Thursday, August 13, 2009

Velvet Arithmetic

Stephanie says that she wants to know
Why she's given half her life to people she hates now
("Stephanie Says," The Velvet Underground)
How many years of her life did Stephanie give to people she hates now, approximately? Let X be the number of years. Because X is half her life, she is now 2X years old.

Let A be the number of years she lived before she began giving her life to those people, and B the number of years she has lived since she stopped. (B might be zero if the break with the hateful people is very recent.) Then we have:
A + X + B = Stephanie's life span so far = 2X
and by subtraction:
A + B = X
I don't think you can begin giving your life to anyone before the age of consent, so A is at least 16 (lowest age of consent in the US); B could be as low as zero. Lou Reed was 26 when he recorded the song, and he wouldn't write a song about a woman who's a lot older. Stephanie shouldn't be older than 44, so A + B (half her life span) is less than 22. Substituting X for A + B:
X is greater than 16 and less than 22. QED
Oof, such a long time--what an icy feeling! It's so cold in Alaska!

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