Pete Buttigieg Is (Also) Lying About His Age

Illustration for article titled Pete Buttigieg Is (Also) Lying About His Age
Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

I was tempted to begin this by saying I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been paying much attention to the Democratic presidential nominee horserace, but I didn’t say the thing I’m saying I didn’t say, because it would have been a lie. I am neither ashamed to admit that nor even incrementally approaching shame. I just don’t care enough right now, and I don’t care if you care about my lack of care.


I think this apathy stems from what I perceive to be an inevitability. The candidate I’m most interested in (Elizabeth Warren) also seems to be, of the frontrunners, both most qualified to be president and least likely to be nominated. This dynamic has compelled me to treat this competition the way casual sports fans treat the NBA. Wake me up when the playoffs get here, and only if LeBron is playing.

Still, I’ve recently made some efforts to be more engaged, and Michael Harriot’s Pete Buttigieg week inspired me to pay a bit more attention to him. I’d been so dismissive of Buttigieg’s chances that I hadn’t even learned how to pronounce his last name, so aside from the most superficial details about him (he is a mayor, was a soldier, has a husband, etc.), my only real context for him was juxtapositional. But I even got bored with that eventually, because of course, the media would mention that he’s a Rhodes Scholar seven times more often than they’d say that about Cory Booker. He’s white and Booker isn’t. Duh.


So I started researching him. What does he really believe? (Not sure.) What has he really accomplished as a politician? (Not much.) Can he be trusted? (Depends on how you define trust.) None of this is new information to those who’ve been engaged. Buttigieg’s appeal is centered in his status as a vaguely competent amoebic cipher; he reminds you of the white neighbor you’ve never met but you’d ask to babysit a cat. But it’s new to me and it’s almost kind of exciting!

The most exciting piece, however, is based on Buttigieg’s biographical info. According to multiple “sources” and perhaps even a “birth certificate,” Buttigieg is 37 years old. (He was also born Jan. 19, which makes him a Capricorn like me—a detail that matters to the people it matters to.) If he’s 37, this would mean that he’s been alive for 37 consecutive years. It also means that if he continues this streak of uninterrupted living for another five weeks, he’ll be 38, because that’s how age works. But after watching and listening to him several times in the past two weeks, I have reason to believe he’s lying about that, too, because Pete Buttigieg is actually somewhere between 65 and 72 years old.

I was reluctant to break this news because I know this information will impact Buttigieg’s polling numbers and war record. I also might be accused of being ageist—which would be a fair but ultimately false accusation, because I love the olds! My dad is around Buttigieg’s age, as is my mother-in-law, my aunts and uncles, my East Hills Elementary School principal, most of my favorite hotel bartenders, and Stanley Tucci. I even hope, one day, to be an old myself. (I’m already washed, so I’m off to a good start.) And it’s through this affinity for the seasoned that I know that Buttigieg is one of them.

He talks like an old—you hear him and you hear the voice that asks Target supervisors if they carry Herbie Hancock LPs. He dresses like Express launched a new store for elderly suit wear called Take Your Time. His hair is overcompensatingly mundane; timeless the way an old mailbox or the moon might be. Like he goes to barbershops and asks for “that Willy Loman cut.”


But mostly, it’s his politics. If you remove the gay marriage red herring, the only way this man is a 37-year-old Democrat is if it’s 1982, which is actually why this elaborate subterfuge makes sense for him. For (white) Democratic voters, this 73-year-old masquerading as a millennial induces nostalgia. He reminds them of what, for them, was a much simpler time. Which is quite easy for him to do because he’s also literally from that time.

This also begins to explain his terrible numbers with black voters. A great many great things need to happen for us to make it to 70, so we don’t lie about our age. Instead of pretending to be young, we just buy white linen short sets and listen to more Chanté Moore.


Anyway, I will be paying more attention to the race now, just for the chance to possibly see these three 70-year-old men vying for president argue about Jello like my Nana and Aunt Gladys used to. That would be exciting. I’m excited now.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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I read Buttigieg described like it’s perfect:

He’s an old person’s idea of what a young person should be like.