It was close to closing time when I pushed my cart into the checkout lane at Kmart Sunday night. The store was nearly empty, and the two young employees at the register were involved in a lively conversation.
I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but they were tossing around all these curiosity-tweaking words like "too young" and "wedding" and "nervous" and "love." It was too much for my weak ears to resist. I quietly unloaded my cart, lest my interruption cause them to stop talking.
It was one of those conversations I wanted to immediately insinuate myself into, but as I wouldn't want to shame my mama, I held back. Until - God bless her - one of the two turned to me, looked at my wedding ring, and asked, "How old were you when you got married?"
"Which time?" I asked.
She laughed and smacked her co-worker on the arm, pleased that the ideal bad example had arrived to help illustrate her point.
"I was 18 the first time," I said. "Trust me, 18's too young. It is so totally too young. Absolutely, completely, undeniably too young."
In a different generation, 18 was probably fine, but while our society has managed to shorten childhoods, it has extended the amount of time it takes our young to mature into adults capable of making a commitment for life.
"So how old were you before you finally found the right man?" the clerk asked.
"Thirty-eight," I said - an age her expression suggested she equated with coffin-shopping. I considered telling her we'd fallen in love at the nursing home after he kindly shared his dentures with me on corn-on-the-cob night, but resisted.
"Look, if you Google 'bad decisions' and click on 'images,' I think my picture is there," I said. "I thought I knew what I was doing, but I ended up going through a lot of grief before I finally got it right."
There was more I wish I had said, but I'm not a good on-the-spot thinker. Any halfway decent advice I might've come up with would be hours away. But the encounter got me to thinking about how well most of us believe we know ourselves at different stages in our life.