Friday, December 7, 2018

"The First Line Of The Second Verse Of The 'Happy Birthday' Song"

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

Hall of Fame pitcher “Satchel” Paige, who played professionally into his… nobody knows for sure when.

This is a minuscule matter, which turned into a post when the issue rose to my attention twice.  There are blogatorial standards for these things.  One mention of an issue’s a “Hm.”  Two mentions in relatively close proximity’s a “Whoa.”  Similar to a “Hm”, albeit a deeper, more eye-opening reaction.

I announce up front that this is an “age-related annoyance”, considerably less serious, however, than those displayed in gerontologically-oriented blogs, to which this one, admittedly, occasionally resembles.

Okay.  I’ve got to look something up now.  Hum to yourselves a moment.  I’ll be right back.


Too much.  I was actually back eight dots ago.  Sorry.  Sometimes my finger gets stuck on the key.

Okay.  Here’s the thing.  I told you it’s small, but it brings up some interesting concerns.

Resulting from the recent re-emergence of Murphy Brown – “What do you think of it, Earlo?”  I think it feels slow. – there have be numerous articles in the newspaper concerning the hit series’ resurrection, and in those articles, the show’s star of course is prominently mentioned and equally prominently mentioned is her age.

Which is the article I read said she was 78.

My first question – not just for that article but for virtually all newspaper articles I have ever read is –

“Why was it necessary to mention her age?”

You see it all the time.

“Jessica Musgrave, 77, swallowed a hundred-and-thirty-five goldfish.”

Which is what, in terms of my ultimate “takeaway”?

“That’s a lot for her age”?

It’s not an “age” story!  The woman ate more than eleven dozen goldfish!  That is certainly a record.  They don’t print stories,

“Woman Sets Near Record Swallowing Goldfish.”

That’s only a “near story.”

Either it’s a story about a record, or it’s not a story at all.  Neither has anything to do with her age.  (Nor its being a made-up story about swallowing goldfish.)

The Murphy Brown story is about Murphy Brown.  What difference does the star’s age make?  The article was not conceived as an “Age is no barrier” pep talk.

“And she stands up!  Hardly ever leaning on her desk!”

Candice Bergen’s age is mentioned because that’s what they do in newspapers.  They include the subject’s age whether it is relevant or not.  Which would be today’s “stand alone” gripette were it not for a worse part, which is the following.  

Shortly thereafter, I read another article about Candice Bergen, and in that one
they said she was 72!


Not only did they mention her age when the story had nothing to do with her age,

In one of those articles – since even “Satchel” Paige would not claim you can be two ages,

They got Candice Bergen’s age wrong!

Which brings back Paige’s original question,

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

For the individual in question, beyond “Get it right, will ya?”, it makes minimal practical difference.  For them, it’s

“I am a day older than yesterday.”

But for the perceiver?

“She looks good for 78.”

“Yeah?  How does she look for 72?”

You see what I mean?

Suddenly that’s in your head, and you are seeing the same person two different ways.

Also, our times and culture being what they currently are, hiring a 78 year-old feels perceptibly more precarious than hiring a 72 year-old, the difference between “She’s a grandmother” and “She’s a great-grandmother.” 

On whose life does the show take out more insurance?

And then there is the perennial concern of

“What exactly do we know for sure?”

One “Reliable Source” says she is 72; another pegs her at 78.  Which one is actually correct?  And what if it’s not that erring “Reliable Source’s” fault, having gotten their information from a “Reliable Source” that somehow made a mistake?

Say I had never read that second article and I wrote a post saying Candice Bergen was 78.  I’d be telling you a lie.

At least according to Wikipedia – that’s what I went to look up – who says she’s 72. 

Like Wikipedia is always correct.

Solution:  Leave out the ages unless they’re important.

Like that woman who just died at 111. 

You want to know about that.  It’s an impressive accomplishment and gives you something to shoot at.

Something far distant from 73.


JED said...

I look at it as an encouragement. She's 72 (or 78) and still working. I'm 67 and still working - for now. It gives me hope that, since I can't afford to retire yet, my employer might be less apt to say, "let's get rid of the old guy," because they see Ms. Bergen still going.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I'm pretty sure 72 is right. She's the daughter of a star, so there's pretty good attestation for her birth in 1946. I think she looks great, and I'm happy to see her on my screen again. Though I'd probably be even happier if she were doing something new.


stephen marks said...

I agree with Earl, it's not relevant but if they have to do it they should print it like a car for sale ad. "A 1946 Candice Bergen was mentioned today in a blog written by a clean, highway driven only, low mileage, some small leaks 1945 Pomerantz."

Mortimer S. said...

Ask her, she probably knows...75!