On my sister Erin’s birthday in March this year, the family was gathered together at my Mum’s. We were talking and laughing and everything was completely fine, fine up until we started discussing the issue of how old Erin was. I said she was 32. Ian claimed 33, Erin was unclear.
We asked mum. She was able to state the date of Erin’s birth (it’s amazing how little details like the date you passed a whole other person through your body stay with you.) but couldn’t translate that into an age with certainty. (We are not a family that is focussed on numbers or the addition of said numbers.) We all started to work it out. Ian claimed that Erin must be 33, because he was turning 35, and James was 37. I claimed that it was impossible, that she must be turning 32, because I knew (no matter what these other people believed about their ages and the mess they were in) that I was unequivocally 37 years old, turning 38 on my next birthday (which would be today). Ian disagreed. No, he claimed. I was already 38, I was turning 39, and that made Erin 33.
I sighed. They could argue all they wanted (and frankly, I can’t believe Erin lost track of her own age) but I was 37, and that made Erin 32, since I don’t think you can change a thing like being 5 years apart.
I continued to support my argument with little details like “Five years ago I had my 32nd birthday…therefore, I am 37” and they asked me what year I was born, and in as much as I felt that was irrelevant to the argument, my mother (good with those details again) provided the date of my birth.
HA HA! I shrieked. Born in 1968, add thirty seven years….wait…No, it still makes sense. Even though that comes out to 2005, and that’s not right, that still doesn’t prove that I’m older than I think I am, because the first year you are on the planet doesn’t count because you aren’t “1” until you’ve been there a year and I don’t turn 38 until later this year so…whammo! 1968 plus 37 is 2005, plus one year for the first year, and one year for later this year is 2007…therefore, as I suspected, I am turning 38.
Blank stares all around. Ian looked me dead in the eye, and supported by Ken, who nodded gravely (but not without a touch of smug) very plainly said. “You are 38”. I objected. Did they not think I could count? Did they not think I knew how old I was? My mother came to my defence (likely because my argument made her a year younger as well) standing up to her kin and saying “come now, look at the math. Stephanie’s right. You aren’t a year old when you are born… you can’t count that year at all.”
I glared firmly and stood with my mother, though inwardly I was a little worried. Even though I knew I was 37, my grandfather always said that if one person thinks you are wrong, you can still be right. (This I accepted) If two people think you are wrong, you have to reassess your argument. (This I had done. 1968 + 37 + 1 + 1 worked fine.) If however, three or more people think you are wrong, you are likely mistaken. (I swallowed hard.) I faced Ian, Ali, Erin, Ken and the girls and tried hard to look confident and very firmly 37 years old. They were all starting to really upset me.
Ken stared me down. “Steph”, he said (with that vein on his neck sticking out) “Try to follow…in 1968 you were born. In 1969 you were 1. In 1970, you were 2. Thus, in 1980 you were 12. In 1990, 22 and in 2000, 32. Now it is 2007 and your birthday is in June….are you seeing it?”
I was stunned. I resisted seeing it. I ran one last check before I gave up. I am 5 months younger older (that error was wishful thinking) than Joe, and because his birthday is in November and mine is in June, in March, we are the same age. I know I can always count on Joe. I phoned him. “Joe, these people are messing me up about how old I am.” I held my breath for a second. “How old are you?”
“38” he said, “Same age as you.”
The world shifted. I was a year older than I thought. In 10 minutes, I had missed a whole year. I was suddenly 38 years old. I turned and admitted defeat. I had never had a 38th birthday and I had been giving my age wrong on official forms for heaven knows how long. All I can think of, is that I must have done a birthday twice somewhere along the way.
All this, done and accepted, I am doing the only reasonable thing I can think of today. It will be my 38th birthday until about 5pm, then I’m switching to my 39th birthday to get caught up.
I’m going to do this:
and skip working the whole time. Cheers friends. I’d share cake with you if I could.
(PS. Erin said watching me get a year older in 10 minutes on her birthday was the best present she could ever have.)