Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Leap Year Lady


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Betty Flemming celebrates her 22nd birthday this year, but frankly, she has always looked old for her age.

Her condition isn't medical, it's "calendar-ical:" She was born Feb. 29, 1924. As such, she only has a birthday every four years, which means she only was legally old enough to buy booze in 2008.

But that's only if you go by the birthdays that were actually on the calendar. Chronologically, Flemming will be 88 this year and lives in a retirement community in Springfield, Va. She has enjoyed her unique birthday since she first discovered she was a "leapling" at a surprise party.

"On my eighth birthday, my mother threw me a big surprise party on Feb. 29," Flemming told HuffPost Weird News. "I then realized what a special day it was. Every other year, we celebrated my birthday on March 1 because my mother said 'Feb. 28 was a day too soon!'"

Waiting four years for a real birthday sounds tough, but Flemming sees advantages.

"I get to hear from people and talk to people that I hadn't talked to in four years. It's a memorable day, so close friends and family always remember to celebrate," she said. "However, like any birthday, the hardest part is aging. Even if Feb. 29 doesn't come, I'm still another year older."

It is estimated that 4 million people share Flemming's birthday, including celebrities like rapper Ja Rule, motivational speaker Tony Robbins and actor Antonio Sabato Jr., who said in 2003 (a few months before his "eighth birthday") that he never felt shorted by the timing of his birth.

"I'm okay with it because it's also my grandfather's birthday," he said. "Plus, I get four years' worth of presents every Feb. 29."

It's true that having four years between birthdays might teach delayed gratification, but there are downsides, according to Lisa Barr, a publicist in New York, who will turn "12" this year.

"I don't think I realized that I was 'different' until I was in fourth grade," she said. "I remember someone saying that I didn't really have a birthday -- it was a non-leap-year -- and I remember feeling hurt and didn't understand what that meant."

Another problem: People forget she even has a birthday.

"I remember and always send birthday cards to people, so for them to 'forget' or say, 'Well, you don't really have a birthday this year anyway,' can hurt your feelings. Also, it's like you don't have a 'real day' that's yours... You just get older."


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