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It was around this time a year or two ago that it happened. Mum, my (then 7 or 8-year-old) little sister, and I had been out shopping and we were wearied and tired and quite hungry. We stopped by Chile’s for a much-needed dinner.

The hostess was a young gall–my age or even younger I surmised. Already in college, you can imagine my shock and, quite frankly, horror, when she glanced skeptically at us and said, “One or two children’s menus?”

One, thank you.” I cut in pointedly. What did she think I was–twelve? But as if this wasn’t bad enough, the poor clueless thing added insult to injury.

“I’m sorry, you just look really. young.” 

I don’t think I managed a reply. She lead us to our table and I sat in stunned, stewing, brewing silence trying to stave off tears.  I don’t know that I had–or have since–been so angry at a complete stranger. I thought up all the things I should have said. “Um, no, actually, but I’ll take a martini.” “You know I’m in college, and probably older than you?!?” The tactlessness. The injury. The lack of logic. Me–taller than my mother, towering over my eight-year-old sister. WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?! She wasn’t thinking. But then… I knew that I do look really young.

I admit I’m sensitive about how I look. Obviously. But this is hardly abnormal, and at 5’2” I am petite to-boot–with tiny wrists, feet, hands: everything. On top of this I got the “youthful gene” from both sides of the family–the gene that makes people think my grandmother is my mother, and my mother a newly-wed. I’m sure I’ll appreciate this when I’m forty but for now it’s just the cause of trauma.

I barely ate my dinner. I was so upset. This “appearance-problem” of mine has since lead to purposeful attempts at stylish dressing–in the desperate attempt to look my age. But that particular chilling experience was rather scarring–and to this very day I have not forgotten it.

Well. Today we were out shopping again. Mom, my little sister, and I. In the same plaza.

“We could go to Chile’s…” my mother suggested. I tried not to think about “the last time” but I did anyway. Then I caught a look on Mom’s face–the same one that was on my own. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked. We were. We both couldn’t help it. “Put your lipstick on!!!”

I admit I walked through those doors with trepidation–hoping my scarf and darling coat and powdered-face would convince the hostess I didn’t need a children’s menu. I could feel my muscles tensing–and then relaxing in triumph as she grabbed two regular menus. We sat down at our booth and Mum and I exchanged congratulatory comments of success.

But that wasn’t the best of it. When our waiter came over to get the drink order–I was last to go and didn’t have a ready answer.

“Well,” he said,  “would you like a martini? Or a house wine? We have this great…” I wasn’t listening.

DUDE!!! he offered me a martini!! I didn’t want one–I eventually decided on water. But the poetic justice was thrillingly perfect.

My mother almost cried.