If the doctor didn't make it official, the new slacks did.

The doctor used the usual method, prescription. After prescribing it, he said: "Actually, it's a vitamin."

"Can't I eat more vegetables instead?"

I was worried. First there's one prescription, then, a second for the side effects, then a third to fix the imbalances. Soon there are enough pills at mealtime to constitute a side dish.

"That's why," explained the doctor, "people today live longer." He patted my back.

"Welcome," he said, "to middle age."

Later, I was in Macy's, looking for slacks. But when I put on my "usual" size, I looked like a disco dancer. The next size yielded the same results.

Eventually I went up two sizes; that's four extra inches, or, measured talmudically, a handbreadth.

Welcome, said the pants, to middle age.

Funny, I don't remember growing up.

That may sound crazy from a man with a family, life insurance and spare eyeglasses to find the regular pair when misplaced — but it's true. I feel like the same "me" as when I was eight. I assumed it was a personality disorder.

An old Far Side Calendar cartoon for December 18 shows rows of tiny cubicles, each with worker busy at the desk. One, in a strange feathered cap, is daydreaming.

The caption: Thirty years had passed, and although he had no real regrets about marrying Wendy, buying a home and having two kids, Peter found his thoughts often going back to his life in Never-Never-Land.

I saved it because December 18 is my birthday — Divine Providence Strikes Again! -- and because it gave my disorder a name: the Peter Pan Complex.

Some men hit middle age and buy a sports car. I bought pants. But these pants inspired a vision so clear it was like buying a new pair of glasses.

It was while carrying the pants to the checkout counter that I had my epiphany: the Peter Pan Complex is not childishness, but timelessness. The soul is eternal, and this Never-Never-Land feeling that transcends time and place is an expression of that eternity.

Middle age, I realized, brings knowledge of self, body and soul. The body gets the prescriptions, growing waistline and dimming vision. The soul gets a glimpse of the inner transcendental self — the child within, Kabbalah calls it.

Which reminds me — has anyone seen my crayons?