The Last One Carded

The kick of still being asked for ID when buying alcohol has become a competition between my husband and me

I've resorted to illusory tricks: an infinity scarf to conceal the sagging neck, or a baseball hat pulled down over the elevens on my forehead, just enough to cast a shadow across the deepening crow's feet.

Sometimes I'll try both the hat and scarf, which makes me look like an old Hollywood star desperate to conceal the fresh scars from her latest facelift. But if that's what it takes, I'll do it. I'll do anything to be the last one carded. And if today's trip to the liquor store next to Stop 'n' Shop is any indication, I'm still ahead.

"Can I see some ID?" the woman in her early 60s asked. I wasn't even wearing a hat, just the scarf, suddenly my new favorite.

"Aren't you lovely?" I said and passed that wonderful woman my license, palm up so she wouldn't see the age spots on the back of my hand and say, "Never mind. I see now that you're actually quite old."

Rather, she took my ID, looked at the date and actually said, "Oh my! 51? I didn't expect that!"

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I resisted hopping over the counter to kiss her and instead made a beeline for the door. I was barely out on the sidewalk, fumbling with my bottle of white wine, smiling so hard that my crows feet must have looked like Big Bird's footprints, as I pulled out my phone and texted my husband, Mark: "CARDED!!!"

I can't remember when we started playing this game. We were in our early 40s and would proudly announce it (read: rub it in the other one's face) whenever one of us was asked for ID when buying alcohol. After it happened a few times, it became competitive, as things usually do with us.

Just to be clear, my husband and I aren't big drinkers. In fact, I probably darken the door of a wine store once a month for a bottle of Chardonnay, maybe a six-pack of Sam Adams to bring to a party. I'm not a regular anywhere. Mark, on the other hand, enjoys a weird brew now and then and usually shops at the nearby Craft Beer Cellar where the women who own it know him and need never card him again. Yes, they did that first time just a few years ago, and, trust me when I say I heard all about it.

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My 51-year-old husband has a youthful face, and salt and pepper hair that's getting saltier with every haircut. And, honestly, I think all that salt could be his downfall. In fact, let's say it's been a while since he's had to prove that he's not three decades younger than he actually is. If he's serious about staying in the game, he might do well to give someone else his beer business. Maybe he could try Kappy's, where the bald guy with cataracts works. Maybe he needs a longer baseball cap.

Or maybe he's just not as serious about our little game as I am. In a reversal of the desire I felt at 16 or 18 or 20 years of age, when I'd walk into a packy in New Britain Connecticut, pick up my Riunite and pray they wouldn't mention ID, I now really hope they do.

Back then, I at some point, had my older sister's license that she lost and replaced but then found again. When she did, she handed it over to me.

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"Here you go," she said. "Have fun."

Such a terrific gift, but it had a few drawbacks. I'm 5'2". She's 5'7". I'm brown-haired with hazel eyes. She's blonde and blue. Let's say it boosted my social life when it worked, but the failure rate was high, mostly keeping me out of trouble and on the sober side.

Now, sobriety and staying out of trouble aren't a huge concern, but winning is. The tricky part is this aging thing. Body parts are moving south, which is to say, not in support of my plan. Still, I have a goal to be asked for ID last. Maybe that happened today. Or, if I buy my wine from Cataract Man, I might be hobbling into Kappy's in 20 years—baseball cap low—and catch a lucky break. Of course, Cataract Man will be long dead and store clerks will be a thing of the past. But I can dream.

In the meantime, it's up to me to take a little pleasure in a liquor store lady asking just the right question. But now that Mark is tired of me walking around the house singing "Carded" to the tune of "Beat It"—a song that came out when I was just 18 and still sneaking into bars—I think I'm going to sit down and write that lady a thank-you note.