A recent New Yorker cartoon showed two powder-wigged French aristocrats standing in front of a palace. One is saying to the other, “Yes, it’s a golden age—or would be, if we weren’t all swarming with lice.”
About the same time the cartoon came out, Ed Fitzsimmons forwarded me an email with a YouTube link to George Burns singing “I Wish I Was 18 Again.” Burns sings with a laid-back style I enjoy, and it was a pleasure to hear him. The theme of the song, however, is a problem. I have never met anyone my age who would like to be 18 again. In fact, all are repelled by the very idea. It’s those dang lice we tend to forget about.
Perhaps it is the definition. Does this mean turning back the clock for the whole world? Life is a lot of work. No one would want to do that all over again, especially with the possibility of getting sidetracked into a parallel universe and getting stuck with a different family and a host of new problems.
Does the song mean to be 18 while still retaining everything accumulated over a lifetime—money, family, and knowledge? Would I really want to be 18 and married to a seventy-something woman? Would I want to be contemporary with my grandchildren? Would I want to go to my children’s funerals? Would my lifetime of memories mesh with another lifetime of memories? The devil is in the details.
Would I even want just my health and energy of 18? Some of it, but better leave out my sex drive. That would just get me in trouble today. Big trouble.
If the song was, “I wish my wife was 18 again”—that could be interesting, but even so, she would have to go back to work to prepare for her next retirement in fifty more years. And what about her sex drive? When I go to bed, now, I want to sleep.
Better just forget about it, George. I’m happy the age I am.