MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - Card me, please!

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I just bought a bottle of beer so that I can make more shampoo.

Yeah, that's right. I pour beer on my head, mixed with a liquid soap that has pronounceable and recognizable words in the ingredient list (Olive Oil, Citric Acid, Vitamin E) in my tiny, tinny little efforts to decrease the amount of artificial chemicals coursing through my veins.

So, much to the chagrin of Tired of Being Youngest, who embraces methylchloroisothiazolinone and all its friends for the shiny, voluminous body and bounce that ultimately leads to a better sex life (not at your age, kid) and overall increased level of happiness, I set up my chemistry lab in the kitchen and experiment with alternative ways to make shampoo and bath salts and lotions and stuff.

It's like bringing out my inner 1960s Flower Child only that, in the 1960s, I was an actual child wrapping dandelion chains in my hair, not being quite as old as you think I am.

Speaking of which, back to this purchase of the beer:

I have never been carded in my life.

Granted, a woman in her 40s doesn't expect this, but have you ever read the LED screens that flash at the checkout counters when an alcohol product is scanned?

"Customer obviously over 40?" one of them read.

The clerk looked at her screen, glanced at me, bagged the bottle without a word.

Really? Seriously?

I'm obviously over 40?

Another store had a cardboard sign within the checker's (and customer's) sight:

"Unless they're a grey-haired granny or gramps, ask to see their ID."

While I may be a (very young) grandmother, I am not grey-haired, except for the top half-inch of roots, and I strenuously object to not being asked for my ID.

Actually, the exact opposite has happened, as one time I was in the bread store with College Girl and Tired of Being Youngest when the clerk chirpily offered me the over-55 senior discount.

Great. Not only am I not "obviously under 40," I also look 55. Or more.

It's not worth 5 per cent off a bag of bagels.

The two female progeny froze in fright, wondering if I would undergo nuclear meltdown over the clerk's obvious need for a new pair of glasses (SHE was over 55), while I achieved a cool smile and responded that no, I was actually still in my 40s.

A month later, I noticed a new sign at the offensive place:

"If you are over 55, please ask for the senior discount. We will not ask you."

Well, so upper management does have brain activity after all.

Now, my suggestion, one that will engender positive feelings in the 35-55-year old demographic, resulting in smiling, admittedly non-uncreased faces and possible increase in sales:

Card us.

I know we're busy. I know we're fumbling with our overstuffed, too small purses (thought I was going to say "bodies," didn't you?). I know that you know you're not fooling us. We know that you know this, but we don't care, because by carding us, you're saying,

"Okay. You're obviously not under 21. Don't live in a fairy tale.

"But in the right light - say, a subterranean cave with a couple sputtering candles - you could conceivably look under 30, and some 20-year-olds, after consuming too many underage cocktails - could look around 30.

"So we'll card you.

"Happy now?"

Yes. Oh yes.

When College Girl was Flaxen-Haired-Princess, she used to shamelessly flatter me by announcing,

"Mom - You look 16!"

Even I didn't believe that, but I wasn't adverse to 26, 27, 28 - it's important that we stay within a 10-20 year framework of our actual age.

But while she needed coaching in realistic compliments, the Norwegian Artist required serious introduction to Complimentary Compliments 101, as evidenced when, in my mid-30s (not that long ago), I was heading out to buy a bottle of wine and playfully asked,

"I wonder if they'll card me?"

He didn't miss a beat:

"Why would they do that?"

If art sales go down, he can always get a job at the bread store.

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