My grandmother, who could neither read nor write, introduced me to fractions when I was 6. As we'd board the bus to go shopping or to the doctor, she would declare defiantly to the driver, "She's only 5 ½" I was cautioned to say nothing, or she'd have to pay full fare for me, 15 cents in those days.
So I learned that somewhere between each number there lived a half, which could come in very handy at times. Later, if someone asked me, I was not merely 9 but 9 ¾, or 10 ⅔, making me older and more mature. In those days I wanted to be 18, a magical age.
Once I hit 18, I didn't like being asked my age any more, because I looked younger.
The summer I was 21, I was visiting a small town, and I wanted to buy wine. The clerk asked for ID. At that time, dinosaurs roamed the earth and the drinking age was 18.
I was miffed that I had to prove I was more than old enough to buy wine. I didn't have a driver's license then because I lived in New York City, where no one drives. But somehow I convinced the clerk I was older than 18 and was allowed to buy the wine.
The last time I was asked to show ID I was 41, and the clerk was very apologetic and slightly embarrassed — but he made my day.
There's a long stage in life when no one asks your age, and you don't have to tell them.
The day before my 55th birthday, I went for a mammogram. Next to age I wrote 54. No more fractions for me.
Last fall, shopping in my son's college town for shampoo and such, I saw a sign at the checkout: "If you're 55+ you get a 10 percent discount."
"I'm 55," I told the cashier, who looked to be about 18. "Do you need to see my ID?" I asked, because I still look younger than my age, particularly when the lights are dim.
"No, because no one would say they were 55 if they weren't," the clerk answered.
"Yay, I just turned 60!" I heard a woman on a movie line say a few nights ago. She was about to save $2 on the ticket, and I could feel her joy.
When my husband and I lived in Vermont, we joined a health club. I asked the young clerk how old you had to be for the senior discount.
"I'm not sure, 55 or 60 I guess."
"Well which one is it? There's a big difference!" I shot back.
I would have said more but my husband elbowed me. He is eight years older than me and was going to get the discount either way, but I was only 55.
I thought a lady never reveals her age, but when you're over 50, everyone on earth seems to know it.
The other day on the supermarket checkout line, everyone knew I was older than 50. My vitamin bottle shouted out in big letters: "Women's 50 Plus — No Iron!"
And if there's a bottle of wine among the groceries, the cashier barely has to look at me now.
I'm not ashamed of being 50-something. I can still do everything I did 30 years ago, only earlier and with frequent naps.
My mind hasn't atrophied, and even if I go out to buy milk and come home with everything but milk, I still remember the summer of 1970 quite vividly.
Next year is my 40th high school reunion. At the 30th, I recognized all the women, but not the men. Blame the hair. By some miracle, the women still had brown hair, while the men had lost most of theirs.
My birthday comes late in the year, so I was always a few months younger than most of my classmates. Now it's rare for me to be the youngest person in a room.
At the reunion I'll be young again. I can't wait: I'll be only 57 ½.