Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm Older Than The President

These are words being said for the first time by millions of americans, of whom I'm one. Newly inaugurated President Obama is the first post-baby-boom president, and at 47, he's 25 years younger than his two predecessors, so that leaves a huge group of us (approximately 45 million, based on age distribution/census tables - don't you love how easy it is to do this kind of research on the internet?)

For starters, this phenomenon brings up all sorts of questions - "What have I accomplished in my life?" "Is being a hands-on parent more important than making history?" "Should I have gone to law school?" (And those are just the questions I'm getting from my mother.) And of course it's hard not to feel insignificant in comparison to the remarkable achievements not only of Obama, but of all his 'cook-geek' advisors and cabinet members - I used to think I was smart and well-educated, but right now I feel like a Kansas girl saying to the Wizard of Oz, "I am Dorothy, the meek and mild". Then there's the whole idea of second-guessing all the choices we've made in life, wondering about the roads we didn't take, the books we didn't write, the huge amounts of money we didn't make so we could've contributed enough to get to go to one of the really cool inaugural parties.

But mostly, being older than the President just makes me feel old. I used to think that aging was like Carl Sandburg's poem about fog, 'creeping in on little cat feet.' No, it's more like a big, slobbery dog who knocks you over, then just when you regain your equilibrium, the dog comes at you again, only with more momentum. I didn't mind the initial signs, the creaking knees, the slight loss of stamina. Then my friends and I started noticing those early crows'-feet, or wrinkles, or sagging neck jowls. Okay, I can deal with that, nothing looks too bad if I smile all the time. Next it was the realization that even coloring my hair every 6 weeks was pushing it, and I could no longer claim that my gray was premature.

However, being older than the president is a huge transition - it's fine being older than most celebrities (since I feel smarter and more fulfilled than anyone I've seen grace the cover of People), but it's harder to reconcile being older, and far less accomplished, than a brilliant, articulate, family man who happens to be the most powerful leader in the free world. On the other hand, there are advantages to being an official 'older American.' I haven't figured out any yet (other than getting my invitation to AARP the day after my 50th birthday - talk about rubbing salt in the wound!), but I'll try to think of some, while I touch up my roots and explain to my mother, again, why I chose not to go to law school.

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