A funny thing happened the other day while I was on the Internet checking up on the latest news. 

I ran across a couple of articles telling of how 78-year-old actress Barbara Eden wowed the crowd in attendance at last Saturday's Life Ball in Vienna, Austria, by showing up dressed in the iconic pink harem costume she wore in the 1960s television series I Dream of Jeannie.

Joined onstage by former President Bill Clinton, Eden addressed the crowd and atone point even performed the classic "Jeannie" move: a fold of the arms, a nod of her head and a double blink. Nothing appeared magically out of thin air but the serious nostalgia her appearance inspired seemed to constitute a form of time travel among fans who were there attending the annual charity event, which raise money for promoting HIV-AIDS awareness.

Even a brief, cursory glimpse at the photos which accompanied these articles was more than enough to make one understand what all the fuss was about. Even after all these years, Jeannie is still dream-inspiring.

And I couldn't help seeing that as just a trifle troubling from a personal standpoint.

Bear with me while I try to explain.

As it did for so many others of my generation - those of us who came into the world during the tail end of the Baby Boomer era, just before the start of that blurry period some call Generation X - TV played a very important role in my childhood and adolescence. Especially adolescence, because it was television which first clued me and most of my friends in on the fact that the opposite sex wasn't necessarily synonymous with cooties, after all.

My personal rites of passage through that supposedly traumatic time of life (which really wasn't as bad as some would have us believe, now that I have the benefit of roughly 35 years of hindsight) just happened to coincide with an interesting period in the history of television. There were times when I looked upon that little 12-inch Panasonic in my parents living room as my own personal harem.

Every afternoon after school, for example, Channel 32 in Chicago (it's part of the Fox Network now, but it was strictly independent - and a whole lot more fun to watch - in those days) would show old reruns of the 1960s Batman series. This had already been one of my favorite shows for years; but one afternoon right around my 12th birthday, an interesting thing happened.

Yvonne Craig appeared on screen in her Batgirl costume. She'd done so many times before, but for some reason this particular afternoon I noticed something different.

I noticed she was a girl.

No, strike that... I noticed she was a woman. BIG difference.

I'll say there was!

It was right around this same time that I Dream Of Jeannie ceased being just another sitcom for me. To be fair, it never really had been just another sitcom; it was, for lack of a better word, a fantasy. It's just that the type of fantasy it represented in my mind changed somewhat during this period.

Understand that I Dream Of Jeannie hadn't been in production for a number of years by this point. It, too, was relegated to mid-afternoon rerun status on independent TV stations.  As far as "contemporary" television was concerned, this was the era of Charlie's Angels and Wonder Woman.

But while my buddies at school were mooning over Farrah Fawcett's hair and Lynda Carter's costume, I was deep in the throes of a full-fledged crush on Barbara Eden.

Well, she was just so darned cute in that little harem outfit of hers. Those classmates I mentioned before thought I was nuts, and maybe I was, but to me that little pink ensemble was a lot sexier than those full-nudity centerfolds some of them were sneaking to school in their math books. 

I knew right then and there that I wanted my future wife, whoever she might turn out to be, to wear a costume exactly like that on our wedding night.

She didn't, of course, but that's a story for another time...

But it wasn't just the costume. It was Barbara herself. Even in ordinary everyday clothes, she was one good-looking lady. Of course, she was also a pretty fair actress, and the realization of that basic truth made me feel just a little less guilty bout the way I'd ogle her whenever she appeared on my TV screen.

Then I saw those aforementioned articles about last week’s Life Ball, each of which seemed to go out of their way to mention Barbara Eden's age. And I've got to admit, something just seems wrong with the idea that she is 78.

Part of it has to do with my own advancing years. The fact that Barbara Eden is with spitting distance of 80 serves as a reminder that I'm rapidly closing in on old age myself. That's a realization I'd been trying to ignore, thank you very much.

But that's just part of it. And I'm trying to think of a way to delicately state the rest of it...

Right or wrong, I tend to feel a lot more guilty for oogling Barbara Eden nowadays than I ever did as a teenager. This has less to do with my advancing age than it does with hers.

I know that, to some people, this is probably going to sound sexist or age-ist or some other kind of "ist" they haven't dreamed up a name for yet. But I have problems with the fact that Barbara Eden  - who was already old enough to be my mother when she made the series in the first place - is now old enough to be a great-grandmother. Even at my age, it doesn't seem right for a guy to be oogling a great-grandmother.

But she doesn't look like a great-grandmother, darn it! I mean, yes, obviously she looks older now than she did then. But she looks darn good for her age, and that's what doesn't seem right. Maybe if she LOOKED like a great-grandmother, I could accept her as being (gasp!) a senior citizen.

My own great-grandmother, sweet lady that she was, didn't look a thing like Barbara Eden. She looked like a great-grandmother. Which in retrospect is just fine by me, really, because I simply can't imagine having Barbara Eden for a great-grandmother.

For one thing, I bet she's not half the cook my great-grandmother was.

For another thing...

Well, never mind.