By Maria Garriott
There’s no doubt that Barack Obama’s ascent to the presidency is an historic event—finally, after years of second-class status, discrimination, and dismissal, a basketball player has reached the highest office in the land. My Democratic friends are one step shy of hysteria, believing this is the Second Coming, if not of Jesus, than at least of Abraham Lincoln. My Republican friends are so gloomy they make Eeyore look like a Steelers cheerleader.
And except for a few appointee’s unpaid-taxes snafus (and really, it’s so easy to forget to declare a few hundred thousand or so), Obama has had no major missteps. But I’m having a hard time getting used to him in the Oval Office, whether he’s wearing a tailored business suit or really cool gym gear.
He’s younger than me.
How can the president of the United States be my junior? Isn’t the leader of the free world supposed to be a father figure—or, like Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan, a grandfather figure? Shouldn’t the commander-in-chief be someone you can look up to in a chronological way? Not your kid brother?
How can he be old enough to be president? He was born in 1961, when hula hoops were hot and skateboards had metal wheels. When John Glenn circled the Earth in a capsule the size of a port-a-potty, Barack was spooning in Gerber applesauce. When John F. Kennedy was shot, he toddled around in diapers. (I, on the other hand, was in kindergarten and got to eat in front of the TV and watch the Kennedy funeral, an unprecedented violation of accepted rules of dinner engagement.) When our cities erupted in riots in 1968 after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assassination, he was seven, and just learning how to button his little bellbottom pants. How can he be old enough to have his finger on the button?
I knew it would come to this. My mother used to intone, “You know you’re getting old when the cops and doctors are younger than you.” I hit that milestone twenty years ago, and I’m still feeling the shock waves. When a cop stops me for a broken tail light or making a left turn that is a tiny bit illegal, I invariably look into his just-started-shaving face and want to say, “Hon, does your mom know where you are?” I remember the first time a gynecologist stopped being my father’s age. I switched doctors.
I got new glasses this week—just for distance and driving at night, but probably the last pair I’ll get without bifocals. “They make me look old,” I lamented. Then I realized that it wasn’t the glasses, but the clarity of corrected vision. There’s a reason retouched photos have that blurry look.
Obama, you’ll note, doesn’t even have to wear glasses.
Now that # 44 has been sworn in, millions of baby boomers—women as well as men, now, thanks to Hillary—look in the mirror every morning and say, “Well, chump, if you had studied harder, and laid off the Bud Light, it could have been you!” Boomers, who aren’t aging gracefully as a demographic, will wake up and smell the latte, and feel the sting of Missed Opportunities.
Still, I wish him well. We need fresh thinking, and someone to galvanize Americans into giving their best to our country. I just hope he brought his hula hoop to the White House.
Copyright © 2009 Maria Garriott.
Maria Gariott tries to find humor everywhere, including in her day job at Johns Hopkins University and her five (count ’em–five) children. In 1980, she and her husband moved into a struggling inner city neighborhood to start a multi-ethnic church. Her memoir A Thousand Resurrections: An Urban Spiritual Journey is what you might get if you cross Seventh Heaven with Homicide or The Wire. A preview chapter, bio, and ordering information are available on her website http://www.athousandresurrections.com, which you can reach by clicking her name in the blogroll link in the sidebar. I met Maria in one of the many writing groups I’ve participated in over the years. (My first such class—I do believe—began and ended before Maria was born.) As you see, she’s a very clever essayist for such a young person and I’m very, very proud to have her on this blog.