"Can I help you find something?"
"Yeah, I'm looking for your wedding planning section."
He looked at me, expressionless.
"Anywhere...?" I ventured
He still looked at me.
I shrugged my shoulders. This was quite possibly the most awkward moment of my life.
He finally snapped out of it, turned around and beckoned, "This way." I trudged along behind him as he turned and asked, "You're planning a wedding?"
No, I just really like spending real money on books for imaginary weddings. "Yup"
"Um, yeah" I put my be-diamonded left hand up onto the handle of my tote bag, hoping he wouldn't ask what I thought he would.
A victorious pause, then, "Yours?"
Oh no. Here it comes. "Yeah"
He raised a pierced eyebrow, "Okay, one more question..."
"I'm twenty-one" I interrupted, knowing full well what his one question would be.
"Yeah, that's what I was going to ask" Yeah, no really? He stopped at the appropriate book stack. "I thought you were, like, sixteen."
And here is where, if I had a remote that controlled my life, I would pause the entire universe to think of a proper comeback before responding. Oh no, I wouldn't use that remote to erase that fantastic face-plant I did in front of 1,500 people at the Manchester High School Band Show in 2002. I wouldn't even use it to go back to my middle school semi-formal where Jon Barry, the most popular guy in school, asked me to dance and I stood there frozen like an idiot. I would use it to pause Monday night at the Chicago flagship Borders and think of something more witty to say than this:
"Well," I responded, looking at the floor, "he looks just as young."
This was a remarkably bad comeback on several levels:
1) It wasn't witty at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if you looked up the antonym of "witty" in the thesaurus, you would get a video clip of this moment.
2) It isn't actually true. Kip doesn't look 16, he looks about 20. And since we're four years apart, it's rather convenient that the age difference stays proportional in the looks department.
3) I've been getting this comment (with varying ages) since I left for college. How it happened that people used to mistake me for my older sister in high school and now think I just entered puberty is beyond me. Although, it must be said that my median age of assumption has gone from 15 over the summer to 16 today. Maybe it's the ring. Nevertheless, one would assume that by now I would have come up with a suitable response. But I haven't.
Now, I'm fully aware that maybe the purple-butterfly-t-shirt-jeans-flip flops-ponytail ensemble I had on that day didn't exactly scream "age of accountability", but I also don't think it screamed "Hannah Montana" either, even if my birthday cake this year did (it was a joke from Kasey and Sarah, I promise). But seriously, sixteen? I think I at least look old enough to vote. When breaching the topic with Kasey over a Limoncello Lemonade (which I got carded for) at the Olive Garden that night, she suggested, "Why don't you say 'Just imagine how bitchin' I'll look when I'm 40'?"
It's a suggestion.