Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The Second Half

With aging, a time to add, a time to subtract

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.

With aging, a time to add, a time to subtract 08/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 1:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Romano: Why flood insurance might not be enough to save your home

    Local Government

    Irma is gone, and Maria never came.

    And yet this is as good a time as any to worry.

  2. Tampa's streetcar system looks to expand north through downtown


    TAMPA — The TECO Line Streetcar system that runs from Ybor City to the Channel District could be extended north through downtown all the way to Tampa Heights, according to the latest update of a $1.7 million study aimed at expanding the streetcar system.

    Riders take in the last few stops of the streetcar route in Ybor City during the tenth anniversary celebration of the TECO line streetcar system in Tampa in 2012. Now officials are looking for ways to expand the service north through downtown to Tampa Heights. [EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times]
  3. Interview: Steve Martin, Martin Short bringing 'best version' of their show back to St. Petersburg


    Hot celebrity-spotting tip: Stop by the Salvador Dalí Museum on Jan. 19. You might catch a glimpse of Steve Martin.

    Steve Martin, left, and Martin Short will bring “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” to the Mahaffey Theater on Jan. 19.
  4. Report: Well-being of black and Hispanic children continues to lag in Florida


    Despite making progress in health care access and parental employment, Florida has not improved its poverty rate for children over the past five years, a newly released national report shows.

    Students line up in the courtyard at predominantly black Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg. A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that Florida ranks 28th in the nation on an index that measures the well-being of black children. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Second lady Karen Pence to speak at Tampa art therapy summit


    TAMPA — Second lady Karen Pence will visit The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday to address advocates of art therapy programs for military members and families.