Turning 50 And Staying Fabulous
LARYSA KONDRACKI: ..TEXT: MICHEL MARTIN, host: Now we're going to blow the whistle on President Obama's age, which is actually no big secret. He is the big 5-0 today. He joins a pretty small group. He is the seventh U.S. president in history to turn 50 while in office and just the third president to do so in the past 130 years.
We know that he celebrated a little early last night while attending a couple of fundraisers in his adopted hometown of Chicago, with people like jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and singer and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.
In my interview with the president last month, I actually asked him how he was feeling about hitting the half century mark. And this is what he told me.
President BARACK OBAMA: I feel real good about 5-0. The - obviously I've gotten a little greyer since I took this job. But otherwise I feel pretty good.
MARTIN: We wanted to know more about what turning 50 means these days, and if other people feel as the president does. So we've called Will Dana. He's both the managing editor of Rolling Stone magazine and the editorial director of Men's Journal. And he's staring down the big 5-0, he tells us.
Also joining us is Lesley Jane Seymour, who recently, if you don't mind my mentioning, passed that milestone. She is the editor-in-chief of More magazine. Thank you both so much for joining us.
WILL DANA: Thanks for having me.
LESLEY JANE SEYMOUR: Glad to be here.
MARTIN: And Lesley Jane Seymour, More is - how do you describe More?
SEYMOUR: It's the magazine for women of style and substance and it's not 101, it's your graduate level.
MARTIN: It's your graduate level of foxiness, right?
SEYMOUR: There you go. Exactly.
MARTIN: So you just heard the president say he feels pretty good about turning 50. Do most people feel pretty good about turning 50 these days?
SEYMOUR: I think today - I think today 50 is the new 40 or even the new 35. I mean, there is really no stigma about turning 50 anymore.
MARTIN: Will, do you agree?
DANA: Yeah. I agree. I think in the past 50 sort of felt like you were coming into the last bend. And I think now it's maybe 50 is when adolescence actually ends.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: So, Will, when's the last time you had a man or woman over 50 on the cover of either of your publications?
DANA: We have John McEnroe on the cover of Men's Journal right now. And I think he's 53. And, you know, I think it used to be for many years if someone over 50 is on the cover of Rolling Stone, it was extremely unusual. Now I would guess probably half our covers or a third of our covers are of people of that age.
MARTIN: A third of your covers. Wow. I'm going to hear more about that in a minute. Lesley, when's the last time you had somebody over 50 on your cover?
SEYMOUR: Jane Lynch, November of last year. Who is hotter than Jane Lynch? And she's amazing at 50.
MARTIN: Well, you know, in fact, More is, in part, as you said, it's the graduate course. In part that is - and we're speaking a little euphemistically - why don't we just go right there and say that More is, in part, a fashion magazine or a lifestyle...
MARTIN: Lifestyle magazine, in part, to celebrate women who are no longer...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: Am I right?
SEYMOUR: It's not hung up on a specific age, but, yes. Basically it's women who have lived a little longer and have a little wear on their treads, but are very happy about it.
MARTIN: And why did you think that there was a market for a magazine like that? Evidently there is.
SEYMOUR: Well, because I think a lot of the young magazines, you kind of get tired of the headlines, you know, how to get your guy in bed after you've already got him. So I think you've got to kind of move on.
MARTIN: Good point.
SEYMOUR: And find other things in life that are important.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, we're talking about turning 50 on the day that President Obama turns 50 - that's today.
My guests are Lesley Jane Seymour, she's the editor-in-chief of More magazine, and Will Dana. He's the managing editor of Rolling Stone and the editorial director of Men's Journal.
So, Will, tell me more about the fact that you've got so many people over 50 on the cover of Rolling Stone. I bet you, you know, back in the day, what was the phrase? Don't trust anybody over 30? What was that?
DANA: Well, yeah. Pete Townshend once sang, hope I die before I get old. You know, Mick Jagger famously said that he didn't want to be singing "Satisfaction" when he was over 40.
MARTIN: But he is.
DANA: Yeah. And he is. And, you know, and many people in their 50s are, you know, are still creating great music, great vital music. And I think, you know, rock and roll isn't necessarily a music of youth anymore. It's a music of youthful attitude and energy and ambition.
MARTIN: Well, let me just ask you this. I have a friend who owns a boutique in Washington, D.C. And she is as spicy as can be.
SEYMOUR: That's right.
MARTIN: And still up and doing (unintelligible) but she has had - I don't know whether this is about age or about being a mother. But I do remember that when she and I were both having kids, she did have some of her customers say, oh, now you're not going to care about, you know, fashion anymore. That kind of thing. Do you think that - do you think that attitude still exists? That, you know, once you get to a certain stage in life you don't care about being spicy, you don't care about - or it's slightly ridiculous?
SEYMOUR: I think that's an old-fashioned thing. I had a stepmother who told me that when I got to be 21, I had to cut all my hair off because now I had to act like a mature woman. I think that's another generation.
DANA: I agree with that point completely. I think it's just, you know, it used to be there were separate cultures for young people and old people. And now I think the pop culture kind of encompasses more an attitude than necessarily an age.
MARTIN: But let me ask you this 'cause that is a good point, though. Is it that we are sharing more or as some would argue, it's that boomers don't want to grow up?
SEYMOUR: Well, I mean, there are great things about growing up. Look, I mean, you do get to this, the wonderful part about getting over 50 - and I will, you know, say that to Will there, it's nice, come on over, it's OK - is that you do get to a point where you can be yourself. You don't have - I remember being in my 30s and being so tormented about, you know, I wanted everybody to like me. I wanted to be nice. I wanted, you know, all this stuff.
And then you get to a certain point where you say, wait a minute, I've only got so much time left here. And you know what? I don't want to waste my time on silly stuff like that. I want to be who I am. I'm a pretty good person. Yeah, I have my flaws and they're just going to have to live with that.
MARTIN: OK. Finally, I asked the president last month what he wanted for his birthday. This is what he said.
OBAMA: You know, what I really want right now is to get a debt ceiling deal for my birthday. That's kind of sad, I know.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
OBAMA: And maybe some, you know, maybe I'll have a good hamburger on my birthday as well.
MARTIN: Well, we know he got at least one of those.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: And I'm sure that if he wanted a hamburger, he got one. But I wanted to ask you, finally, each, what do the young at heart 50-year-olds tend to want for their birthdays? I mean, times being what they are, I'm sure some people would like, you know, a job and their 401k's to be restored to their former glory, I'm sure. And their house prices probably to recover. But let the practical things aside, so I don't know who wants to start. Lesley, you want to start? What do most 50-year-olds want for their birthday?
SEYMOUR: Well, I think it is a time of reassessment. And I think you do want to be with your good friends and you do want to be with your family. And you do want that sense of, you know, momentous. I wouldn't let it just pass. I know my husband tried to do that. He tried to sneak under it and pretend like it didn't exist. And I think you should definitely go out and celebrate. I don't think it's about stuff. I think it's about relationships and connection and meaning.
DANA: Yeah. And I would think certainly for the Men's Journal readers, you know, what they want often is an experience. You know, they want to challenge themselves with the feeling it may be the time to climb a 20,000 foot peak is running out or ride a - go on a 100-mile bike tour. You know, something to really push themselves, you know, again. To show you still have it.
MARTIN: Will Dana is the managing editor of Rolling Stone and the editorial director of Men's Journal. He was kind enough to join us from his office in New York. Lesley Jane Seymour is the editor-in-chief of More magazine, the magazine for - what is it?
SEYMOUR: Women of substance and style.
MARTIN: Women of substance and style. Thank you both so much for joining us.
DANA: Thank you very much.
SEYMOUR: Good to be here.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: And President Obama got another treat for turning 50, a song from his home girl, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
JENNIFER HUDSON: (Singing) Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear...
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