Who says you don’t use math after high school?

I am reading a memoir in which the author tells us the year and her age during that year.  I squint one eye and calculate her birth year and then subtract that from the year I was born so I can figure out who is older and by how much.

Lately, I do this every time I come across someone’s year of birth, which is surprisingly often.  It’s as if I’m trying to sort people into chronological order so I can figure out where to slide myself into the row.

Am I older than her?  If so, by how much?  Is he older than me?  A lot?

The even worse question is, “am I old enough to be her mother?”  Sometimes when I realize that I am theoretically old enough to be the parent of a thirty year old, it gives me pause.  Some people my age–and younger even–have become grandparents.  What is happening?

Is everyone else doing math in their heads all the time?  Or is this just a weird thing that I can’t stop doing?  I came across the date 1970 yesterday and thought, “I was five years old.”  I heard about Beau Biden dying of brain cancer at age 46 and I realize I’m four years old than him.  My sons are 22; when I was 22, I got married.

I line up the numbers, organize them, subtract and add.  I constantly slide myself into the timeline.

Not that it makes any difference, really.  My eyebrows are going gray, one hair at a time.  (Current white hair count, right eyebrow only, three.  Three eyebrow hairs are white.)  I’m losing pigment and blurring into invisibility.   There’s no way to stop this process, short of plastic surgery and Photoshop, and even that only changes your perception, not my reality.

1989 . . . the year my dad died and my husband and I moved twice and I worked at an insurance company and grew my hair really long and I was 24.

2001 . . . a space odyssey (ha) and we lived in a small town by the Puget Sound where the twins attended third grade and my baby boy was three . . . we had a big earthquake and I was 36.

1976 . . . the bicentennial and I had a “flag” shirt I loved so much; I was in fifth grade and Nadia Comaneci got a perfect 10 and won a gold medal in the Olympics (she was born in 1961, so she’s four years older than me) and I was 11 and my parents were divorced.

You’d think by fifty, I’d know exactly how I fit into the world, but strangely enough, I have the sense of cutting into line while trying to figure out what, exactly, everyone is lining up to do.  Where does the line begin?  Where does it end?  Am I older or younger than you?

And why do I feel so bitter about my mottled skin and drooping eyelids and the fact that I am older than the President of the United States* ?  (Although, I’d like to note that Oprah is 11 years older than me and so is Anne Lamott, but that doesn’t stop me from being older than Reese Witherspoon–she was born when I was 11–and Taylor Swift, who is young enough to be my daughter.)

At least I can still do math.



*A reader pointed out that I am actually younger that the President of the United States.  Hooray!  My husband and the President are the same age, in case you were wondering.

8 thoughts on “Who says you don’t use math after high school?

  1. I sometimes read an anecdote about someone who is around my age, maybe a little older. I think that person is old when I am reading, and then I realize that I am that age. Perception.


  2. I do exactly the same thing all the time! And like the previous commenter, I am often shocked when I realize that someone I think is “old” is actually my age or younger. And I am very bitter about my sagging jowls. Photographs are my enemy 🙂


  3. Am glad that you are good at math. I am not. Just 5 minutes ago, I was manually subtracting in my check book register – a job that takes me several tries to get it right.

    But I have to agree with AC – other people who are my age are, in my mind, old. And I am not. Go figure that logic.


  4. I do it all the time too. Which is how I know you’re not actually older than the President. He was born in 1961, and *I* am older than he is, but you are not. Hope that makes you feel better. 🙂


  5. Ha! I thought I was the only one who did the math. Looks like we should start a club. I’m one year older than you, by the way. I keep thinking I’m 52 for some reason, but I’m not. I’m 51. I was born in 1964. In March. Also? Mary is right. (^^^) We’re both younger than the president. That’s up for debate, however. Last I checked his birth certificate was still missing, but whatevs.


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