The Wonderful World of Wanzie: Wanzie’s 65th birthday self-examination and a wish for all Watermark readers

This Viewpoint ran in the March 3 issue of Watermark, prior to Michael Wanzie turning 65.

I’m turning 65 years old on March 6. That’s like 170 in queer years.

I — very much like one of my heroes, Oscar Wilde — see great beauty in youth. I always have and I imagine I always will. While for the longest time I was drawn to the 18- to 23-year-old set, I find that in my senior years — OMG! I am indeed a senior citizen and I still cannot fathom that this is somehow my reality but alas — I find my tastes have matured along with me and I seem to now be drawn more to those in the age range of 28-32.

I am sure — or rather I’m often told — that my life would be so much easier if I were to attempt dating men my own age, but I have no real desire to keep intimate company with people whose constant familiarity might lull me into the routine of “acting my age.”

I suffer from, no actually, I delight in my Peter Pan syndrome and make no apologies for it. Conversely, I also make no conscience attempt at clinging to a long faded, youthful appearance. I have no concern with appearing to be as old as I am. I have never toyed with idea of dying my gray hair or Botoxing away my wrinkles. I have no issue with being 65 and I have no problem admitting my age. My problem is the expectations society places on those who are of my age. Even more to the point, I resent being told that I should grow up and act my age.

I still enjoy the company of a young man. Why should I endeavor to change that simply because of my age? I don’t think I need to.

I still enjoy theme parks, and not simply in the “sit on a bench and people watch” fashion — which admittedly I sometimes do enjoy — but more so in the “ride the biggest and fastest roller coaster while getting tipsy on the vodka you snuck into the park in your water bottle to save money” fashion.

I love adjudicating high school thespian competitions. It is always an absolute joy for me to see boys and girls as they are blossoming into young men of promise and confident young women ready to take the world by storm.

I very much like watching younger people dance with an abandon that somehow seems to diminish with age. I especially like to insinuate myself into this situation when I’m rolling on good hit of ecstasy.

Not long ago I asked an old friend, with whom I often rolled back in the day, if he would care to join me in a roll. He said, “I haven’t done that in years and I can’t believe you still do.” I said, “I don’t know, maybe it’s because I was really late coming to the party and I’m making up for lost time, but I still enjoy rolling as much now as when I first did it.” I asked why he no longer indulged and he said, “Because I grew up” going on to say, “Maybe it’s time you did the same.” He added, “I can’t believe you still go to raves at your age.”

That really hurt my feelings and, after considerable consideration, my hurt feelings gave way to my feeling sorry for my old friend. I concluded that yes, one needs to grow up at some point to take responsibility for his own life, health and wellbeing, but why the fuck should I give up doing something I dearly enjoy. In fact, I’ve just written an entire Fringe show about my involvement in the rave scene. I see no logic in giving up something that never fails to energize me, lift my spirits and clear my head simply because my ID and the AARP rank me as a senior citizen.

I’ve done my bit. I hope to Gawd I’m not delusional in thinking I’ve made some small contribution to making my community a slightly better place in which to reside. I do know for certain that through my playwriting I helped a lot of people to engage in a lot of laugher. It’s not as though I’ve done nothing with my life other than partying. So why the hell should anyone ever tell me I need to grow up, act my age and scoff at me for indulging in and still enjoying pursuits that a misguided society seems to have deemed only appropriate for young people?

I flat out reject that notion and I am done beating myself up for the things I haven’t done.

At 65 I have finally come to the realization that I have spent far too much time being down on myself for not achieving so many of the things that most people equate with success. I scarcely have a pot to piss in by most people’s reckoning but gawd-damn I have lived a life that is overflowing with fabulous experiences, unique encounters, amazing people and cherished memories and I’ll be damned if I’m going to change the way I conduct myself simply because others think my behavior is not becoming of my age.

I hope when my time comes to exit this world that it comes without warning and that I go quickly. If I had my druthers, I’d like best to have my heart give out while I’m on stage inducing laughter or while dancing high on ecstasy in the middle of a sea of gorgeous young men.

My birthday wish for those reading this column is two-fold. If you are young, please be curious. Know your queer history and when you’re ready, contribute in whatever way suits your personality but do contribute. If you are an older person, my wish is that you embrace your age without attempting to conceal it while at the same time making no attempt to act it.

Party on!

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