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The Big Five-O

Happy birthday, Mr. President. Now, some advice: Lose the too-neat hair, 15 pounds and burgers. Do the yoga thing and stay the sensitive guy you are.


You are old, father William

the young man said

and your hair has grown very white

and yet you incessantly stand on your head--

Do you think, at your age, it is right?

--Lewis Carroll


Well, it's all relative. Not so long ago--that is, not so long ago in comparison to the origins of the universe--you were probably among those railing against trusting anyone over 30.

But assuming your lungs are up to it, just think, Mr. President, on Monday, you can wake up and scream out this glorious new, five-letter word: "Fifty."

The word may stick in your throat at first, kind of like an undercooked Egg McMuffin. That's understandable. Turning 50 when you're the leader of the Free World and the unanointed emperor of all of Baby Boomerdom is bad enough. Admitting it has got to be even worse.

But take heart: "We at the AARP do know that psychologically, we all tend to see ourselves as being considerably younger than our chronological age." That's the expert opinion of Melinda Halpert, director of membership development at the American Assn. of Retired Persons. Halpert would like to remind you that you are now officially eligible to join the AARP, no questions asked.

Speaking of Egg McMuffins--and of standing on your head--fitness goddess Kathy Smith thinks that now that you're 50, you should take up yoga and lay off the Canadian bacon. About two years ago, Smith remembers shaking your hand at the White House and complimenting you on the fine example you set for the American people, exercising and jogging and all that. She also looked you straight in the eye and said: "You know what? You gotta stop making those stops at McDonald's." Did you listen?

Smith points out that being president is bound to be sort of stressful. As an antidote, "yoga would be brilliant," Smith counsels. (Great, we can just imagine you bonding with Boris Yeltsin in the lotus position.) Another Smith recommendation: "A little strength training wouldn't hurt." This doesn't have to be major stuff, no need to rush out and join Gold's Gym. But after 50, those pecs, lats and shoulders do start to sag. Get yourself a set of 10-, 15- and 20-pound dumbbells and hoist them, say, 10 minutes a day, three times a week, in the Oval Office. The Council of Economic Advisors won't mind a bit. They may even join in.

Running is also solitary even when you're trailed by a pack of puffing press people, notes Smith, whose newest video, "Functional Fitness," comes out in September. Fifty, she says, is a good time to think about exercise you could do with your family. Clog dancing! Consider the hit you and Hillary could make at White House dinner parties.

Lean, but never, never mean, you'll look downright foxy in those dark, crepey, Donna Karan-ish suits you already favor. "For a big guy"--6 feet, 2 inches, 216 pounds, at last unofficial check--you wear your weight well, says Woody Hochswender, senior editor and menswear columnist at Esquire. Drop maybe 15 pounds, Hochswender suggests, and instead of looking rotund, you'll look: very large. "Large is presidential," he intones.

Fashion is an ameliorative device, in Hochswender's view; "it lessens the pain and anguish of growing old." It's a good time to get sensible. Stop wearing such silly, fanciful ties, he suggests. No one is saying you should out-dull Dole, but more classical cravats might be in order. Also, lose those skimpy collars. Longer, more pointed shirt collars, Hochswender says, would elongate your face.

Oh, dear. We do seem to be dwelling on the slenderizing aspects of life at mid-century. A looser, less contrived, "more--how you say it?--airy" coiffeur would make your face look less square, submits Frederic Fekkai, hairstylist to such stars as Diane Sawyer and, on at least one occasion, your own wife. From his five-story auberge de beaute in New York, Fekkai confides, "You know what? President Clinton, he does his hair too neat. He needs to have less of the mark of the hairline. For instance, in the neck, it shouldn't be straight forward. The hair should fall down naturally. This would make him look younger, more modern."

Fortunately, Fekkai applauds the "very, very nice" way nature has shaded your 50-year-old hair. In Fort Worth, Texas, Linda Loredo, artistic director of Supercuts, thinks you'd be nuts to comb out your gray. "For some reason, gray makes me feel more comfortable," Loredo confesses. "It's like when you first hop on the plane and you see a little gray in the cockpit, you breathe easier. Gray makes men looks distinguished. I like to see that in leaders of the country, pilots, people like that who have your life in their hands."

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