Jane Fishman: When the numbers don’t add up
Do memories lie? All the time.
And photographs? Do photographs lie? Is the pope Catholic? Of course photos lie, mostly because we Photoshop or throw away — excuse me: delete! — the bad ones, which means we don’t have to look at the ones of ourselves we don’t like.
What about what comes out of our mouths? Do those words lie? Are you kidding? Can you say obfuscate? Our words obfuscate, all the time, deliberately or not.
But math — not algebra or trigonometry or algorithms, just plain old addition and subtraction, as in carrying a number and crossing out another one and then doing a little borrowing — well, those numbers don’t lie. They don’t go backward, either. I can still remember wondering what we would call the years after 2000. Would we say twenty-one or two-thousand-one? It doesn’t seem much of an issue now.
But, really, people, a soon-to-be-birthday that numbers 69? How can this be and what can I do about it? In a way, I think 70 might be more exciting. This one is just a holding pattern. Most of the time I don’t know how old I am because the number is so ridiculously ridiculous. Most of the time when someone asks my age, I have to do the math in my head and then it just seems plain wrong and by that time in the conversation we’ve moved on to something else and the actual number never comes up. Now I just give the year — 1944 — and let the other person do the math since I’m usually wrong anyway.
In short, the person I see in the mirror is not the person I see in my head (even if she is shorter).
The only choice is to own the number, to celebrate the age. Hey, Alice Walker was born in 1944. She’s not doing so badly the last I looked. The last book she wrote — which I read — was about chickens. That sounds about right. And Tina Turner is 73. That’s a little shocking. (You’ve heard of Tina Turner, right?) And my old friend June Millington — a Facebook freak and a rock ‘n’ roll singer who was in one of the first all-girl rock bands (Fanny) and is now all white-headed — just turned 65. And she is all over the number. No reconstructive math for June.
It doesn’t help that a few days ago when I was rooting around a friend’s garden looking for some errant horsetail — which I gave him decades ago (when you start talking decades that should be the first clue for the 69 thing) and which have become the butt of many jokes since the thing at one time took over his front yard — a neighbor passed and asked me, “Oh, are you Tom’s mother?”
Tom, I might add, is about eight years my junior.
I tried to resurrect something my mother said when we were riding in an elevator in her old folks’ home and someone asked me if I were her sister: “Don’t worry about that,” she’d say. “She can’t see anyway.”
I know this about being 69. I’m a lot more careful about my teeth. I don’t even use them to bite my cuticles anymore, let alone try to open bottles.. And I have a little less faith in gold fillings. I thought they were supposed to be forever. Not. My advice to anyone thinking of going into medicine? Consider dentistry. You’ve got a sure population.
Other than that I have no advice, except never say, “Have went” or “Him and me,” and when in doubt about the apostrophe just leave it out. Oh, and start putting money away for a dental implant. You’ll be needing one.
On the bright side, I just learned that the 3-year-old down the street told his daddy he wanted to “have a play date with Miss Jane?” What does age mean to him? Not a darn thing.