Call me a wild and crazy guy if you want, but recently, on a whim, I decided to -- why not? -- turn 48.

It's not so bad. Physically, the only serious problem I've noticed is that I can no longer read anything printed in letters smaller than Shaquille O'Neal. Also, to read a document, I have to hold it far from my face; more and more, I find myself holding documents with my feet. I can no longer read restaurant menus, so I fake it when the waiter comes around.

Me (pointing randomly): I'll have this.

Waiter: You'll have your napkin?

Me: I want that medium rare.

It's gotten so bad that I can't even read the words I'm typing into my computer right now. If my fingers were in a prankish mood, they could type an embarrassing message right in the middle of this sentence he's always putting us in his nose and there is no way I'd be able to tell.

I suppose I should go see an eye doctor, but if you're 48, whenever you go to see any kind of doctor, he or she invariably decides to insert a lengthy medical item into your body until the far end of it reaches a different area code. Also, I am frankly fearful that the eye doctor will want me to wear reading glasses. I have a psychological hang-up about this, caused by the fact that, growing up, I wore eyeglasses for 70,000 years. And these were not just any eyeglasses: These were the El Dork-O model, the ones that come from the factory pre-broken with the white tape already wrapped around the nose part.

Anyway, other than being functionally blind at close range, I remain in superb physical condition for a man of my age who can no longer fit into any of his pants. I have definitely been gaining some weight in the midriff region, despite a rigorous diet regimen of drinking absolutely no beer whatsoever after I pass out. The only lower-body garments I own that still fit me comfortably are towels, which I find myself wearing in more and more social settings.

Because of my midriff situation I was very pleased to read recently about the new Miracle Breakthrough Weight Loss Plan for Mice. In case you missed this, what happened was, scientists extracted a certain chemical ingredient found in thin mice, then injected it into fat mice; the fat mice lost 90 percent more weight than a control group of fat mice who were exposed only to Richard Simmons.

The good news is that this same ingredient could produce dramatic weight loss in human beings; the bad news is that, before it becomes available, it must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (motto: "We Haven't Even Approved Our Motto Yet"). So it's going to take a while. If you're overweight and desperate to try this miracle ingredient right away, my advice to you, as a medical professional, is to get hold of a thin mouse and eat it. It can't be any worse than tofu.

But getting back to aging: Aside from the vision thing, and the weight thing, and the need to take an afternoon nap almost immediately after I wake up, I am a superb physical specimen easily mistaken for Brad Pitt.

Not only that, but I have the mind of a steel trap. Of course very few things in the world -- and I include the Home Shopping Network in this statement -- are as stupid as a steel trap. What I'm saying is, I have definitely detected a decline in some of my mental facilities. For example, the other day I was in my office, trying to perform a fundamental journalistic function, namely, fill out an expense report, and I needed to divide three into a number that, if I recall correctly, was $125.85, and I couldn't remember how to do long division. I knew I was supposed to put the 3 into the 12, then bring something down, but what?

I was starting to panic, when all of a sudden -- this is why you youngsters should pay attention in math class -- my old training came back to me, and I knew exactly what to do: Ask Doris. Doris works in my office, and she has a calculator. I guess I should start carrying one around, along with some kind of device that remembers (a) people's names, (b) where I put the remote control, and (c) what I had planned to do once I got into the kitchen other than stand around wearing a vacant expression normally associated with fish.

But so what if my memory isn't what it used to be? My other mental skills are as sharp as ever, and I'm confident that I can continue to do the kind of astute analysis and in-depth research that have characterized this column over the years, which is why today I want to assure you, the readers, that my advancing age will in no way change the fact that mainly he scratches himself.

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