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World’s Oldest 21-yr-old Finally Gets Her First ‘Legal’ Drink

Ian Harvey
Happy leap year! This is not the woman from the article.
Happy leap year! This is not the woman from the article.

When you’re the world’s oldest 21-yr-old, having a drink might be a big deal. Turning 21 is a big milestone for most people, as it marks the time when they are legally able to drink.  Even though turning 18 means reaching your legal majority, with the concurrent ability to serve in the armed forces or cast a vote, many people feel like being old enough to drink really means crossing the line into legitimate adulthood.  It’s a milestone we all hit eventually, but it takes some people longer than others. Take, for example, Arlene Manko.

Manko was born on February 29, 1936.  Even though she’s been alive for 84 years, due to the oddity of the Gregorian calendar, she technically turned 21 last Saturday. To commemorate and celebrate her slow achievement of turning 21, Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds poured her first ‘legal’ drink, from his gin brand, Aviation Gin, according to the Daily Mail.

The company made a new advertisement featuring Manko as the world’s oldest 21-yr-old.  In the ad, she is both interviewed at her home and seen at a liquor store, faced with a clerk who’s giving her the hairy eyeball while he checks her ID. She remarked that she was technically only five years old when she got married, and that she produced seven children in the course of a decade.  She then asked if the interviewer didn’t think she’d want a drink under those circumstances.

She also said that she feels it’s important to follow the rules and do as you’re told, so she waited 30,679 days to be able to buy her first legal adult beverage as the world’s oldest 21-yr-old. Reynolds’ company is extending the same opportunity to any other leaplings who were also born in 1936.  All they need to do to claim their free drink is to email Ryan@aviationgin.com to receive a gift card.

Assuming birthdays are evenly distributed across the year, the odds of being a leap day baby are about 1 in 1,461, as opposed to the usual 1 in 365.  That means about .007% of babies are born on February 29.  The reason that Leap Day exists is that it takes the Earth roughly 365.24 to make a full orbit of the sun.

The fractional day gets collected from year to year, until one entire day can get tacked on once every four years, hence, Leap Day.  On the one hand, a quarter of a day a year doesn’t sound like very long, but as years turn into centuries, the lack of a leap day would have the calendar move out of sync with the seasons fairly quickly.

The actual length of our days and years isn’t actually as neat and tidy as we like to think.  Our ‘days’ aren’t exactly 24 hours long.  One revolution of the Earth actually only takes about 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds. Furthermore, besides spinning on its own, the Earth is also spinning around the sun, which means that it has to spin a little further to be in the same place relative to the sun that it was the previous day, which is how we gain the time.

It was the ancient Romans, under Julius Caesar, who first started adding February 29 to be that extra day.  It wasn’t until the 16th century that the Gregorian calendar (the same one we still use today) fine-tuned the calculations so that the extra day only showed up every four years.  There are the odd exceptions, though.  For instance, a century year can only also be leap year if it’s divisible by four, so 2000 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 weren’t.

Aside from the math of it all, there are also a certain number of customs and traditions that travel with this elusive day. People born on February 29 are sometimes called ‘leaplings,’ and despite the rareness of having that particular birthday, there have been several famous people who have shared it, including Dinah Shore (2/29/1916), Jimmy Dorsey (02/29/1904), and Gioacchino Rossini the opera composer (02/29/1792).

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One of the oddest and oldest customs is that there are places in the world where Leap Day was traditionally a time that a woman could propose marriage to a man, instead of it being the usual other way around.  In some parts of Europe, if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on Leap Day, he would have to pay her some type of forfeit, such as money or clothing.

In Scotland, being born on Leap Day is considered unlucky, similar to being born on Friday the 13th, and in ancient Greece being married in a leap year, especially on Leap Day itself, was also considered unlucky. Perhaps Arlene Manko could tell people her feeling about it being unlucky or not, considering that it took her 84 years to be able to buy her own drinks as the world’s oldest 21-yr-old.