IT?S ALL A NUMBER GAME

Ever notice how magazine articles are fixated with age? Every person?s name is followed with a number. ?Perky Bosom, 33, and Famis Leejend, 59, announced the birth of their new baby girl, Global Citizen, 18 days.?

As you get older you can?t help comparing yourself to others in terms of age. Is my doctor younger than me? Is that even possible? Let?s see . . . 17 when they graduate, seven years medical school, which would make her . . . Good Grief! Not only is it possible, it is highly probable.

Still, there are a lot of people around me that are older. Which is strangely reassuring. I?ll read a magazine article about Goldie Hawn being 20 years old when she got her first break as a cancan dancer at the 1965 World?s Fair and right away I?m doing the math. The current year minus 1965 plus 20 . . . this is the real reason we do all those math problems in high school. All those ?A car leaves Toronto travelling west at the same time a train leaves Vancouver heading east? questions were designed just so one day I could be reading a magazine article and be able to figure out that Goldie Hawn is 18 years older than me.

Eighteen years! This fact elates me. Unreasonably so. I?m actually thinking, look at Goldie! This beautiful woman is almost two decades older than me and she looks fabulous. Like this is going to have some bearing on the way I age. It doesn?t occur to me that right now I am almost two decades younger than Goldie Hawn and am not looking anything close to fabulous. Instead, I?m just telling myself that if Goldie Hawn can look this great approaching 70, then all I have to do is give time 18 years to work its magic, and I will look like a movie star.

Not only is it reassuring having older people around that look good, it?s great if they suddenly start accomplishing things. It gives me hope. Maybe I faint every time I stand up in front of more than six people, but if I read about some standup comic who didn?t start the comedy circuit until he was 45 and now he?s getting his own sitcom, I?ll actually think, well there you go. Soon I?ll be a household name. That?s how my mind works.

So when is it too late? When do we have to fold up our dreams and go home? The day you stand in front of the mirror, pull back on the hairline to see if its receding and notice a date engraved on your forehead? Leaning in for a closer inspection, you see the words ?Best Before November 1, 2007?

With women it would all be in the liver spots. One day you would put on a short sleeve shirt and that?s when you notice the spots are shaped like letters and numbers. There?s an E, followed by an X, then a P. Oh no! There it is right on your left bicep. Expires October 30, 2007. You have expired. There is no more Best Before date for you. You?re done. Nothing left to do except hang your head over the sink and see if you can figure out how to pour yourself down the drain.

Which is where wife meets up with husband who is attempting to do the same.

?What are you doing?? the wife demands.

?I?ve hit my best before date,? the husband moans.

?Best before? You?re whining about best before?? The wife replies crossly, ?Big deal. You think you?ve got problems? I?ve gone and expired.?

Well bull-droppings to all of that. Humans do not come with expiration dates. Well, okay, we do. But that is the date that comes after the dash on our headstones. Until then, how can we convince ourselves that it is too late? Are you breathing? Good. Now check for a pulse. Found it? Okay then, it?s not too late. Comb that hair forward, toss on a long sleeved sweater and get going before you turn sour. Let me know how it turns out.

Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated humour columnist from the Peace River country.