I was waiting in line when I heard the teller at the next window coo, ''My, look at how big you're getting!''
To my relief, she wasn't talking to me. At her window stood a mother and a beaming little boy. It was to the little boy - not the mother - that those words were addressed.
I looked at my teller and said, ''Don't you even think about it.''
At what age is it not appropriate to say to someone, ''Look at how big you're getting''?
''Probably only to kids younger than 13,'' my teller said. ''And pregnant women.''
Curses past flashed across our faces as we both remembered pregnant women who would have killed us if they could have caught us.
''Well,'' she said, ''maybe pregnant women in their first trimester.''
''Maybe,'' I said, ''not at all.''
The boy was 5 1/2. The half is very important.
When someone asks my age, I say I'll be celebrating my 12th annual 39th birthday in September.
But most people - except maybe pregnant women, who seem to mark time by how many interminable weeks they have been heavily encumbered - will give an age with no qualifiers.
''I'm 27,'' one will say. ''I'm 45,'' says another. ''I'm going to punch you in the nose if you ask me that again,'' a third will answer.
None say, "I'm 27 1/2" or "45 and 3/4" or "I'm going to give you a punch and a half."
At what age does the half size become not so important? When we become ''preteens''?
I knew a girl who, a couple weeks from her 11th birthday, proudly announced to all in sight, ''I'm going to be a preteen.''
''I thought 12 was preteen,'' I said.
She gave me a punch and half in the nose and said no, preteens begin at 11.
At what age do we stop giving our ages as ''this many''? I don't remember too many kids flashing me more than six fingers.
I suppose we could carry that out to age 10 if we wanted. Beyond that, I don't care to have a preteen kicking off his shoes to show me. Preteens still are a bit uncertain about baths.
We ask kids what grade they're in all the way through high school. But it could be unsettling to ask an adult how many grades he completed.
If your boss, for example, doesn't have to take off his shoes to show you how many, you probably really don't want to know - even if you had suspected as much.
When did you last ask an adult her shoe size? When borrowing shoes is not the reason, I mean.
Adults don't seem to think it is out of order to ask a kid his sizes, especially since the answer changes so frequently. But it's not a common conversation starter in most business meetings.
Meanwhile, adults never think to ask a kid, ''Is that your natural color?''
They don't ask too many adults that, either. Rather, they say to each other, ''No way is that her natural color. She's 85 1/2 if she's a day.''
Sadly, no matter how big they've gotten, when your kids remind you of their ages, you never can figure out how you, still being 39, could have offspring more aged than you. Or at least that's what Mom tells us kids. We'll show you how many we are when we can round up enough boxes of birthday candles. And a fire permit.
--- Cole's shoe size is 13. We noticed that when he was trying to add up his expense account. Dare to ask him at firstname.lastname@example.org.