Sunday, August 12, 2012

Potential Vice President Sets Off Personal Crisis

As soon as Paul Ryan was announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate I did what 100,000,000 other Americans probably did—I rushed straight to his Wikipedia page. While the entry was of decent size, and I’m sure filled with many relevant tidbits about his life and career, I found that I could not read past the very first factoid right after his name. Paul Davis Ryan’s birthdate is January 29, 1970. This man was born the year AFTER me.

I know it’s ridiculous, but somehow I just can’t wrap my mind around the possibility of having a Vice President younger than myself. I mean, what if Romney wins the general election? And what if, a week after being sworn in he chokes on a pretzel while watching a football game like the last Republican president, and isn’t as lucky as his predecessor and ends up buying the farm? Then the baton would be passed to Paul Ryan and suddenly, instead of a Vice President younger than me, we would have a President younger than me. This just cannot be.

Why am I so hung up on this? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because Paul Ryan was born the year after the first moon landing, and Woodstock, and the Miracle Mets. Or maybe it’s because he was born in the same decade that brought us disco and Space Invaders. Or maybe it’s because he’s younger than people like Adam Sandler, Pauly Shore, and J.Lo for crying out loud!

But who am I kidding? Really this is about the horrifying realization that I’m getting old and that there really can be people in positions of responsibility who are younger than myself. I remember having a similar internal freak-out the first time I went to a doctor younger than me. I was in my early 30s at the time and my new doctor assigned to me by my HMO was a young woman in her mid-to-late 20s. She was probably a year or two removed from medical school and all I was able to think throughout the entire physical exam was “are you really qualified to stick that thing where you’re sticking it?”

This boils down to ageism, I realize—the absurd notion that if I’m not qualified or experienced enough to do something, nobody younger than me can possibly be qualified or experienced enough to do it either. I know it’s not rational, but I can’t shake it. And I suspect that as the years go by it will only get worse. When I’m 60 and have a 55-year-old lawyer I’ll wonder how he possibly could have passed his bar exam already.

I know I need to get over all this, and perhaps extensive psychotherapy is in order. For now, though, there is really only one question at hand: Do we really want a Vice President born the year after the debut of Sesame Street?