Bill, boomers and the gray area


So the ultimate boomer is 50. Yes, yes, we saw the headlines in January when the oldest of the most self-aware (read: self-obsessed) generation began to be solicited by the American Association of Retired Persons. But now it's different, now the quintessential boomer guy, Bill Clinton, is 50.

He was a presidential candidate the 7.7 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 could relate to. He grew up on television, smoked (but didn't inhale) dope, listened to Aretha Franklin, had long hair, protested Vietnam, idolized JFK, even married a feminist. So now, as he heads into middle age, a whole generation heads with him.

Hold it.

How can a guy who makes $200,000 a year, resides rent-free at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., commands an army of servants, as well as the country's military forces, counts Georgetown, Yale and Oxford among his alma maters and is on a first-name basis with Nelson Mandela and Boris Yeltsin, be the embodiment of 50-year-old America? Well, he can't.

First of all, he's the wrong gender. Of the nation's 3.9 million 50-year-olds, there are 69,000 more women than men: a slim difference, but Clinton can appreciate a thin margin.

This average 50-year-old is married and has three children (actually 2.6, but we felt the need to make the third one whole). She lives in suburbia, makes just about $175,000 less than Clinton, works in a technical, sales or administrative support field and does her own laundry. She describes her life as exciting -- though she's never hung out on Martha's Vineyard with the Kennedys or had Barbra Streisand over for dinner.

Ms. Average 5-0 will probably spend her birthday receiving "your-so-old" punchlines and disarming her smoke detector when the cake candles set it off.

Mr. President will spend Monday morning -- his birthday morning -- sleeping off Sunday night's Radio City Music Hall birthday bash. Hundreds paid between $250 and $10,000 to toast his big day (not to mention help him out for his next milestone in November). No, on the surface, Clinton is nothing like his boommates.

Nevertheless, a resemblence lingers. It's something deep under his leading-the-free-world exterior -- his roots -- that leave us with a feeling that though the boy has been taken out of boomerville the ... (you know the rest).

He is the president who revealed his underwear preference on MTV (not so coincidentally, a station founded by another guy born in '46, Bob Pittman); admits to watching David "guess which generation he's from" Letterman, and will have Aretha as a featured performer tomorrow night. Maybe this guy is just a dressed-up, well-paid, heavier, taller, better educated, more masculine, golf-loving boomer after all.

Bill Clinton

Gender: Male

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 216 pounds

Married with one child, who lives at home

Annual pay: $200,000

Education: Degrees galore, including a bachelor of science from Georgetown, a law sheepskin from Yale and a stint as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University

Religion: Protestant

Property: None, though he does get to live rent-free in America's premier historic mansion

Favorite leisure activity:


The Average 50-year-old

Gender: Female

Height: 5-foot-3

Weight: 150 pounds

Married with three children,* at least one of whom lives at home

Annual pay: $23,504

Education: High school and a couple of years of college

Religion: Protestant

Property: House in the suburbs

Favorite leisure activity:

Watching television

* Figure rounded up from 2.6 children

Pub Date: 8/17/96

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