D. None of the above

How old were you when you kissed your first partner, had your first alcoholic drink, met the person of your dreams, had your first child, dealt with your first serious loss, got your first big job or made your first million?

We can use age to motivate us, give us a sense of time and place, and allow us to hear the alarm bells, or to hit the snooze button for the next phase of our lives.

We compare ourselves to those around us to see if we’re approaching the landmarks at the right pace. We take pride in our accomplishments, or in the accomplishments of our children, as in, “My son started walking when he was 7 months old.”

The comparisons often start with our parents, even though we come from a different generation. I wasn’t anywhere close to getting married at the same age as my parents were when they wed. I thought about that when I passed that landmark age. Was I moving too slowly? Was I missing something or someone? Was I falling behind?

I took comfort in knowing that I lived at a different time. Then again, I also passed the age at which my brother got married. Did I need to do a hard target search of every outhouse, henhouse and farmhouse to find my fugitive wife?

Fortunately, the answer had nothing to do with age. I could have married other women, but I hadn’t met the right person.

Before my wife and I got married, we were in sync about when we wanted to try to make that wonderfully challenging transition toward parenthood.

Now, as the years have passed and our children have learned to drive the car — and us crazy — we have reached other milestone ages.

They have celebrated academic landmarks, graduating from elementary and middle schools while working their way through high school.

Our milestone birthday numbers don’t come as frequently as 16, 18, 21, and 25 do for our kids.

But, every so often, we hit a number that has significance either on its own, ending in a zero or a five, or because of some family connection.

I am approaching just such a challenging milestone. My father was this old when he died. I know there are people like Mickey Mantle, who expected to live a relatively short life. Mantle’s grandfather died at 60 and his father passed away at 40, both from Hodgkin disease. In the event, the baseball legend lived until he was nearly 64.

At every annual physical, my doctor and I review my family history. We are aware of the diseases that may be lurking somewhere in my genes. It makes sense to monitor my health and to catch anything early, particularly something that may run in the family.

Still, I don’t share Mantle’s sense of predestination, just as I didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to grab the nearest woman I found relatively unobjectionable because I had to get married at the same age as my parents or my brother.

My life doesn’t come with a playbook or a chapter outline. Maybe I would have made more money by now, reached more personal milestones, or run a few more marathons — OK, one — if I’d recognized all the age-related alarm bells.

Then again, if I had, I would have missed out on knowing my wife and our children, three people whose lives enrich and define my own.

So, yes, while I keep an eye on the genetic footprints in the sand ahead of me, I also hope to follow my own compass as I imagine the days ahead when I become older than my father.

The recent frigid weather was good training to harden us for our trip north this past weekend. We went high up in the Green Mountains of Vermont to ski. Now before you wonder at my sanity, I hasten to repeat what my clever neighbor told me when he heard we were going. “Skiing? Just hang out at the bar for a couple of days, then come back and tell us you went skiing. We’ll never know.”

So with proper full disclosure, I confess that I did not ski. I stretched out before a roaring fire in the lodge with a good book that was interrupted only occasionally for some good food and a good nap here and there. But my children and grandchildren skied and dutifully reported back at the end of each day in such vivid detail that I felt like I had swooshed down from the summit but without the cold and the half-hour wait on the lift lines to get there. Now don’t get me wrong. I always loved to ski. Why else would I have put up with the long drives, the absurd boots, the itchy hats and the running nose except for those few exhilarating moments when the view of the valley below from above the snow line is spectacular, the air is sharp and clear, the snow sparkles with sunlight in an unbroken trail before me and the deep silence assures me that the splendor is mine alone.

That said, age has its advantages, and I stayed warm and dry, letting subsequent generations enjoy the marvel of skiing.

We were there to celebrate my middle son’s 50th birthday. It became a tradition in our family, when my oldest son turned 50, that we would gather at the location of his choosing to properly mark the occasion together. This trip was not without its dangers but not from skiing. It was the drive up to the slopes on Friday that kept us on the edge of our seats in the car, peering into the darkness. If you remember, the day began uncharacteristically warm, but as the hours went by, a deep freeze descended from the north and pushed into the warmer air, creating dense fog.

We crossed the Sound on the ferry, unable to see the shores, and actually missed the turnoff to the Merritt Parkway and thence Interstate 91 from Route 8 on the Connecticut side because the fog shrouded the signs above our heads on the roadway. That wasn’t of any great consequence as we continued on Route 8 to Interstate 84 East, a slightly longer stretch, but it did serve to warn us of what lay ahead.

We drove for the next couple of hours and the fog only seemed to intensify, but we were in good spirits anticipating the coming weekend’s festivities. We even stopped for a nice German dinner in Springfield, Massachusetts. What difference would a couple of extra hours make, we rationalized, since it was going to be dark anyway by the time we left the highway?

Initially driving wasn’t so difficult on Route 103, the first of the back-country roads, because there were other cars snaking along, marking the contours of the road with the glow of red taillights. At one point a bus joined the parade in front of us, and that was dandy. The real problems started when we turned onto Route 100 and left the bus behind. So dense was the fog that we missed the turn and had to circle back for a second try. 

We were all alone from that point on, sometimes inching our way forward, straining to follow the yellow midline. Snowbanks lined the road, with only an occasional reflective marker to indicate a precipice off to the side. In that fashion, our hazard lights blinking noisily in the car to avoid anyone colliding with us, we traveled the next 24 miles. We knew we were climbing because our ears popped periodically, but we could see nothing of the mountains. We finally arrived at our lodging, a couple of hours later, in a glazed-eye stupor.

After that, simply skiing was a piece of cake. Birthday cake, that is.      

In the dark of night, it silently slithered toward the back of the car, spray painting the windows with a sheen of opaque white.

It made its way around the car, finding the seam in the doors and filling it with surprisingly strong epoxy. It glided down to the ground and sucked some of the warm air out of the tires. The car was trapped on the driveway with no way to fight off this unwelcome intruder. If its alarm could have gone off, it would have warned us. But, no, that alarm only goes off early in the morning on the weekends, when someone opens the door with the key instead of deactivating the alarm system with a button, annoying the neighbors and embarrassing our kids and us in equal measure.

It slid under the hood. It paused over the heart of the machine, looking for places to extend its icy fingers into the exposed engine, snickering with delight at the opportunity to turn 3,000 pounds of metal into a frozen couch.

It reached into the battery and deactivated the power.

On my way to the car, it issued a warning, or was it a challenge, when it wrapped its icy fingers around my neck. I tried to ignore it and stick with my routine. When I turned the key, however, the car coughed weakly.

“Come on,” I pleaded, as the cold scraped its icicle hands against my exposed calf. I tried again. The third time was not the charm, either.

After getting a jump start, I decided to outsmart the wretched cold. I cleared space in the garage, hauling all the heavy items parked there into the basement. The garage door and the walls of the house would offer greater protection. No, I wasn’t giving the car a blanket and pillow and setting it up with reruns of “Knight Rider,” but I was protecting the family car.

The next day, I went through the basement into the garage, put the key in the ignition and beamed broadly as the internal combustion engine roared to life. Ha! I foiled the frigid air. I told the kids to climb in the car, which warmed up rapidly as a reward for keeping it in the garage, and drove triumphantly to school. The cold wouldn’t undermine my day, I thought, as I maneuvered through the responsibilities of the day.

When I returned home, I found that the cold had recruited my garage door to its unworthy cause. I didn’t look carefully enough when I had pulled away from the house. The garage door, fooled by a small piece of snow in the corner of the floor, thought it had hit something and reopened, where it stayed all day.

I pulled the car in, closed the garage and waited for the door to close. When the metal door reached the ground, it reopened. I played a short game with the door, pushing the button just after it started to open again so that the cold air had only a small opening.

“I win,” I announced as I entered the warm house.

When I turned on the water in my bathroom the next morning, I realized I had lost. The combination of the cold from the open garage from the day before and the small crack at the bottom of the door was enough to enable the cold to lay its frozen hands on my pipes.

Several hours later, the plumber, who was busier than a foraging ant during a Fourth of July picnic, shivered in the garage and proclaimed the small opening under the door as the culprit.

This cold snap, which finally left the area earlier this week, won this battle.

My family and I waited in the airport immigration line, eager to get back to our house, unload our suitcases and throw in the first of numerous loads of laundry.

We hoped our poor washing machine, which got a much-needed break, was up to the task.

When we reached the front of the line, a young man with a broad smile and a far-off look in his eyes greeted us.

“Hi,” we both said, trying to follow his gaze. “Happy New Year.”

“Yeah, you, too,” he said, sizing us up briefly before offering a goofy grin to people heading down the escalator.

“You know who Stephen Colbert is?” he asked, realizing that we were staring at him.

My wife and I responded quickly in the affirmative, worried that this was a new kind of national identity test.

“He’s up there,” the young man said, pointing to the escalator. “If you hurry, you can catch him.”

We took back our passports and immediately kicked into a higher gear.

We got to the bottom of the escalator and scanned the room. Wait! Could it be? Yes! The man, who is beamed into our bedroom on an occasional evening when we’re not watching sports, was standing in front of us under a baseball cap, waiting, as we were, for his luggage so he could move on with his famous life.

What is it about celebrities that makes us stop in our tracks, that raises our pulse, that makes us want to take out our cameras, pens and paper, and rush over to them? Do we want to share the spotlight? Do celebrities define an era, the way winning sports teams do?

Most unscripted celebrities seem considerably less interesting or compelling than they do when they’re battling against evil empires, winning our hearts with their humble charm or learning to overcome their limitations.

It’s what makes those award shows so fascinating, compelling and terrifying. What if one of these actors who has impressed us with his gravitas suddenly freezes in the camera or, worse, says something we find objectionable? What if they aren’t as wonderful as the characters they play?

We watched Colbert as he dove deep into his electronic device, head down, hat pulled low. He rarely looked up because he probably didn’t want anyone to “make” him, the way police officers make a suspect.

As Colbert exited, my phone rang. I spoke to the person who was picking us up, hung up and snapped a picture of the talk show host, who looked displeased that my phone was tracking him.

I suppose being a celebrity has its advantages and disadvantages. People might otherwise extend themselves for you, hoping to share in the spotlight or become friends. The downside? People want to capture their live moment with you, when you are eager to glide past the unwashed masses.

Long ago, I remember reading an anecdote about Robert Oppenheimer. After people learned of his role as the creator of the atomic bomb and leader of the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer was asked his opinion on a range of subjects. People attached greater weight to his opinions, even in areas for which he had limited information. The man who helped split the atom limited his responses to future questions, preferring to remain anonymous in areas outside his expertise.

Today, with cameras everywhere and people eager to learn about the view of the world from on high, being quiet or ducking under a hat must be increasingly challenging. Yes, I know people like Colbert make incredible amounts of money, but I also appreciate how difficult it must be to stay incognito while rushing home with several loads of laundry.

This year I enjoyed “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway; and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” movie sequel.

As the year comes to a close, I can’t help imagining a conversation in a diner among the central characters.

Evan Hansen: “Hey, you want to sign my cast?”

Luke Skywalker: “What?”

Evan Hansen: “No, forget it. I was just, nothing. You were saying?”

Carole King: “No, you asked if we wanted to sign your cast, right?”

Evan Hansen: “No, well, I don’t know. Maybe.”

Luke Skywalker: “What happened to your arm?”

Evan Hansen: “It’s a long story. It’s OK. I don’t even have a pen.”

Luke Skywalker: “Oh, you feel bad about your arm, which is going to heal. How do you think I feel? My father and I got into a battle a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and this is what happened.”

Evan Hansen: “Wow, that’s a scary fake hand. You win.”

Carole King: “You both have scars. We all do, right? My parents divorced.”

Evan Hansen: “My dad left when I was young.”

Luke Skywalker: “Oh, so sorry for you. When I was born, I had to be hidden from my father, who was angry and moody and wore a mask and wanted to kill me.”

Evan Hansen: “Aren’t you supposed to be a Jedi Master now? Why do you seem so angry and annoyed all
the time?”

Luke Skywalker: “I am a Jedi Master.”

Evan Hansen: “Oh, right. So, how come you don’t sound cool and wise?”

Luke Skywalker: “It’s just that I have low blood sugar and I haven’t eaten in a while and I’m not sure what to order.”

Yoda: “Hmmm, not know what to order, do you?”

Carole King: “Wow, you’re from far away, aren’t you?”

Yoda: “Say that, you could.”

Luke Skywalker: “Master Yoda. I’m so hungry and I’m not sure whether to get the burger or the salad.”

Evan Hansen: “You’re glowing, Yoda.”

Yoda: “When 900 years old, and dead, you are, this good will you not look.”

Luke Skywalker: “Master Yoda. What should I do?”

Yoda: “Order the salad, would I. Delicious it looks. Leave you, I must.”

Luke Skywalker: “Wait, but what should I get to drink?”

Evan Hansen: “For a Jedi Master, you often seem to need Yoda or Obi-Wan to give you advice. Can’t you make your own decisions?”

Carole King: “Listen, Evan, Luke here knows he has glowing friends who come running to see him again whenever he calls their name.”

Evan Hansen: “They come whenever you need them? That’s cool.”

Luke Skywalker: “Yeah, I guess, but I’ve been trying to spend time on my own, far away from all the ‘saving the galaxy’ responsibilities. There always seems to be another Death Star or some young person with the ability to move rocks with his or her mind who needs guidance.”

Evan Hansen: “I’m the opposite. I’m trying to help save other people to get away from my loneliness. High school is tough.”

Carole King: “You got romantic issues, too, Evan, don’t you?”

Evan Hansen: “No, of course not, why do you say that?”

Carole King: “I can tell you feel the earth move under your feet.”

Evan Hansen: “Do you have a song for everything?”

Carole King: “Well, pretty much.”

Luke Skywalker: “Yeah, don’t challenge her. The number of songs she’s written far exceeds the number of ‘Star Wars’ sequels.”

Evan Hansen: “That is a lot. Does that include the one-off movies?”

Luke Skywalker: “Yes.”

Evan Hansen: “Does she know anything about trying to stop faking things?”

Luke Skywalker: “Yes, and it’s not too late, baby, to learn from her.”

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Donald Trump and now Aaron Boone? What’s going on?

A well-known businessman, who spent considerable time on TV after he had made his money, was elected president — in case you’ve been living in a hole somewhere for the last year or so — despite not having any experience whatsoever as a politician.

Then, recently, the New York Yankees, who expect a championship every year and aren’t fond of learning curves, went out and hired someone whose playing claim to fame as a Yankee came with one swing 14 years ago. After his playing career ended, Boone entered the broadcast booth where he talked about the game.

Like Trump, Boone was beamed into the leaving rooms of those who paused to watch the program that featured him.

And now, like Trump, Boone must do some quick on-the-job training, becoming a modern-day manager.

Now, I don’t expect Boone to attack other players, managers or umpires on Twitter, the way the president has done when he unloads written salvos against anyone who dares to defy or annoy him.

What I’m wondering, though, is how did these men get their jobs? Since when is experience doing a high profile job no longer necessary? What made Trump and Boone the choice of the Electoral College and the best candidate to make the Yankees greater again, respectively? These Yankees, after all, were surprisingly great this year, falling one game short of the fall classic.

One word may answer that question: television. Somehow we have gone from the comical notion, years ago that “I’m not a doctor, I play one on TV,” to the reality of “I know better because I seem that way on TV.”

Long ago, in 1960, when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were running for president, TV helped sway voters, particularly those who watched an important debate. So, I suppose, it seems like a logical extension to imagine that TV helped fast track the careers of people who spent time sharing their thoughts, tag lines and observations with us through that same medium.

Sports and reality TV have commonalities. A sport is the ultimate live, unscripted event, where people offer off-the-cuff thoughts and analyses on fluid action. Each game and each moment can bring the unexpected — a triple play, an inside-the-park home run or a hidden-ball trick — that requires an instant reaction.

Similarly, albeit in a different way, the reality TV that brought Trump to the top of the political heap gave him a chance to respond to changing situations, offering a cutting analysis of the potential, or lack thereof, for people on his show.

While viewers watch these familiar faces and hear their voices, people can become convinced of the wisdom and abilities of these TV stars who become spokespersons and champions for their own brands.

So, does Trump offer any insight into Boone? The new Yankees manager may find that second-guessing other people is much easier than making decisions himself and working as a part, or a leader, of a team.

Trump has bristled at all the second-guessers. While he’s familiar with the media scrutiny, Boone, too, may find it irritating that so many other New Yorkers are absolutely sure they know better when it comes to in-game decisions that affect the outcome of a Yankees contest.

Perhaps what Boone and Trump teach us is that selling your ideas or yourself on TV has become a replacement for experience. TV experience has become a training ground for those selling their ideas to the huddled masses yearning for a chance to cheer.

“Hello and thank you for calling this multibillion dollar organization. We value your business. Please push ‘1’ to speak with someone in English.”


“Thank you for calling. Please push ‘1’ if you’d like our address. Push ‘2’ if you’d like to find a store near you. Push ‘3’ if you need to hear your latest balance. Push 27 raised to the two-thirds power if you’d like to speak with a customer service representative.”


“I’m sorry, we didn’t get your response.”

“I’m getting a calculator. OK, got it. Beep.”

“We understand you’d like to speak with a customer service representative. Is that right? Push the last two digits of the year the Magna Carta was signed [1215, actually] or ‘2’ if that’s incorrect.”


“Please hold for the next available operator. We are experiencing unusually high call volume, by which we mean that you’re calling. The average wait time is nine minutes. We’re going to put you on hold, play mind-altering holiday music, and suggest, in an electronic passive-aggressive way, that you fend for yourself because this call won’t go the way you’d like.”


“We mean that we’ll get to your call as soon as we can.”

“Uh huh.”

“Frosty the snowman” … “Jingle bells, jingle bells” … “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”

“Hey, Buddy, did you do your homework?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Did you still want to speak with a customer service representative?

“Yes, I was talking to my son.”

“If you want to stay on the line, say ‘yes’ in two other languages.”

“‘Oui’ and ‘si’?”

“So, you want to stay on the line?”



“I have some questions and would like to speak with a customer service representative.”

“We will get to your call as soon as we can. In the meantime, have you seen our most expensive product this holiday season? You and your son Buddy will love it.”

“What? Wait. I thought you were a machine?”

“Out of the depths of despair and into the realm of the impossible comes a product so wonderful and spectacular that we’re offering it only to those people who waited on line for hours to see ‘E.T.’ or ‘Star Wars.’”

“Wait, how do you know about the long movie lines I used to wait on? Who are you?”

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

“Now you’re playing hold music?”

“Dad? What’s the matter? Why are you holding the phone so tight?”

“It’s OK, Buddy. I’m just trying to speak with someone at this awful corporation.”

“Hi, this is Heidi. Can I get your first and last name?”

“Hi, Heidi, my name is Dan Dunaief.”

“Can you please spell that?”

“Sure. Can you?”


“You don’t have much of a sense of humor, do you, Heidi?”

“I have a great sense of humor. That wasn’t funny.”

“Sorry. Please, don’t disconnect me. I just had a question about this product. You see, I’m not sure about the

“Oh, that’s not my specialty. If you hold on, I can connect you to our automated instruction line.”

“No, please. I don’t like automated phone systems and would rather speak with a person. Can I speak with
someone else at your company who knows about this product?”

“The only other alternative is to send your request through the internet. We have an email address. Do you want that?’

“I have that. Can someone talk to me on the phone about this product?”

“We don’t do that too much anymore. We have automated systems that are overseen by artificial intelligence programs. That’s your quickest route, route, route, route, route.”



“Are you real?”

“Are you?”

The fictions start when we’re young.

Santa Claus is coming to town. Oh yeah? Well, hopefully he isn’t traveling on the New York area transit system, which seems to be making two types of stops these days: late and later.

Certainly, young children can and should revel in the stories that animate this time of year, when cold and snow usually replace warm and bright weather.

And yet it might be a good time to reflect on the myths of our youth, just to compare them to our realities. Let’s start:

• Everyone gets what they deserve or what’s coming to them. Hmm, does it seem fair or merit based that some of the finest teachers in the country, who serve as an inspiration to children year after year, earn barely enough to afford modest cars that warm up just as they arrive at school? Compare this iniquity with athletes who spit at each other, curse at their coaches, fight on the field and charge people for autographs, yet are earning exorbitant salaries to play children’s games.

• It’s the beauty on the inside that counts. That sounds nice and, in some cases, it actually plays out that way, as people cherish the character, spirit and energy of the person they meet, rather than dwelling on how much they fit the modern ideal for a man or woman. And yet for every magazine cover with a regular-looking bloke or woman, there are 10 or more who look like lithe or buff caricatures of real people.

• Slow and steady wins the race. Yeah, maybe for turtles and rabbits, but everyone is racing to win, win, win at all costs. Sure, patience and gradual steps toward a goal make sense, but a capitalist society is driven by those who are the first movers, who make the unexpected discoveries and who patent their method, idea or product first.

• Winning isn’t everything. Oh, no? It sure does seem like cause for enormous celebrations. The Winter Olympics are coming up in February. Will we revel in the effort the athletes took to get there, will we celebrate the man or woman who finishes fourth, and will we congratulate the athlete who didn’t make it to the medal round? Maybe, but then again aren’t we more likely to remember the names and achievements of those who finished first or, gulp, second?

• Be who you are. That sounds lovely, but doesn’t that depend on what state you’re in? In some states, if who you are involves altering gender expectations, that might be problematic. Yes, we are all urged to celebrate ourselves and our identity, but others don’t necessarily join the party if they feel threatened by those we embrace.

• Truth, justice and the American way. No, I’m not referring to Superman here, although those are the words from the famous comic book hero. Listening to people fight about the direction of the country suggests that the American way isn’t what it used to be. Ask President Trump, who is so fond of deriding what he describes as “fake news.” We as a nation can’t agree on truths anymore, because we have become so adept at fighting the appearance of disagreeable facts.

• Happily ever after. This catchphrase depends on whom you ask, but seems to involve riding off cheerily into some sunset aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Years like 2017 can present bumps in the road, the way acne suddenly appears on the face of a developing teenager. That doesn’t mean life won’t involve a “happily ever after.” Maybe we should revise the homily to suggest that it will likely require work, in which the payoff, down the road, is worth the challenges.

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Here we are, Thanksgiving Day, and I’d like to share some things I’m not thankful for. I recognize, of course, all that I do have to be thankful for, but in this moment and in this year it seems fitting to make a not-so-thankful list.

Nicknames: They’ve become ubiquitous. I never liked the nicknames Joe Girardi had for all the Yankees, usually adding a “y” at the end of their last names. Why? Is Gardner too hard to say?

I’m also not a huge fan of the nicknames the president of the only country not in the Paris climate accord has given to all his adversaries and nemeses.

I ask, in all sincerity, does the man occupying the White House who gets to fly on Air Force One have a positive nickname for anyone? Does he, for example, call anyone “Superstar” or “Force of Nature,” or simply “Champ”? Does he think anyone is a “dynamo,” “real winner” or “miracle”? No, I suspect he doesn’t because that might mean that their superpowers would be comparable or, gasp, stronger than his.

Pundits: Everyone on TV, in the comment section of news articles and on the internet seem to know better than everyone else. Some of these pundits seem to be playing a game of mad libs where they change the names, dates and details about their punditry, but their perspectives and their “shame, shame, shame, he’s a bad Democrat/ Republican” outrage get old incredibly quickly. If you have no new thoughts, then don’t pretend to offer something new.

I’d enjoy it if a newscaster said, “And now we’re going to turn to someone that hates Republicans who, no doubt, will offer an oversized portion of outrage.”

Fake news: It’s a convenient label for those who don’t like what they hear. It’s a way to undermine the messenger. I know there are news organizations who play fast and loose with the facts. There are also members of the media who have made a point of blending editorial and news, decrying the lack of moral — or even logical — leadership in Washington. Still, many reporters are eager to find facts and to give people a chance to make decisions for themselves. Ultimately, many journalists are serving society by shining lights in dark corners and by sharing information that informs the public. Without the news, people would need to rely on official sources to tell them their version of the truth. That doesn’t sound very democratic.

Deliciously evil desserts: Around this time of year, cooks in places like The Good Steer make incredible pumpkin pie. Why does it have to taste so good and why can’t I stop at just one or six pieces? Can’t they add string beans or cauliflower to the pie to make it slightly less palatable?

Misspellings and myselfisms: I know that seems incredibly elitist and English-language snobby of me, but I bristle at emails urging me to do something before it’s too late. I would like to reply that it’s “to” late to correct their emails. As for the “myself” problem, I have heard someone say several times in the last few weeks, “If you have a problem, you should talk to Ted or myself.” Really? My problem is that if you took Ted out of that sentence, you’d be suggesting people talk to myself.

Teenage odors: Yes, I know the teenagers are growing, their hormones are surging and they are some of the most active people on Earth. Still, get a group of them in a room, in a car or in any confined space and you might long for the innocent days of diapers and spit-up.

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We rarely get anything completely right the first time. I’m not just saying that because I’m a second child. I idolize my older brother. In fact, I’m fond of my younger brother, too.

We need practice. When we’re young, we take a few steps and we fall hard. Fortunately, at that age, we’re practically made of plastic, bouncing off the nearby floor as if it were a downy soft trampoline. As we age, the floor gets harder.

With each figurative step through life, we make adjustments, learn on the fly and revise our approach.

We recently visited a few colleges with our daughter. The cheerful school representatives were selling us on the idea that their classes were great, the students they admitted were incredible and the opportunities were extraordinary.

One theme that stuck out, especially after several schools presented it as if unique, was that they made students uncomfortable. They wanted to challenge their undergraduates to reach outside their comfort zone. They wanted eager students to fall down and, in so doing, learn to get back up.

This idea of falling is part of the charm of enjoying the ride. We listen to elementary school music concerts in which someone plays a few notes after the conductors arms have stopped moving, we nod encouragement when the young person on stage says a few of the wrong words in a speech, and we suggest to our kids that they’ll spell “because” correctly the next time.

The country may have forgotten that our strutting president, who has been in the public eye for so long, has never been a politician. He’s definitely outside his comfort zone, acting like a president when he hasn’t even been, to borrow a phrase from him, “elected dog catcher.”

People pounce on every mistake, every breach of protocol and every misstatement, ready to tar and feather him for saying or writing something that probably would play better on a fictionalized reality TV show than it does for him as president of the United States.

He’s so eager to be a part of every story and to expand his brand — something he’s been doing reflexively for years — that he doesn’t appear to take the time to recognize or
acknowledge mistakes.

I know how it is to say, “my bad.” Many people consider admitting a mistake some sign of weakness, instead of a reflection of strength and self awareness. Erring, as the saying goes, is human.

You don’t get many free passes when you’re president. You either learn or you don’t, you either unify or you don’t, and you either say or do the right thing, or you don’t.

Still, it seems to me that he might endear himself to more people, and win higher ratings, if he took a few extra seconds to think about whether he might write or respond to something in a different way. He doesn’t seem burdened by the kind of reflection that allows for his own second thoughts to enter the discussion.

People are eager to rip him apart each day, but let’s remember something his handlers and cohorts seem to embrace regularly: He gets angry when people point out that he’s fallen down. Maybe he can meet us halfway, by learning to take an extra second to edit his thoughts or speech. When he takes a few steps without falling, we can breathe a sigh of relief, the way parents do when they’re no longer bending over to protect their children from bumping their heads on nearby coffee tables.