While conducting one of my random Google searches, I realized George Clooney, that paradigm of all things good and good looking, is one month older than I. Yet, his fiancé is 15 years younger than my wife. Is this the new math for men over 50?
I mean, George and I were both born when Kennedy was president. We both, I am sure, have annual colonoscopy and prostate exams. We both are gray… in all places seen (and probably not seen). We grew up on The Flintstones and Sugar Pops.
Yet while my wife is also a Kennedy baby (albeit on the tail end of his shortened presidency), George’s beautiful, intelligent fiancé came into this world while the three of us were in high school. She in diapers… us completing college applications. Why does this not compute with my aging brain?
I mean, I really like George. He is one of People’s Sexist Men Alive. But while he, Johnny Depp (51) and Tom Cruise (52) are trotting the globe with their younger than springtime girlfriends, I’m rooted to a house and kids deep in the suburban morass. I mean, what’s wrong with this non-Photoshopped picture?
And it’s not just them I wonder about. I have friends my age whose kids have already graduated from college. My male friends are talking about corporate retirement packages, apartments in Panama, croissants in Paris. I’m talking to middle-school teachers, pediatricians and college loan officers. George on Lake Como… me ankle deep in long-term debt.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I really do. But I had a mental picture of me at 53 driving 90mph through Tuscany, clad in my expensive Italian loafers. Instead, I am driving to soccer tournaments and picking up groceries from Stop and Shop. Every day is an every-day routine. Movie premieres? I watch movies on NetFlix.
I know my life has its advantages. Great wife, great life. 26 years of ups and downs, but for a guy who loves roller coasters, the thrills and chills are still there. Two great kids who call me “Daddy” and think I can deliver everything under the sun (and on the Web). So while George is on the evening news, I’m eating dinner with my family.
But to be honest, I’m a bit jealous of old George. (Yes, old George. He’s old like me.) He looks trim and thin, and pearly white. He is creatively pursuing his dreams. He is an activist who fights for causes near and dear to my heart. He seems so… young.
I feel young. I still have all my hair (thank you, dad) and teeth. (Okay, I have one implant.) I go to the gym… most weeks. I still have a spring in my step even though my knees can be creaky. I too have raised awareness for Darfur and worked to end poverty. I’ve set up lemonade stands for charity. I too am an everyman.
But why do I sometimes feel older than George, Johnny and Tom? Or better yet… why do they seem younger? Do they pop Tums like candy? Do they have to use ear and nose clippers more often? Do they eat non-fat spreads to combat the middle-age spread?
Are they using Spanx for men? I recently looked into those so my side profile didn’t make me look like I was expecting. I wanted my clothes to lay flat, no unwanted bulges anywhere. I bet they don’t use them either. They have tailors and trainers instead.
I also wonder… does Amal have George take out the trash? Does Johnny pick up Amber’s mother at the airport? Like Tom, I too am an action hero. But instead of jumping out of planes or scaling buildings, I am jumping in to fix leaks and sprained ankles. I am perpetual motion followed by two Advil® and a beer chaser.
Many of my famous contemporaries are so cause-driven while I drive myself crazy over bills and time constraints. Bono (54) has done so much for poverty and climate change. My friends and I also worry about global warming… but we’re more likely to talk about thermal kids’ jackets and the cost of home heating oil. Why is their 50 so noteworthy and mine filled with doubts about my overall worth?
When I was 17 (the year George’s fiancé was born), I saw all the possibilities. I was going to be the next Saul Bellow or Phillip Roth. I was going to backpack through Europe. I was going to win a Pulitzer. I was going to be something… big.
But now I’m just physically big with a life of daily moments on a small scale. I gather joy from first steps, graduations and backyard banter. A last-minute win by my daughter’s basketball team brings bountiful joy. A Pulitzer… sounds nice. But my older daughter thriving in college, that’s priceless.
So I’ll take the aches and pains of being over 50. I will fight the cholesterol fight and monitor my blood pressure. I will remain diligent about sun spots in the glare of middle age. I will remember less but will always remember why I fell in love with my wife.
And next spring, when my daughter is studying abroad in Italy, I’ll hopefully visit her. With my wife, teenage daughter and 81-year old mother-in law along for the ride. And possibly make my way to Lake Como to visit George. We can fondly reminisce about Adam West and Burt Ward, the moon landing and roller skates with a key.
And George, you bring the wine and cheese. I’ll bring the Lipitor®.
NOTE: This article first appeared in The Good Men Project blog on August 5th. http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/mans-perspective-aging-george-clooney-gmp/