10 Things I Said in My Mid-20s That I Laugh at As I Push 50

No. 5: “No one will ever love me like that again.”

Rocking blond hair and white denim in San Francisco in 1994.

Some of the outfits I wore were pretty terrible, and my two-toned hair was even worse (though I suppose not by 1994 standards on both counts). But the most ridiculous things about the 25ish-year-old me probably came out of my mouth.

1. “I don’t want to live past 40.”

After all, I figured, my life would technically be over then anyway. Right?

Yeah, I know. What did I know? Now that I’m closing in on 50, 40 seems so young.

And apparently, it’s getting younger. Four years ago, my friend Dave, who was born a year and a half after me, sent me a comforting message a few months after I hit halfway between 40 and 50:

60 is the new 40.

Really? Did that mean I was only 25 then? No, Dave admitted, but it meant we hadn’t come anywhere near our self-imposed expiration dates.

In fact, using Dave’s math, I’m not that much closer to it at 49 than I thought I was at 25!

2. “Why doesn’t he dress his age?”

At 25, I had one steadfast dating rule: I would never go out with a guy if he was wearing tennis shoes when we met, and if he wore them on our first date, there wouldn’t be a second one.

Tattoos and piercings were a plus, but if you looked like you might run away, I preferred that you did. The way I saw it at the time, nice shoes equaled class, ambition, and maturity.

I remember a discussion I once had with my first boyfriend, Derek, about what I thought should be the late-twentysomething dress code. I was 23, and he was 28. I was way too pressed and starched for my age (for any age), and I thought he and his contemporaries should be phasing out casual wear in favor of button-down shirts and dress pants (ties optional).

Oh… And for God’s sake, I continued my admonishment, though this part, only in my head. Lose the back pack. It’s so college, and you’re almost 30!

Flash forward 26 years, and I rarely leave home without my battered back pack, usually dressed in a t-shirt and track pants. (The ex who dumped me when I was 34 because he wanted a “t-shirt-and-jeans guy” would love me now.)

Oh… And for God’s sake, I continued my admonishment, though this part, only in my head. Lose the back pack. It’s so college, and you’re almost 30!

Slipping into something more comfortable and staying in it is a perk of being a digital nomad and not having to work in an office. I intend to enjoy it as long as I can, pushing 50 be damned!

3. “I’m going to stop going out once I hit 30.”

This blog post was inspired by an article I once read titled “Gay Men Over 30 Should Stay Out Of The Clubs.” I chuckled when I read it and didn’t get offended by anything the author wrote. He’ll live and learn. I know I did. (Read how here.)

Although my nightlife days seem to be over for good now, and I can barely keep my eyes open past 10 pm most evenings, I’m pretty sure that on the right night and with the right persuasive friend, I might live to see another dance floor.

Just don’t expect me to get down on it.

Billy Crudup in Jesus’ Son (Lionsgate Films): Did I love him because he reminded me of an ex?

4. “He’s not my type.”

At 25, my “type” looked a lot like Billy Crudup in Jesus’ Son (a movie that came out five years later). But aside from my second boyfriend Khleber, whom I dated from 24 to 26, no one I actually went out with looked anything like Billy Crudup in Jesus’ Son (especially not the short bald guy with whom I saw Jesus’ Son in the cinema). The more men I dated, the more different the men I dated seemed to be.

Somewhere along the way (probably around the time I had made it through most of the countries in Western Europe, was deep into my South America phase, and had slept with white guys, black guys, Latino guys, and Asian guys), I realized that I actually don’t have a type at all.

This week, I’m in love with Colin Kaepernick. In recent months, I’ve had eyes mostly — but not only — for Don Johnson in Book Club, J. Cole, Empire’s Trai Byers, male passersby on the streets of Tirana (Albania’s capital) and Belgrade (Serbia’s capital), Middle Eastern men on Grindr, 93-year-old Days of Our Lives actor Bill Hayes, at least half a dozen of his co-stars (who are white, black, and Asian), and yeah, still Billy Crudup.

I like what I like, which, at this point, could be pretty much anyone, as long as he’s legal, intelligent, funny, comfortable in his own skin, and breathing.

5. “No one will ever love me like that again.”

After I broke up with Derek when I was 24, I called my mother for some parental TLC. “No one will ever love me like that again,” I told her, working overtime to stop my sobbing. I didn’t want Mom to hear me cry about anything — especially a guy.

Her response: “You’re right. No one will. But you’ll meet someone else who’ll love you differently. It won’t be the same. But it’ll be just as good, if not better.”

She was right. Lovers have come, and lovers have gone in the almost exactly 25 years since then. None of them have loved me like Derek did, but some of them loved me just as hard.

So now, even in my darkest days of chronic singledom, when I’ve made peace with possibly flying solo from here on out, I haven’t given up hope. Chances are I’ll love and be loved again — and next time, in yet another special way.

Meanwhile, Mom continues to teach me the most valuable life lessons.

6. “I’ll/I’d never…” and “I wouldn’t…”

Absolutes are pointless. And it took me breaking pretty much every one of my own rules to realize that they were pointless, too. Having hit 57 countries and counting, including several that I never expected to go anywhere near, I’ve opened my mind while filling up passports with stamps.

As I’ve grown older and found myself in situations that I once considered unlikely, I’ve learned to throw out the rules and just let life happen.

7. “I’ll always keep up with the sound of the times.”

Who knew then that the prevalent sound of 2018 would be so borderline unlistenable? Full disclosure time: If it weren’t for those weekly YouTube videos that play snippets of the latest hits while counting down the Top 50 on Billboard’s Hot 100, I’d probably never hear any of most of the top singles for any given week.

Is it my age, or is a lot of today’s music that bad? I’d call it a mix (old age, awful songs). That said, I’m still occasionally turned on by contemporary tunes. “Havana” by Camilla Cabello is the best female-sung pop hit since her former girl group Fifth Harmony’s “Work from Home,” and I can appreciate the massive talent of Kendrick Lamar (“Humble” is one of my all-time favorite Hot 100 number ones) and the massive appeal of Drake (“Nice for What” remains highly listenable after a billion weeks in heavy rotation everywhere).

At the end of the day, though, I’d usually rather listen to my oldies-packed Spotify playlists or a flashback ’70s episode of Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” radio countdown than bother myself with most of today’s greatest hits.

8. “I want to be retired by 50.”

After leaving cushy well-paying gigs in my comfort zone (New York City) in 2006, I headed off into the great wide open (from Buenos Aires to Melbourne to Bangkok to Cape Town to Sydney to India to the Balkans to the countries of the former Soviet Union).

It took often writing for free and intermittently working full-time for well below my pay rate (which I did for several months in Buenos Aires and for two and a half years in Sydney) for me to realize how much I love what I do.

I’m currently looking for my next full-time — and hopefully, well-paying — gig, and when I find it, I’ll continue to write for free on the side. When I’m on my deathbed, they’ll probably have to pry my laptop — or whatever people are using to write circa 2029 (if I do end up expiring at “40,” using Dave’s math) — out of my cold, clammy, wrinkly hands.

And my famous last words will no doubt be in a blog post.

9. “I never will marry.”

That’s what Linda Ronstadt sang on one of her 1978 singles, and she wasn’t kidding. She never did marry. While being someone’s spouse has never felt like my path either, I’m old enough and wise enough now to see it as improbable rather than impossible.

That’s not only because I never say “never” anymore (see number six), but because evolving marriage laws in most of the English-speaking world have made me free to be a husband if I ever choose to be one.

Johnny Cash and Linda Ronstadt duet on “I Never Will Marry” in the year I was born, nearly a decade before Ronstadt’s solo version because a top-ten country hit.

10. “The more, the merrier.”

Less isn’t just more; it’s easier. Baggage weighs you down, figuratively and literally. In my case, I had to spend decades accumulating to finally realize that most of the stuff I’d acquired was junk.

Today the most important inanimate things in my life are my thoughts, my ideas, and my words, and they don’t weigh a thing.

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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