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From the Publisher’s Desk – Sadie played leap frog with my heart (March 2, 2016 issue)

By Keith Whitson

It leaped over me.

Mondays are our busiest days at The Erwin Record. It is the day we do most of the page design and finish up stories. The paper then gets proofed and finalized on Tuesdays and sent to the printer by noon.

We revolve in a basic cycle. I am sure you have heard the saying “Wash, rinse, repeat.” Before the paper is available in stores and newspaper racks, we are starting a new list of ideas for the next week,  clearing stories off of pages stored in the computer and getting our week lined up.

So here comes leap year and where does it fall? Monday.  There were five Mondays in February, one extra Monday to spend working on the newspaper.

But it kept my mind occupied as I waited and waited and waited to see if this was the year someone, anyone, was going to surprise me and ask for my hand in marriage.

In the US, February 29 is often referred to as “Sadie Hawkins Day” signifying a gender role reversal, such as a day when a woman proposes marriage to a man. I was curious about Sadie, who somehow received her own designated day at some point in time. Maybe it was a holiday and I was supposed to be off with pay. The followin is what I found.

“Sadie Hawkins Day, an American folk event, made its debut in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner strip Nov. 15, 1937. Sadie Hawkins was “the homeliest gal in the hills” who grew tired of waiting for the fellows to come a courtin’.

“Her father, Hekzebiah Hawkins, a prominent resident of Dogpatch, was even more worried about Sadie living at home for the rest of his life, so he decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins Day, a foot race in which the unmarried gals pursued the town’s bachelors, with matrimony the consequence. By the late 1930s the event had swept the nation and had a life of its own.

“Life magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins Day events in 1939, only two years after its inception. It became a woman empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence. The basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their aggressive dates.”

Sadly, Monday came and went and Sadie didn’t call me all day. Now I have to wait four more years or longer. A leap year occurs almost every four years on February 29. In order for a year to be a leap year, it must be evenly divisible by four; however, if the year is evenly divisible by 100, it is not a leap year unless it is also evenly divisible by 400, in which case it is a leap year.

This means that 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was a leap year. Makes perfect sense, right? Yeah, I’m still confused and I’m single.

The leap year concept is added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. It is a corrective measure, because the Earth does not orbit the sun in precisely 365 days.

I think it is a conspiracy like daylight savings time. Someone in higher government status thinks that if they keep us confused enough we won’t notice worse things going on. What if all of those episodes of “The Twilight Zone” were real?

Since I am writing this column before hearing Tuesday night’s election results, I can only hope the winning presidential candidates are capable of clearing up this and other such messes.

So who else is leaping around the world? It turns out everyone. Some calendars add an extra month for a leap year. In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt. In France, since 1980, a satirical newspaper entitled “La Bougie du Sapeur” is published only on leap year, on February 29. In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky. One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year. In February 1988 the town of Anthony, Texas, declared itself “leap year capital of the world”, and an international leapling birthday club was started.

My birthday actually occurs in February. If only it could have been on a leap day. Think of how much younger I would be with birthdays coming around once every four years. I know it really doesn’t work that way. A person born on February 29 may be called a “leapling” or a “leaper.” In common years, they usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28. In some situations, March 1 is used as the birthday in a non-leap year, since it is the day following February 28.

Excuse me, I think that is Sadie on the caller ID. I will let you know how this goes.