter here is older than you.  In fact, in this day and age, what, with all these teen pregnancies, she could be your mother." Ok, ok mom, jeez!  Sometimes she goes too far.  Anyways the boy was not interested.  Apparently my mom looked under the age of 21.  "Sorry ma'am," he replied, bored.  "Store policy." 

Ok, so I understand why I would be carded in the US - I look pretty young for my age.  Pretty young = teenager.  But in the UK, where the drinking age is 18, I get pretty embarrassed when I'm asked for I.D.  Really?  I look like I'm under 18?  The best example to illustrate this was a recent trip to M&S, where I bought ingredients to make spaghetti bolognese.  I always add a bit of red wine to mine, so I picked up a bottle of red and put it on the conveyor belt.  As soon as the cashier picked up the bottle, she asked for I.D.  I smiled and said, "Sure," pulling out my Washington driver's license.  "I'm sorry, love," she said after checking my birthdate.  "Rules are rules, and you should be pleased because when you're my age, you'll be grateful for your youthful looks."  That's when an older woman in the queue behind me piped up, shouting, "I don't blame ya!  The girl looks about thirteen!"  Others in the queue considered me and nodded in agreement, "mmm"-ing and shaking their heads.  "Can I have my groceries now, please," I said through gritted teeth.  If I wasn't embarrassed before, I definitely was now.  "Seriously, love," the cashier continued.  "It's a real advantage to have youth on your side.  You're so very lucky."  "Yes, thank you," I mumbled, grabbing my receipt and running towards the door, aware of the eyes still assessing me.

I'm sure I'll be grateful for it one day; my mom doesn't look her age at all.  Neither does my dad, come to think of it.  Until then, however, I'll have to try to look older in order to be taken remotely seriously.  Upon meeting a well-known literary agent at a work presentation, I was taken aback by his reaction when introduced to me.  "You're Jaime Tung?" he said, in disbelief.  He then proceeded to throw his head back and guffaw.  When he finally regained his composure, he said, "But you look only about twelve!"  'Yes,' I thought to myself.  'But at least I'm not a wizened old codger like you."  I smiled sweetly instead.

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