…that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years” (Tom Lehrer)
I never used to understand why newspapers, particularly local ones, had this fixation with revealing the ages of every single subject of their articles. I still don’t understand that entirely, but I’ve been taking more and more notice of those ages recently. More often than not, as someone pretty much equidistant between 18 and 40, my noticing people’s ages has been accompanied with thoughts of ‘Blimey, they’ve managed to do that. And they’re only two-thirds as old as me.’
So yes, I’m the sort of person that has an almost macabre fascination with measuring myself up against others, the same age or younger, and seeing how mediocre my life is in comparison to theirs. Which is probably why I’m attracted to Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age like a fly to an Insect-O-Cutor.
And fascinatingly appalling reading it makes too. Admittedly, anyone’s on to a losing battle comparing themselves to the best in the world unless they happen to be the best themselves. Still, when you read sentences like ‘At age 11, Shostakovich performed Bach’s entire Well-Tempered Clavier’, and realise that’s something you’re never likely to accomplish during the entire remainder of your life, it can be, to say the least, a bit of a downer.
But the thing that struck me whilst browsing the page was a comment at the bottom saying that it was intended to be published as a book, the left-hand pages consisting of others’ accomplishments, and the right-hand side being blank to insert your own. Maybe I move in the wrong circles or something, but I can’t honestly think of anyone who would want to embellish a double-page spread saying ‘Mozart wrote five short piano pieces that are still frequently performed’ with ‘Learnt to tie own shoelaces’. Still, the writer’s intended introduction does make for amusing reading.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to persuade people to lend me $80 million to buy my own hotel. If I’ll have managed it in eighteen months, I’ll have matched Donald Trump…