How Old Are You? I’m 54-1/2!

Why are we so eager to suggest an older version of a young human?

by Carolyn Bucior
birthday cupcake with candles image

There are two kinds of parents and grandparents: those who say, “Sarah is three years old,” and those who say, “Sarah will be four in June.” The second group will announce Sarah’s future age regardless of the date on the wall calendar. Sarah may be sucking frosting off the three candles plucked from her Dora the Explorer birthday cake, but if anyone asks, she will be four years old in about 12 months. 

Why are we so eager to suggest an older version of a young human? We wouldn’t think of doing this to the adults in our lives. I’d never say, “Meet my Aunt Georgine. She’ll be 94 years old in September, if she beats the cancer.” 

Nor are we eager to tack months or years onto our own age. You hardly ever hear a woman say, “I’ll be 45 in five months—a big girl!”  

Admittedly, there are certain situations where it seems quite appropriate to place a person ahead on the timeline. Of a kid who is about to get his college degree, we might say, “He’ll graduate in May.” Of a relative serving a jail term—“She’ll be out in August.” Me? I’m now in perimenopause but hope to be in menopause by summer. Please, yes, help me advance that clock.

However, I think we should let Sarah be three years old for a full 365 days. There is no shame in it.

Recently, I was walking home from work through our leafy neighborhood and came across a little one playing on the lawn. “He’sso cute!” I said, bending over for a closer look. “How old is he?”

She,” came the admonishment, “will be six months old next week.”

She was a golden retriever puppy. Whether I was being given her age in human or dog years, I’m not sure. But I do know this: Like Sarah, the puppy was perfectly content to play on the grass and live in the present. 

Next: Age of Enlightenment: In Praise of Vanity

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First Published Wed, 2012-12-26 15:33

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