This morning I caught the tail end of a girl’s complaint to her mother about the disparate punishments meted out to her and her brother for essentially the same misconduct. The scene reminded me of a similar situation that began one fateful Super Bowl Sunday when I was seventeen and my parents were away.
As every red-blooded American knows, watching a Super Bowl requires proper refreshments. And while individual tastes dictate the solid components of the spread (nachos, hot wings or pizza, for instance), the beverage element remains sole and sacrosanct; namely, beer!
On that long-ago day, I’d made plans to watch the big game with a couple of friends: my best pal, Ned; and another kid, Jerry Leibowitz. We were as red-blooded as any other Americans, but we also happened to be underaged – a problematic detail for the beer portion of our festivities. Ned suggested trawling the parking lot at a local liquor store and asking an adult to purchase a case for us. Jerry and I loved the simple plan, considering it a “can’t fail” proposition.
Drawing the short straw, I won the role of solicitor. I commenced loitering near the entrance to the store awaiting a suitable prospect. Recognizing the need for a surgical strike, I applied basic stereotypes to weed out the most likely naysayers (or worse, those I thought might call the cops on me): specifically, old people and women.
It took a while, but I finally spotted a perfect mark approaching the store: a youngish man, wearing jeans and a jacket. In my estimation, he seemed like someone who’d gladly add an extra case of brewskies to his own in order to help out a fellow football enthusiast. I stopped the gent and made my pitch. Oddly, he seemed taken aback by the request. His responding question (voiced in an incredulous tone) wasn’t at all what I expected: “You’re asking me to buy beer for you? And you’re a minor?”
I answered a jaunty “yes” to both his questions. By way of reply, he casually shrugged and asked me for the money to make the purchase. I gave it to him. And that’s when he identified himself as an off duty cop … and arrested me.
The long and the short of it was that I spent Super Bowl Sunday at the local police station and had the riot act read to me by more than one officer. Even worse, because it apparently was a slow news week, I got featured on the front page of the town paper under the headline: “Local Teen Arrested Trying to Purchase Liquor from Police Officer.”
Knowing how my father had reacted to my sister’s drinking and smoking while a minor, I expected much worse for my transgression. After all, Lisa hadn’t even been arrested and dad made her smoke and drink until she puked her guts out. I couldn’t begin to guess how he’d torture me once he saw the newspaper article.
But it seems the old double standard is universal. When my parents returned from their vacation, I confessed my crime, showed them the article and awaited dire retribution. I’m still waiting, at the age of 45. That day, strangely enough, mom and dad merely laughed; and dad’s only comment as they went off to unpack was: “Boys will be boys.”