When Michelle Obama turned 50 earlier last year, and while everyone was saying, “Oh, isn’t it great, Michelle Obama is 50!” I was looking in the mirror saying, “I’m older than the president’s wife?!?” For the first time in my personal history, the first lady is younger than I am. And that’s not sitting very well with me.
I imagine my mom felt something similar when Jackie Kennedy became first lady in her early 30s. So fashionable and fresh, Kennedy could edit a book, dine with world leaders, and rock a Chanel suit like nobody’s business. My mom was a couple of years older, three children on her hip, and probably had a moment when she, too, said, “Am I officially old?”
When I think of first ladies, I think of Martha Washington and Barbara Bush. Gray-haired. Stately. In truth, Martha Washington was 57 when she became the first, first lady. That’s only 6 years older than I am now. If you’ve seen the pictures, I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of Feria available in those days because she seemed ancient.
There’s a turning point in our lives. We all go through it. One day you suddenly wake up and realize that you’re not part of the younger group anymore. You don’t think it will happen to you, but it does. For me, it wasn’t even a gradual transition. One minute I was the youngest person in the office, the next minute, I had to explain to people around me who David Cassidy was.
I suddenly found myself mentioning things like “disco,” followed up by, “You know like when we used to do The Hustle. You know…The Hustle. The dance? That we did at Studio 54? Ummmm…Donna Summer? The Bee Gees? I Will Survive? Testing 1, 2, 3…Is this thing on?”
You become the person who others turn to for answers to historical questions like, “What was life like before fax machines?” Or better yet, “What is a fax machine?”
The first time I realized I was older than Major League Baseball players also dealt quite a blow. Watching sports on TV from the time we’re children, we tend to worship athletes. Put them up on a pedestal. They’re older and wiser than we are. They’re our heroes. But when you find out your hero is 22 and you’re 45? You have to reset your thinking cap and start seeing things from a different angle. And at least stop looking at their butts, because then it just borders on pervy.
Then there was Miss America. Don’t even get me started with Miss America. When I turned 25 and realized that, not only was I older than Miss America, but that I had officially aged out of any chance of wearing that crown (never mind the fact that I was short, would fail miserably in a swim suit competition and had never been in a beauty pageant in my life), I was crushed. That door would never be open to me again. Bert Parks would never sing to me and I’d have to find an alternate career. Yes, I was older than the oldest Miss America and at 25 I felt old. And at some point I’d have to explain to a youngster somewhere who Bert Parks was. Or Bob Barker. Tick tock, there goes my clock.
It happened again when I turned 38, and realized I would never be able to join the FBI. My detective days were over before they began.
And last week, when I discovered that our first lady was celebrating her 50th birthday a year and a half after I celebrated mine? I was only soothed by the fact that I had yet to experience the day when the actual president was younger than I was. But when that day comes, I’ll embrace it, and know that I’ll always be younger than Santa Claus.
Or will I?