By Hannah Reich Berman

My birthday is in November. That means that when I’m online and attempting to fill out a form that asks for personal information, a chart will appear on the screen asking me to select my birth month. When that happens, I have to scroll down close to the bottom. Only the December people need to go further than I do. But doing that isn’t terribly bothersome because it is what it is and I just happen to have been born in the eleventh month of our calendar year. Not a big deal.

The same is true when a chart appears that asks me to indicate which state I live in. Alabama or Arizona might have been nice, but I don’t live in either of those states. Alphabetically, New York is more than halfway down so I need to do some scrolling there too. Neither of these, however, is terribly troublesome. A little scrolling here or there isn’t the worst thing in the world. It could be worse. True, I could not get too much further down on the birth month chart but I don’t really care since it reveals nothing. And scrolling down to the letter N (for New York) is also not a big deal. Having been born and raised in Rhode Island, had I remained there, I would be scrolling considerably further down–to the letter R. But, there too, that reveals nothing about me and isn’t terribly troublesome. Unfortunately, the required information doesn’t end with those two questions and, since I have used up my lifetime supply of patience, I have a problem when I need to provide information of a truly personal nature.

In order to get to my birth year, I find myself scrolling further and further down every year. A decade ago, in the year 2004, I didn’t have to scroll down quite so far. But with the passage of time, ten years have been added to the top so I have to do more scrolling. And I don’t like it! It isn’t the act of scrolling that bothers me; it’s the acknowledgement, and the reminder, of my age. To get to my birth year, which was way back in 1942, I need to go pretty far down on the list. I don’t care who knows how old I am. Obviously, I have no desire to keep it a secret. It’s more that I prefer to keep it hidden from myself. Why do I need to be reminded about how long ago 1942 was? And that’s not all. There are other things about giving my personal information that trouble me.

Once upon a time, without giving it much thought, I would circle the letter M for married. But those days are gone and now I am forced to circle the letter W to indicate widow. For obvious reasons, I certainly don’t like that. Why do I need to be reminded of my loss and my new status? There have been times when I have considered lying and sticking with the letter M but I always think better of it. After all, who would I be fooling? So I have never done that–at least, not yet. I always fess up and go with the W. But I play silly games with myself. I tell myself that the W might stand for a different word. Maybe it indicates wishing (as in wishing I wasn’t a widow) or maybe it could indicate the word wanting (as in wanting to have hubby back by my side). Those who will read this information provided here are free to think what they please. But I think that when I circle the W, it can be whatever I want it to be: widow, wishing, or wanting? They all work! My complaint here, and now I definitely am complaining, is that it is not important to know if I’m a widow. When a form asks me to provide information that states who my next-of-kin is, and who to call in case of emergency, the picture will be clear. Whoever is ultimately reviewing the form will see that I have supplied several names and that I have stated, as requested, what their relationship is to me. I list them as my children. And at that point, the reader can figure out for himself that I am a W. Or possibly I am a D for divorced or an S for single, as in never married. But I fail to see why I should have to provide any of that information. That is just my opinion but, as I am the one providing the information, my opinion should count a lot.

Some of the questions are downright intrusive. I don’t love to give my age and why should I have to? Since I provide my Medicare card, they know I’m not 45. I once had a problem when a form asked for my weight. That no longer bothers me because unless someone actually puts me on a scale, who will know the difference? So I write down whatever number strikes my fancy. And this isn’t just when I’m dealing with online information forms! Last month, while filling out papers in a doctor’s waiting room, I put down that my weight was 124 pounds. I didn’t think of it as a lie. The questionnaire did not stipulate that they wanted my current weight. So I felt free to write down what I weighed in 1976. I thought it was fair. On occasion, a form will ask questions about mental alertness. Queries such as those are ridiculous because if a patient isn’t mentally alert, he wouldn’t be filling out the form. I always write that I am fine and fully alert. It’s not the whole truth. But I answer only what I am asked. I see no need to volunteer the fact that my memory has deteriorated to the point that I need to have only one book in my house. Why should I let anyone know that I can read the same book over and over again because, as soon as I’ve finished it, I forget what it was about? The advantage is that I don’t have to look for new books to read. But what I don’t ever forget is how much forms and intrusive questions annoy me. That I do remember! And that’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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