Those “Jeopardy!” questions keep getting tougher. The other night the category was “Famous Writers,” a subject about which I like to think I’m fairly knowledgeable.
Seriously though, who can remember the name of the author of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and a bunch of other famous plays?
Was it Oscar Wilde? Edgar Allan Poe? Moliere? Or some obscure Italian guy?
Well, to paraphrase whoever it was, I come to praise February, not to bury it.
Shame on those who disparage the second month of the Gregorian calendar for its trifling imperfections, rather than celebrate it for its many assets.
True, February’s nights are too lengthy and its hours of daylight too few. The air temperature is ceaselessly frigid and the driving perennially hazardous. Mere walking is treacherous, thanks to perpetually slick surfaces pedestrians must surmount. Even the most sure-footed are at risk, since the burden of snow and ice removal, which by mid-February is as much a part of daily life as brushing one’s teeth, can precipitate frostbite, heart attack, or impalement by snow shovel. And the most grievous of the month’s warts: a diabolical “holiday” invented and perpetuated by a nefarious cabal of florists, greeting card producers, and the all-powerful chocolate lobby. Valentine’s Day is far more despised by discerning, rational, pragmatic types than it is breathlessly anticipated by the romance-addled, courtship-obsessed segment of the population.
But there is far more justification for celebrating February than there are reasons for condemning it. It is, after all, the shortest of the winter months. And as those who pine for spring, summer, and/or autumn are keenly aware, February’s first week marks the midway point of what is, for non-skiers, non-snowboarders, non-snowmobilers, and non-ice fishermen, the least desirable season.
Countless important inventions were originally patented in February, including the steamboat, the self-starting automobile engine, and the removable steel plow blade.
Adolf Hitler wasn’t born in February. Neither was Osama bin Laden, Benito Mussolini, or any Kardashian sister.
Who was born in February, you ask? Abraham Lincoln. Rosa Parks. George Washington. And me.
I’ve never understood people who complain about getting older. The alternative (being too dead to have a birthday to celebrate) isn’t attractive, and besides, who doesn’t love an excuse to party? My birthday is always memorable, even when lighting the candles on the cake set off not only my smoke alarm, but all the neighbors’ alarms as well.
I used to get flustered on my birthday when some insensitive individual had the temerity to ask me my age. Thankfully those days are long gone, thanks to a revolutionary new calculation system recommended to me a decade or so ago by a thoughtful friend several years my senior. It seemed a little overly complicated at the time, but as I was taught to always respect my elders (an increasingly dwindling group) I decided to try it. It wasn’t until after I had undergone hip replacement surgery several years later that I fully appreciated the depth of his wisdom.
For years when I was asked how old I was I had to mentally subtract the year of my birth from the current one, then blurt out the answer. But then I began, as advised, calculating my age differently: by adding the ages of a pair of matching body parts (i.e. legs, eyes, thumbs, ears, etc.), then dividing their sum by two. For example, a person with a 40-year-old right arm and a 40-year-old left arm has a BPS (Body Part Sum) of 80, which, when divided by two, reveals a chronological age of 40.
But now when someone tactlessly expresses curiosity regarding my chronological age I give a completely logical and nearly truthful response. This year when some socially inept lightweight impertinently asks how old I am I’ll reply with a smile (and in an upbeat voice), “33! (Left hip: 61; right hip: 5; sum: 66. Number of hips: two; 66 divided by two equals....)
The reactions one gets from individuals too dense to absorb this cutting-edge age computation method vary. Last year when I told an intrusive young co-worker I was turning 32 she responded with wordless incredulity. Because of her rapidly-changing facial expressions and equally numerous shifts in body language, I couldn’t tell if she was thinking, "No, seriously" or "You're such a liar!" or "Did you actually hear my question, old man?" or "Did he think I asked him his IQ?"
And besides, age is just a number. I’m thrilled to be celebrating another birthday in reasonably good health and in control of all my faculties, including my steel-trap memory, which just recalled the name of the English guy who wrote Julius Caesar.
Now if only I could recall some of George Bernard Shaw’s other Famous plays!Andy Young
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