A lady never tells

Birth records show that Loretta Lynn might be a tiny bit older than she claims. Well, so might I. Here’s why you should mind your own damn business about both.

There are several things that are guaranteed to occur during my workday as Richmond’s favorite checkout girl–a workday wherein I help, on average, 300 customers.

First, I will be asked “Are you open?” no less than twenty-seven times even though I am standing at a cash register, wearing a uniform, looking up, and smiling at a person who is approaching me with a full shopping cart. My tongue bleeds as I bite into it, just before I chirp “Yep!”

Also, fourteen people’s answers to “Hi! How are you today?” will be “paper” or “plastic.” That answer doesn’t make sense and is rude. And just really, really doesn’t make any sense.

Oh, and at least nine customers will be completely baffled by the credit card machine, which is completely standard issue for any retail establishment, and exhibit visible signs of stress. Just: swipe, enter PIN, cash back?, approve amount. Easy peasy, right? Wrong.

Another thing that is sure to happen, at least once per shift, is that someone will mistake me for much younger than I actually am and treat me as such.

For example, just last week, I was sleepwalking through a transaction, when the register let out a certain tone reminding me that I was scanning alcohol and needed to confirm the customer’s age. I looked up to scan for visual cues.

The woman standing in front of me was lovely and, sadly for me, had perfect skin: no wrinkles. Hmm…she was also dressed sort of generically in a standard, office-appropriate top and blouse combo. Could be nineteen, could be twenty-nine. Okay, what else? Nail polish. Fun nail polish was sometimes a dead giveaway but, her nail polish was a pretty neutral. I sighed.

“May I see your ID, please?”

The customer was visibly taken aback, fishing for her identification, and the transaction shifted from standard and unmemorable to, well, memorable in the blink of an eye.

“You know,” she said, her annoyed face suddenly showing her age and making the whole interaction unnecessary, “It’s really insulting when someone your age cards someone my age.” She presented her driver’s license, and I laughed out loud.

“Someone my age? I’m three years older than you are!” It may or may not have been appropriate, but I was tickled.

Blame my crazy-colored hair; blame my chubby, baby cheeks; blame my complete lack of maturity; but people have always thought of me as younger.

It’s a fine problem to have. I mean, when I was younger it was slightly annoying, because people older than myself constantly told me that someday I’d really appreciate it. Well, they were right. It’s not necessary for my happiness or anything, but I certainly don’t mind people thinking I was born in the 80s–most of the time, anyway.

Turns out, country music legend Loretta Lynn isn’t as eager to set the record straight about her own age.

Recently, the Associated Press found that Loretta Lynn’s birth certificate, which is on file with the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics, lists her date of birth as April 14, 1932. This makes Lynn 80 years old rather than the 77 that she claims.

So, what’s the big deal? People in the entertainment industry fudge their ages all the time (coughchelseahandlercough), particularly the ladies. Well, I guess the big deal is that in her autobiography, which became an Oscar-winning film, one of the struggles that Loretta overcomes is that she was married at 13 and a mother of four by 18. Though young for this day and age, married by 16 and the mother of four by 21 was not such a big deal in rural Kentucky in 1948.

Ms. Lynn has declined to comment on the inconsistency, but she does state in her autobiography:

“When I was born, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the president for several years. That’s the closest I’m gonna come to telling my age in this book, so don’t go looking for it. I’m trying to make a living singing songs. I don’t need nobody out there saying, `She don’t look bad considering she’s such-and-such years old.'”

No kidding. It’s the worst when I tell people my actual age and they say something charming like “No way you are that old!” Forty is the new seventy, apparently.

But why do we care so much about what numbers are listed on someone’s birth certificate? Does Loretta Lynn’s story hold less water if she’d been a little more young-woman and a little less little-girl when it started? I’ve read Coal Miner’s Daughter a countless number of times in my life. I admire the moxie of this woman, who is a bit of a heroine to me, even if she has stretched the truth about her age and then told everyone to mind their own damn business (in fact, maybe even a smidge more).

Look, it’s not my fault the world thinks I’m younger, and it’s not Loretta Lynn’s either. Or maybe it is, but, in my opinion, a lady is entitled to fudge two numbers: the weight on her driver’s license and the date on her birth certificate. I am exercising my right to both.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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