By Scott Nickley
Sarah is too old for a babysitter. She is 12 this year. No, it’s not that she is too old, but that she looks too old for a babysitter. Actually, the bigger problem is she’s too old to have a babysitter, but looks way too young to just be hanging out with a 20-year-old college student, me.
The first time I noticed this issue was at Five Guys. I take the blame for this one. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since high school.
Sarah and I decided that since it was just the two of us — her brother was at a birthday party — we would go out to eat. One of the perks of nannying for this family is that they left us money. One hundred dollars on the day I started, always replenished whenever the previous hundred ran out. I had free meals, went to free movies, played free mini golf, and drank free frappuccinos more days than were necessary or probably affordable for the Rivers family. Add that allowance to my four hundred dollar-a-week salary, full access to their Honda CRV, and I had one sick summer job.
This particular friend was female. I saw her as I walked in and, being myself, tried to avoid any conversation. The female high school friend would have none of that and came right up to say hello. We hugged, I was very cordial, and thought I was done. Until I decided that I just had to introduce Sarah.
“Oh, I’m sorry. This is my–”
This is your what, Scott? I don’t introduce the kids to anyone. The only people we ever see are people we already know. What do you call these kids? My babysitting kids? No. My daycare companions? What does that even mean?
As I try to work this out, Sarah decides she’ll take matters into her own hands and introduce herself in the exact way every girl I’ve ever dated has introduced herself to my friends when I’m still too afraid to put a label on the relationship:
She manages to say this like someone laying claim to something — announcing herself and, at the same time, almost disciplining me for not having sorted this out beforehand. Exactly how your high school girlfriend does. You haven’t heard of me? I’m Sarah, dammit.
What are you doing Sarah? You have no idea what you’re doing. I’m reading too much into this. Female high school friend probably hasn’t even noticed anything is amiss. Because nothing is amiss. Jesus.
“Oh right sorry. This is Sarah. I watch her.”
So much less creepy.
“Like while her parents are at work…her and her brother.”
Nailing it. I see the look in the female high school friend’s eyes. She’s wondering, accusing, shaming. I try to think of the right thing to say, panicked. Then I wonder if the female high school friend can feel my panic. She can definitely feel my panic. She’s trying to determine why I’m panicked while wondering, accusing, shaming. All of this happens in an instant, or, more likely, it happens only in my head.
Finally, something clicks in the female high school friend, and she saves us all. “Oh! You’re babysitting.”
Sarah and I get in line, order, and I pay for her meal.
Scott Nickley is an actor and writer based in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @scottnickley.