underage drinking.

Los Angeles. 2002

California could not have been a better destination for our Franco-American honeymoon. While we could have seen more of what the state has to offer by doing the drive up the coast, checking out wine country, and stopping off in Santa Barbara, I'm glad that I was able to show Aurélien at least the beginner's tour to California by starting him off easy with LA and a 50 minute flight up to San Francisco.

One thing about California that I had forgotten all about since I moved back to the east coast in 2006 was the pride that the two cities have, almost to the degree of a playful rivalry. When merely mentioning that we had started the first leg of our honeymoon in Los Angeles to San Francisco locals who must have assumed it was my first trip out to California, we were almost always met with an immediate knee-jerk response that the two cities were absolutely nothing alike, with an almost exhale of relief. When telling friends, and acquaintances we had met along the away, that we were heading up to San Francisco, residents of LA responded with a blank and somewhat confused, "Wait, but why?"

Aside from the undeniable differences of geography, inhabitants, culture and style that divides the two major Californian cities, there was one detail, albeit slight, that made our stay in the City by the Bay more enjoyable than the City of Angels.

So I'm not sure what new laws have been enforced in LA, but I was constantly carded for alcohol, to the point of obscenity. The first few times, sure, I was flattered, but it wasn't until the incident at a bar in Pasadena where I had to present my passport to the same bartender with every round, plus random spot checks, that it was starting to get obnoxious. Between glasses of wine it would seem unlikely that I had acquired a false ID, and even more unlikely and much to the dismay of the city of eternal youth, that I would become 15 years younger. When I asked the bartender why the need to take such strict measures, while coquettishly adding that my Clarisonic must be doing its job of keeping me so refreshingly youthful, he swiftly cut me off mid-sentence to inform me that anyone who looks under 60 years old gets carded at the bar.


I guess all the girls go in for the cutesy joke that I really did think was original and sort of funny.

So on our way to our friend Sti's Hollywood Hills pool party, the final Sunday in LA, Aurel was going on a street art hunt in Hollywood and dropped me off at the nearby kitchy, health-food supermarket chain that is similar to Whole Foods but with a much more reasonable price point (no names) somewhere on Santa Monica Boulevard (no exact neighborhoods). The plan was to pick up treats to nosh and sip on poolside and to meet up at the Coffee Bean in 30 minutes. 

Easy enough.

Enjoying my shopping experience, I danced down the aisles picking up items that I could never find so effortlessly in Paris. In my basket laid two pre-made salads, a packet of turkey dogs, flax seed tortilla chips, pico de gallo, a six-pack of gluten-free beers (hey, when in LA, right?) and a bottle of Prosecco charmingly called "Macaron". Pure shopper's delight.

At the check-out, I loaded up our pool treats on the counter, and ready for action, went to reach for my passport...yet, it wasn't in the bag I had on me. During the "bag switch" I failed to throw it in, only bringing my wallet which I assumed would be sufficient. I was confident that my temporary license, an expired New York State license, my Social Security card, my crows feet and laugh lines, and my very first California driver's license that I keep in my wallet when I want a good laugh over my spray tanned skin in the photo, was more than enough. You would think so, right?

Wanting to stay honest, I informed our cheerful, 20-something cashier "Jackie" that the hard copy of the license was expired but had enough government documentation to prove my identity and age.

Well. Jackie had to confirm with her manager if she could accept this.

Watching her from the check-out as I was now holding up the line, she went up into a manager's booth to explain my "situation". The fella, most likely close to my age if not exact looked carefully over my documents where his body language communicated that what I had offered was unacceptable. He looked at me, the Sunday morning hooligan who was trying to pull a fast one on him by purchasing Prosecco and edamame salads, and shook his head in what I interpreted as sheer disappointment. 

Surely I am out of touch with what "the kids" are doing these days, but trying scam a health market on a Sunday morning with sparkling wine seems a bit off to me. Furthermore, and might I add the most obvious point, I haven't looked like a teenager since 1998 -- when I was actually one! It reminds of one of the lines in the film High Fidelity where John Cusack's character Rob catches the teen punks shoplifting Serge Gainsbourg records and asks, "You guys slamming to Joni Mitchell now?"

Anyway, so the manager comes over and coolly hands me back my official government documents to announce that "the house will not be accepting them" and that they will be removing the booze from my selections. 

I know I have adult acne and chubby cheeks but come on, I clearly look over 21!

Then, for the most annoying part of the scene: the manager put his hand on Jackie's shoulder and with a nod and exasperated sigh says, "Thank you so much for looking out. I'm glad you were able to catch this sort of thing."

First off, she didn't "catch" anything. It was moi who foolishly presented the documents, complete with what I thought was a rational explanation.

And two, she what, caught a (soon to be!!) 32-year-old woman trying to by wine for a pool party?

What. A. Hero. Allow me to insert the slow clap.

The saga ended with my groceries set aside in a basket, standing next to the manager's booth and calling Aurélien to come pick me up immediately, and to pay for the groceries.

In San Francisco we weren't asked once to present our ID which now has me wondering: was the severe ID checking just an LA thing or did people in SF think we look over 60? Who knows, but I do know, I sure as hell don't look like the petite in the above photo. Cheers to aging with pride. And thank you to the city of LA for making me feel illegally young.


  1. Oh. My. God.

    That is ridiculous to the point of grotesque.

    In Ontario, at the liquor stores, they have a sign saying: If you are under 25, be ready to show your ID. Fair enough. But to be over 30 with proper government-issued ID and to be denied booze?!

    So typical though: the weak exert authority over law-abiding citizens to boost their own ego, but they won't go after real criminals because they're too spineless and scared. So they deny alcohol to 32-year-olds and give parking tickets to old ladies, but they let pushers and human traffickers roam freely.

    1. Seriously, it was pretty nutty. I asked them a few times, "Wait, you guys are really not going to take me IDs?" I really was shocked.

      And yes, I 100% agree with you that authority is pushed in such trite situations. They both knew well that I was over 21 and simply would not budge. I guess they didn't have more important things going on that day! Pfff!

  2. Oh gosh! When I was home last December, I got carded on my way into the bar with such snark--the bouncer was so sure he'd caught me! It was ridiculous, and funny. I'll make sure to have a couple of forms of identity when I'm in LA next ;)

    1. Crazy, right?? I couldn't believe it. Yes, my dear, you look very young, just make sure all of your IDs are in order, nothing is expired and you'll be good to go! Just be careful with the driving afterwards, please. : )

  3. As I read this I wondered if, despite all this over the top checking, yooung people atually do manage to get drunk occasionally.

    Great post, entertainingly written as usual,

    Love Denise,

    1. Thanks Denise! I wondered that myself because isn't it a rite of passage to have a few underage drinks? I guess the city of LA doesn't feel that way!

  4. Oh I totally would have walked out of there without buying a thing! Funnily enough I've only ever got carded after I was over 18 ;o)

    1. You know I considered that but I REALLY liked what I had picked up (the Macaron Prosecco was delish!!) and we didn't have a ton of time. We were running a bit behind as is. Luckily it worked out and we were boozing it up by the pool within the hour!

  5. And you thought French supermarkets gave you grief! Can you imagine working that hard to buy alcohol in France?!

    1. I was just thinking that!!! I guess I just have bad supermarket luck. Thank you so much for commenting!

  6. I occasionally get ID'd to the point of annoyance - it's frustrating.

    A couple of years ago, my husband and I spent a few months in Texas for his job and we regularly grocery shopped (and bought beer) at a large chain. One day we were ID'd while buying said beer where we both presented our Canadian driver's licenses. We were told they couldn't sell to us as we didn't hold a Texas driver's license. We promptly marched across the street and bought what we needed at the liquor store but that ended up happening a few times. Ridiculous!

    1. Hi Jay!

      Welcome! Thank you so much for commenting!

      Oy vey! I have heard that select states require having an ID issued from the state you are in. That is just crazy! So tourists and new arrivals can't have a drink? Makes no sense. At least the liquor store didn't hold that insane policy and you and your husband got your much-deserved beer!

      My first time in Texas, I was 19 and with my entire family in a restaurant and I ordered a glass of wine, something that I have been doing since 14 with my fam. The server was almost appalled that my family "encouraged" underage drinking by giving him consent to serve me. He said no and I ended up just sharing with my grandmother. : )

  7. Sometimes they are just too ridiculous about the whole thing.
    When we flew to Massachusetts to get married a few years back (a few years... time flies!) we stopped at a liquor store on the way from Logan to my Dad's house where I tried to buy two bottles of Pinot Noir. I was asked for my ID and showed them my Texas drivers license, they said they couldn't take out of state ID, so I said ok and showed them my passport. They said they couldn't take that either!!! So I guess according to them, the only people who should be able to buy alcohol in Mass are people with Massachusettts IDs. Freaking ridiculous.

    1. Oh no! You too had this experience?! I'm sure Gregory was horrified...and also confused. Aurel could not wrap his head around it.

      Your story is extra ridiculous because a passport should be MORE than enough. Who goes through the trouble to create a fake passport???

  8. oh.good.grief.

    and how come you can see pictures any day of the week of little Miley Cyrus and Junior Beiber falling out of nightclubs...don't tell me they are in there drinking diet coke?


    1. Thanks Deb! Excellent point! Yeah, how come those kids get to booze it up sans probleme! Pff! I should have brought that up but something tells me it would have fallen on deaf ears.

      Speaking of Miley, did you catch her embarrassing performance last night on the VMAs? I covered my eyes a few times because I felt pretty much grossed out for her.

    2. Oh I caught it alright...I think it's the tongue thing that bothers me the most...what is that all about?

      In a world where not much shocks anymore she came seriously close to just plain obscene.

      bring back Britney!!!

  9. Ok, this was a hoot (well, for someone who didn't have to go through with it) but I clicked over to tell you something super important!!! It is Monday, August 26th at 15:12 aaaaand I just put on FIP and "Note so high" was playing!!!!!!!!

    1. It was annoying at the time but once it was resolved, we both got a good laugh out of it. So I'm glad I was able to entertain you!

      My grandma was really on FIP????? Wow! This makes me so happy!! I did send them an email requesting her to be in the rotation but hadn't heard back. However she made it to the jazz station, I am pleased. Thank you so much for reporting back!

  10. I'm in my late 20's and i look like 15, but i'll never have that buying alcohol problem.

    I don't drink alcohol. Whenever i tell people this its like they are shocked. How am i suppose to live in France, if i don't partake in the cultural drinking of all those divine wines.

    My taste buds are disgusted by it and not to mention my poor esophagus.I have always wanted to be able to sit and have a glass of wine. It adds this oh la la sophistication to your overall life. At least in my opinion. All taste horrendous to me. My body has a Zero tolerant for alcohol period.

    But Cali is being absolutely ridiculous! "Glad you were be to catch this sort of thing." Quoi??

    They clearly aren't serious about life... *rolls eyes*

    Why the seriousness and extra caution for alcohol? I mean you're cute and petite but come on man? Plus you showed some valid identification.

    The life of Ella continues .... :) :) my chick lit :p

    1. Hey Mlle!

      You lucky girl you! I would be a good 10 pounds lighter if I cut out the booze! Once September comes I'll be cutting back again, but it would be nice to cut it out altogether! Good for you for following your tastes and not feeling like you have to drink just because you're in France!

      Even though you don't indulge in French wine, I'm sure you have other goodies that ignite you. Hey, I don't like chocolate and many people find that strange. Oh well, right?

      Yeah, LA was pretty cray with the carding business but SF made up for it, which again, made me wonder...

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  11. Hahha...Trader Joe's by any chance?

    I lived in L.A. until I was 35 and every.single.time. I bought cigarettes I was asked to show an ID (guess smoking doesn't make you look older after all? LOL)

    But it's not only CA, here in South Florida I was carded every time I bought alcohol until I was 50, so ridiculous!

    And someone asked if this prevents underage drinking and the answer to me is a big NO, neither with smoking. Minors still get their hands on both booze and smokes easily.

    Something I never understood of the U.S.A. is that how come at 18 you're old enough to kill and get killed going to war but you can't drink a beer? Come on!

  12. How silly! I probably would have been flattered at first as well, but seriously, every round?? AND not even having the good graces to tell you it's because you look under 25. Back home people used to be pretty slack when the drinking age was 20, then they changed it to 18 just before my 18th birthday (good timing) and they started being really strict on IDing, but not to that point, even when I was 18!