(Time waits for no pope.)
I’d like to share a secret with you. Last night, according to the internet, I turned 1.8 billion seconds old. But please keep that a secret, okay?
Why? Because I lied in my latest online dating profile. I said my age was just a few million seconds.
Why did I lie? Because I entered my real age in a previous, more factual “looking for romance” profile. And the women the online matchmakers kept pairing me with used words I didn’t find the least bit romantic; you know, words like Medicare Supplement. Shuffleboard. Menopausal Hormone Therapy. And that passion-generating favorite: colostomy.
True…not all the online mating services are calendar-specific. These days, a date-seeker can search for older women, younger women, older men, younger men looking for older men, older men looking for younger house pets who favor Italian restaurants, or trans-gendered, tattooed, moderately lactose-intolerant altar boys.
But it seems the majority of desperate daters want to hook up with someone in their “age bracket,” as if dating were the NCAA basketball playoffs, except that by the end of the game, everybody’s naked.
Calculating someone’s age is actually pretty easy in America, except when people lie, not that I would ever do that. In the USA, you’re born on Day X, and then 365 days later, you’re one year old, and your parents begin interviewing orthodontists and start fretting that you won’t get in the best schools.
On the other hand, in some areas of China, newborns are considered one year old at birth … maybe so Chinese parents can get through the “terrible twos” as quickly as possible. Further complicating things, one’s age in China increments on the traditional Chinese New Year, not necessarily one calendar year after you were born. So an unsuspecting tyke who’s born in China two days before the Chinese New Year gets herself born, is immediately one year old, and three days later, she’s two. At that rate, she’ll soon qualify with the IRS as her own dependent.
Mankind has always acted weird about calendars. For example, the West considers 365 days to be a year, the Far East insists a year can be anywhere from 353 to 385 days, and Congress calls two days a “work week.”
The history of the calendar itself is equally odd. The earliest Roman calendar had a 304-day, 10-month year that began in March and completely ignored winter, like Miami. Mind you, the 61-day winter season still happened … Rome’s calendar makers just pretended like it wasn’t there. (Maybe they hadn’t invented XI and XII yet.)
This winterless calendar scheme didn’t work for long, especially after the first big-box store opened in 700 BC (Wallus-Martius) and stockholders started whining about the short holiday shopping season. So the Roman king, Numa Pompilius, added Januarius and Februarius to the original ten … um … monthia, allowing Western Civilization to return unwanted Christmas gifts (fruitius cakus) and get back to making anagrams out of “Numa Pompilius.”
In 44 BC, the month of Quintilis was renamed July in honor of Julius “Sid” Caesar, who invented the salad. About 35 years later, to honor the Emperor Augustus, the month Sextilis became known as Caitlyn Jenner.
But even after all the meddling, the Roman calendar was still flawed. When Sid Caesar became pontifex maximus (literal translation: huge bridge), he threw out a month, and was then repeatedly stabbed in the Senate, which ought to happen more often. Then somebody somewhere came up with the idea of a leap year, which is a mathematical concept I don’t understand because it involves math.
Flawed calendars and Wal-Marts notwithstanding, Western Civilization rolled forward, rapidly coming up with wonders like pizza delivery, the Spanish Inquisition, and liquid hand soap. Then, in 1582 AD, somebody told Pope Gregory Peck that the Julian calendar was still ten days off. So the pope whacked ten days out of that year’s October, to the dismay of upper management at Wal-Mart. This adjusted calendar became known as the Gregorian Chant. And that is the 12-month calendar we still use today, usually made up of twelve pages featuring photos of half-dressed firemen or nearly-dressed women on motorcycles.
One more note: although far more accurate than Sid Caesar’s version, the Gregory Peck calendar is still off by about one day ever 3,236 years. So whoever’s Huge Bridge that year will probably have to whack October again.
Don’t tell Wal-Mart.