The older I get, the more I see that it’s about freeing my mind so the rest will follow

By Mike Fleming
Peach Co-Publisher

ABOUT A BLINK AGO, I was 22 and a buddy was dating a 40-something guy who told me, “I’ve been gay longer than you’ve been alive.” I thought it was funny, but mostly I thought my friend was a little off for liking someone “so old.”

Whatever. They were into each other, so I just wandered back to the dance floor to let Madonna wash over me.

Flash forward: another friend loves to retell a true story about a 40th birthday party. 
As the clock struck midnight, the guests pulled a prank on the man of honor by turning their backs on him and walking out, shunning him from the gay world at the moment of his “big 4-0.” 
Of course, they all rushed back in and had a good laugh — except the birthday boy himself, who got the joke, but was still a tad freaked out about it the rest of the night.

My friend who tells the story thinks it’s hilarious; he’s 34. But it always irritates me.

I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE: I’m over 50. Whew! I feel like I just came out as “older.” Why is being a certain age so hard to admit?

Have I been holding back my age, even subconsciously, in fear of the proverbial boot? What’s that about? A 26-year-old friend told me last week that I discuss my age as if it were an affliction, but stuff keeps happening to support my paranoia.

I had to catch my breath recently when I found out a gorgeous guy at Blake’s was born when I was already out of college. Ahem. That means this man came into the world right around the time that an “old man” was telling me he was gay before I was born.

Then a super-cute little lesbian at Chrome Yellow asked me who Farrah Fawcett was. For those of you who don’t get that, it’s like a full-grown adult telling you he doesn’t remember Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus — love her or hate her, she’s inescapable.

And just two days ago, I told a 20-something writer that Peach is always on the lookout for “smart, youthful voices.”

Wait. Just a minute ago I was 22, so how did a word like “youthful” come out of my mouth to describe an adult in his 20s?

I’M ASHAMED OF MY SHAME. People who know me are keenly aware that I generally consider myself a rock star with no regrets and no apologies. So why am I so easily lured into the Age Cage?

Just look at Peach Pits in the back of this magazine. Guys in their 20s bitch about older guys hitting on them; men over 40 bitch about younger men with “attitude.” We chide guys who date or dress without regard to age appropriateness.

There’s a stigma attached to being over 40 that apparently even a rock star can’t ignore. A 50-something colleague assures me that life begins at 40. A 41-year-old friend says that 40 is the new 30, and another says he wishes it was the new 25.

At least I’m not alone.

IT’S TIME TO LET IT GO. So what if we’re revisiting fashions I remember from the first time they were popular? Who cares if TV ads use the songs of my youth to sell minivans?

Coming out of the age cage is like coming out of the closet. I trapped myself here, so I’m declaring myself free.

Let’s all help each other come out of that rut. Younger guys: believe us when we say, “It seems like yesterday,” and realize that older guys still rock. Men over 40: admit that young men have fresh perspectives that are valid. It’s all good.

We’ll catch up soon enough, when everyone reading this is exchanging eye rolls at the high school seniors of 2017. Meanwhile, I’m headed to the dance floor to let Madonna wash over me … again.

My playlists span six decades. Cher is on all of them. Follow this, you bitches.