When I was about six years old, our family doctor chastised my mother when he discovered that Joan used Q-tips to clean her children's ears.
"Never," I remember him saying in the sternest of tones, "put anything in a child's ear smaller than an elbow."
I wish that general admonition had filtered down to little Eric Shoenbaum who, during my first year at summer camp, managed to slam his right elbow into not only my ear, but also my eye, nose and mouth.
Since then I've always taken pretty good care of my ears, but lately they've let me down.
Here's the problem: I can't get the earbuds that connect to my iPod to stay in place.
I see people jogging, riding their bikes, walking their dogs, even playing Twister while the whole time those little suckers remain neatly wedged in position.
Not for me, they don't.
First the right one falls out and dangles alongside my head, then the left one loosens and lands in the hood of my sweatshirt. Often the entire wire gets tangled on my dog's leash or caught in my bicycle chain.
Once I leaned over to get a pen out of my glove compartment, hooked the wires on my gearshift and almost strangled myself.
I thought I was alone in my plight but apparently there are others suffering in silence.
According to an article in the New York Times, two out of ten people endure a disorder called Earbud Cartilage Deficiency Syndrome, sometimes known as ECDS, but if you're looking for a good laugh at a cocktail party you really need to say all those words out loud.
For every 20 ears out there, four are having a heck of a time keeping it all together.
My wife does not have this problem, by the way. She is cartilaginously well-endowed and, I am proud to say, it is all natural.
One techie website reports that people with this problem lack an antitragus in the ear canal, which is " a small tubercle that points anteriorly and is separated from the tragus by the intertragic notch."
Sorry to bore you with the obvious.
To combat this abnormality, somebody needs to pay a lot more attention to product specifications. Here's a description of a set of earbuds on eBay: "Full metal housing, cold forged from solid aluminum, anodized finish, with a tactile ID system, flexible joints and a full spectrum of hyper-balanced micro drivers."
Am I buying earbuds or a lunar module? I also discovered that earbuds have funny names like M&Ms and strawberry cupcakes.
If you told people you were putting M&Ms in your ears, they'd think you weren't eating right.
It's unfortunate that you can't try on earbuds before you buy them, but that would be disgusting, if your selection had been in someone else's canals first.
I think about gross stuff like that, which is why I haven't bought a new bathing suit in 20 years.
On one Internet site you can get a fun pack of earbuds in three different sizes for only $69.95.
Okay, some people have two different-sized ears. I get that. But I think the market for three mismatched ears has limited sales potential.
Maybe I should stop obsessing about this. In my senior years, I'm already dealing with failing vision, sinus problems and a receding hairline.
I don't need to be distracted by side issues.