WASHINGTON — I am conflicted over the results of the presidential election. On one hand, I thought Barack Obama was the better candidate and voted for him. On the other hand, like most baby boomers, I now know that for the first time in my life, the president of the United States will be younger than I am. This is not a great milestone for anyone, but for me it comes at a particularly bad time.
The past year has seen a sea change in the management of the Washington Post. Here is how it currently plays out: My boss is younger than I am. My boss' boss is younger than both of us. My boss' boss' boss is younger than all three of us. And my boss' boss' boss' boss is younger still and could plausibly pass for my daughter. In short, I am an old guy who is — to borrow from the lexicon of football (a game I can no longer play, even with geriatric friends) — "hearing footsteps."
I have come to accept it, mostly through a diabolical form of self-deception, aligning myself mentally with the youngest of readers via the strategic deployment of underpants-themed humor. But now comes this: Barack Obama has reached the pinnacle of American achievement at 47, which is 10 years younger than I am. If he serves two terms and then spends a year writing his presidential memoirs for more money than I will earn in my lifetime, he will still be younger than I am now.
The smart reader might have a question here: "Wait, was there some sort of competition between the two of you that we didn't know about?" This smart reader is a woman. No man would ask that, because men consider themselves in perpetual competition with everyone. We think, for example, that if we had the time to practice a lot, which we don't, but if we did, we might still be able to break the world pole-vault record. So, yes, as far as I was concerned, the presidency was not entirely out of the question. And now it's ruined for me.
This sort of thing compels dour self-inspection. And so while most of the country was in a celebratory mood, hailing the ascendancy of a young, brilliant, verbally coherent man to the highest office in the land, I found myself thinking: My hands look like chicken feet.
They do. The skin has been drying and getting opalescent, like what you see under lap shawls in nursing homes. Also, I've been losing the ability to come up with the right word, so I find myself increasingly asking my wife if she has "seen my thing," which can be unnerving to bystanders. Plus, I get easily distracted by irrelevancies, such as why anyone would think it made any sense, orthopedically, to wear "glass slippers," particularly at a ball.
All of this was weighing heavily on me during a recent train trip to Philadelphia. When I arrived back in Washington, I left the station, waited in line for 10 minutes, got into a cab and gave the driver directions to my home. Then I called my wife to tell her I was in a cab and would be home in five minutes. "You drove to the station," she said. "Your car is in the parking lot."
So, in short, it is with highly mixed emotions that I await the inauguration of a whippersnapper. Meanwhile, there is little solace to be found anywhere. Recently, for example, I discovered that back in 2001, Obama and I had about the same number of Google hits. We have been diverging a bit since then.
Last I checked, I had 62,000, almost exactly the same number as for the phrase "denture adhesive." Obama had 275-million, which was more than "God Almighty."
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can chat with him online at noon Tuesdays at www.washingtonpost.com.