As R. Kelly Made His 15-Year-Old Wife Say, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number

I was carded buying a bottle of wine the other day.

The offending bottle.

Let me tell you, this made my day. In fact, it made my week. I texted one of my colleagues about it within an hour of it happening. Turns out 30 is not so old after all.

I used to get annoyed when I would be carded buying booze at a store. I don't care about bars carding me, because they card everyone who appears to be younger than Charlton Heston. But at a store, there is plenty of lighting, so they could get a good look at me and see that I was not some 17-year-old playing grown-up. Additionally, I would typically be simultaneously buying some Woolite or Eggos or whatever it is that I buy at supermarkets -- so it's not like I was just trying to get drunk.

The underlying cause of this annoyance was my youthful appearance, which has long been a source of personal ranklement for me. My whole life, people have thought I was younger than my actual age. For example:

• When I was 12, a dental hygienist guessed my age at nine or ten. I halfheartedly told him my actual age, at which point he stammered, "Oh ... well, it's ... good. That you look young. Because, when you're old ... you'll want to look ... young."

• In eighth grade, while lighting fireworks in the park, a neighbor and I were confronted by a pair of girls who claimed to be morally outraged by our delinquency. During the course of this morally outrageous conversation, one of them asked me what school I attended, and then refused to believe that not only did I go to the same school that they did, but that I was a year ahead of them as well. As you can probably recall, standing accused of being 12 when you are actually 14 is a crime paralleled only by high treason. Especially when it's a girl who thinks you are a kid. These girls recanted their claim when I saw them on campus a few weeks later.

• At the age of 22, while I was working on assignment as a paid reporter for the Orange County Register, a man I interviewed asked if I was a high school intern. This was an in-person interview, not over the phone.

These incidents were frustrating as a child, since age during childhood is typically inferred entirely by height. While I'm pretty much right at the mean for U.S. adult males (which is 5' 9.6", according to the CDC [pdf here]), being mistaken for someone younger was tantamount to being called small and weak. As a young adult, it becomes more of a statement about your overall appearance, based on the way you talk, the way you carry yourself, your clothing, and the general air you give off. Especially in your first years out of school, it's painful when someone mistakes you for someone younger. It's like they're saying you don't appear to be a grown-up. That's why being carded at Rite-Aid was so obnoxious, and that's why I grew out my facial hair, because everyone knows that makes you look older.

I feel older already. And yes, that is a cigar.

However, now that I am 30, and now that I attend graduate school with many younger and more attractive people, not being asked for ID when I purchase alcohol is not as gratifying as it once was. In fact, I appreciate the fact that I am occasionally mistaken for someone younger. I would much rather be thought to be 27 or 28, especially by the 22-to-26-year-old women with whom I typically hang out.

While it is possible that I really do look old enough to be buying a bottle of wine (which I chose based entirely on price and the design on the label, which is how I believe grown-ups choose their wine), the most likely explanation for me being carded is the shop owner's abundance of caution. While it was probably not likely that he thought I was a 20-year-old buying a $10 bottle of cabernet, he may have thought I was a youngster recruited by the police to attempt to purchase alcohol illegally. Store owners and employees are often entrapped in this manner, which is how Expressmart in Westwood -- the very first place I bought liquor after turning 21 -- lost its license back in 1999 or so.

If we accept that this is why I was carded, it seems that my excitement was uncalled-for. It was not my healthy, youthful demeanor, nor was it my teenager-ish energy, that prompted the owner to ask for my ID. It was simply his healthy sense of paranoia.

Upon first realizing this, I was all like, "Whatever." (That's how young people talk.) Frankly, even if it was only out of an abundance of caution that I was carded, that still meant I looked like a possible underage narc, and I still appreciated that.

However, upon further reflection, I realized that this whole experience can only be seen as evidence of my advanced age. No one who was actually young would find themselves elated at being asked for ID while buying a bottle of wine. They would not text people about it, or write about it on their blog, or tell everyone they come in contact with, "Hey, I got carded the other day!" Only someone who is significantly aged would care -- specifically, someone who is aged and also suffers from age-related self-esteem issues. Someone who obsesses over a handful of gray hairs that nobody else even notices. Someone who is deaf to the comments of his friends when they say that 30 is not too old to be single.

Good thing I don't know anyone like that.


Haterade For The Victims

That's right. I am an asshole. You've got schadenfreude? I've got schaden-ecstasy, because I am a hater and I kick midwesterners when they are down.

In the balls, no less.

"Why would anyone want to live in California? All you hear about out there is natural disasters."

"I heard in California, people live in active earthquake zones. That's just stupid."

"People out west are idiots. There's wildfires all the time in those dried-up woods, and then they complain when their homes burn down. Idiots."

"Son, I wouldn't build a house anywhere in California. It's always mudslides this and gang warfare that. It's downright dangerous."

"Well, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't live on the west coast. It's all going to sink in the ocean when that big earthquake comes."