Happy birthday to me. Today I am —
Give me a minute.
Well, I know the decade. And I know which end of it I’m in.
In fact, I can narrow it down to two possible ages that I might be.
But which one?
Who knows? Not me, at least not without doing the birth year math.
You might think that such a fundamental personal fact as my age would be at my mental fingertips. Or you might, like me, be the kind of person who can’t put the candles on the cake without really thinking about it first.
And we are legion, judging by the response when I asked on Facebook if others had trouble remembering their age:
All. The. Time.
Every time I need to tell my age, I have to calculate it.
I always have to ask myself “is this an even or an odd year?” and then calculate based on that.
I’ve thought that I was both older and younger.
The only way I can remember is that I was born in a year with a “0.”
People develop strategies. They ask their spouses how old they are. They compute based on their spouses’ ages. They rely on younger siblings, who apparently are happy to remind them.
What is our problem?
Some of us are number-impaired. Several age-forgetters said they are simply bad at dates, and can’t remember their children’s ages either.
Some of us are in denial, like the friend who said she can’t remember how old she is because “I can’t believe I’m that age.”
Many of us are just not paying attention.
Which is a happy development, one woman said.
“I’ve had to do the math for several years and take it as a good sign that my exact age is not important to me,” she posted.
We didn’t always have to ballpark our ages. For a long time I knew exactly how old I was. At some point, however, things started to get vague.
My friend Harlene sparked a vigorous Facebook thread of her own when she recently posted, “I’m getting so old that I can’t remember how old I am anymore.” For her, the turning point was turning 50.
“Fifty is such a milestone,” she said. “Once you hit it, it’s so huge that nothing else really matters. I knew exactly how many years from 50 I was. Then once I hit 50, I was, like, ‘Whatever.’”
Do you really want to know more specifically? Harlene — who is 51, according to her husband — pointed out that while it is one thing to know exactly where you stand in your 30s, when you are in your 50s or 60s you don’t want to get that precise.
Some people start forgetting their ages long before that.
“Once you hit 40 it’s a blur,” my friend Dawn posted.
“I lost track somewhere in my 30s,” said another friend. “I clearly remember standing in my kitchen one night and being shocked when my husband told me I was about to turn 39. It was like I had blacked out for a decade and woke up on the verge of 40.
“The only reason I can remember that I am now 41 is that I had a birthday in January. I’m sure by the end of the year, I’ll have forgotten again.”
Then there is strategic forgetting. There are those who forget on purpose, thinking of themselves as a year older so that when the next birthday comes they’ll be prepared.
My friend Jacqui is planning to start forgetting.
“Once I’m 40, that’s it,” she declared.
I hope she does. I’ve found forgetting my age highly enjoyable.
Consider how it works.
How old am I? Maybe this, maybe that … what difference does it make, really? And why should I be bothered by something I don’t really know? Or even think about it?
Look at all the wriggle room you can buy yourself with a little amnesia.
If I’m not sure whether I’m 58 or 59, who’s to say I’m not really several years younger? Maybe I’m really only 52. Or even 42, although if I were off by that much, my happiness at being younger would be tempered by worry about dementia.
Still, a little uncertainty about my age lets me daydream — and lets some of the angst about aging recede into a hazy background.
Alas, the downside of not knowing my age is the unpleasantness of eventually finding out. While Harlene guesses high — a smart strategy when she finds out she is younger than she thinks she is — I guessed low.
And the next birthday will be one that will be much harder to forget.
No matter. The age amnesiac can always up the ante and move on to lying.