On being an aging weirdo

March 28 2014 | arielmstallings


An aging nightlife colleague posted this online recently:

Really need to work on the whole "being fun" thing a little more. It's too easy to just sit around being comfortable and old.

I saw these kinds of things a LOT from my peer group of aging freaks, especially right around age 30. It seems like all of a sudden it's staring you right there in the face: the stuff that we spent our 20s doing (in my specific case, dancing all night while intoxicated) suddenly doesn't have quite the same pull, and there's part of you that screams NOOOOOOO! I'm getting OOOOOOLD! And then there's this reflex of MUST FIGHT IT MUST FIGHT IT.

(I don't mean to pick on this particular friend, but this is one of a bazillion examples of aging offbeat types getting down on themselves for being "old" and not doing the things they used to.)

What's interesting to me is that rather than find new ways of expressing that creative energy, there's a reflex to keep expressing it the same way. "If I don't keep doing the exact same things in the exact same ways, then it must mean something positively awful is happening. MUST KEEP GOING OUT. MUST CONTINUE NIGHTLIFE. MUST PROVE SOMETHING."

It's just not working for me any more. I'm not saying I want to move to the 'burbs, curl up with my Reader's Digest, and give up on all that crazy kids' stuff. Dance and music and the arts are crucially important to my life, and have been a part of my life since childhood (art classes), through my teen years (theater), through college (raving), post college (more raving/clubbing/Burning Man/etc.).

But as I've gotten into my 30s, I realized that more of the same wasn't going to cut it. I still like dancing … just during the day. I still like music … just not at ear-damaging levels. For me, it's been about discovering the roots of my interests and finding ways that feel like they fit into my life NOW that feel good. Like dance class (in the morning) and going to festivals (taking a vacation to get freaky, instead of getting freaky and then hauling your cracked-out carcass to work 12 hours later).

It's been really gratifying to find new ways to express my creative energy, rather than forcing myself to continue the old ways I'm not drawn to any more. Stagnation isn't youth. You can't stay 21 (or 25, or 30, etc.) forever. Personal evolution is awesome!

Or, as I said to my friend in response:

Totally agree, but at the same time I feel like there's nothing worse than forcing yourself to do something you're not drawn to just because you don't want to feel the age that you actually are. (i.e., oh I better go out, because I wouldn't want to feel like I'm not in my early 20s any more. Oh wait….)

I need to talk to more aging weirdos, because it's not like this same cycle hasn't been happening for generations…

As you get older, how do you find ways to continue the passions and subcultures of your youth, while respecting and celebrating where you're at in your life now?

  1. I consider myself a "nerd" or "weirdo", but have never been a club-hopper or able to handle getting trashed every weekend. I didn't understand it in my early 20s and the few people I know who still do it just seem sad at this point. I like to drink big girl drinks on my back porch and watch bands sitting on a blanket on the grass not from a mosh pit anymore. I don't feel bad about that at all.

    But I do still put green and purple streaks in my hair and could be found dancing naked in the kitchen…to me the hallmarks of being a weirdo much more than getting trashed at a goth club.

  2. These aren't really active suggestions, but I like to remind myself that a lot of the going out I did in my 20's, I really didn't want to do. What I wanted was a good time with my friends and that usually manifested in a noisy bar or crazy club, which I tolerated because I wanted to be with my friends and we felt that we HAD to PARTY.
    Now I feel like I'm old enough to go, "Nah, I'm not interested in the bar tonight. Let's plan something else for another time," without feeling lame. (Or too lame. Sometimes the pull of Netflix is too strong.)
    I dunno, maybe I am lame and used to fake fun better. But I feel like I'm being a little more true to myself and that feels kind of awesome.

    I also try to remember my younger years a little less fondly and more realistically. Yes, I really enjoyed my regional theatre days, but I also remember being so exhausted one morning that I cried in my kitchen because my best friend brought me donuts and no one had been that nice to me in weeks. Sure, going out Wednesday through Sunday night was fun, but Thursday, Friday and Monday morning were AWFUL.

    Like I said, these aren't active suggestions and I look forward to reading everyone else's, but re-framing my thinking about my past has helped me enjoy my present a lot more…

    • Hah, I totally get this! As I've been getting closer to 30, I've said that I feel like I'm "growing into my personality." I never LIKED staying out late or going really loud, crowded places, or partying all that much, but like you I often went because I wanted to be with my friends and felt like that was the thing to do. Now that my 20s are nearing their end, people don't bug me about it as much if I choose not to do those things. Instead I like to do things like hold a stitch'n'bitch or book club brunches or fancy dinner parties. And that's awesome! 🙂

      The only thing that I kind of mourned for a while was how I feel now going to punk shows. When I was a teenager I would look around and feel like "yes. I belong here. This feels like HOME." Every now and then I catch a show and, although I usually still enjoy the music, I don't have that feeling of belonging any more. I feel like the old person at the show (the ones I used to see when I was a kid and think "what are they doing here?"). Luckily, there are other places and situations which give me that feeling of belonging nowadays. It has just shifted.

  3. This has been something I've struggled with for all of my 20s (I'm 25), because I feel like I'm "wasting" my 20s, and that I'm "old before my time" because I'm a homebody. Nightlife has never appealed to me. I'd much rather drink wine at home while watching Doctor Who or rock out to whatever music I pick for myself while working on a craft or organizing project. It sounds boring, but to me, bars and clubs are boring. And that's okay, and shoulding all over myself and trying to cram myself into social situations I don't enjoy because "everyone else does it" is a way I really would be wasting my time. 🙂

    • Yeah, while I framed this post around my own experiences in my 20s, really my goal was just to talk about how interests shifts as time goes on… and ask how do you gracefully make those transitions.

      For instance, you might find in your 30s that crafting isn't as fun for you any more, but that you find new outlets for the fiddly detail-oriented aspects of crafting that you loved. (Weird example, but maybe makes sense?)

      I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I don't want anyone to get distracted by MY specific 20-something interests (dance, music, nightlife, etc)… the larger issue for me is how do we navigate the transitions of aging out of particular interests, while still finding consistent themes and passions in your life.

      • I feel like I've matured creatively, and for me that meant moving from theatre to writing. I would live and breathe the stage, it was EVERYTHING…until I got older and wanted things like health insurance and a steady paycheck and no more 3am calls about blocking issues the night before tech.
        There are people who can stay in theatre and still maintain other needs, but it just wasn't for me. And in a lot of ways it makes me unbearably sad. (Mostly when I drink and watch the Tonys.)

        But writing fills a lot of that creative outlet I craved, if not the social one, and is much less stressful or stressful in different ways. It's still the arts, it's still using a part of me I've always had, but it fits my lifestyle now. A lifestyle that now includes a husband and kid and mortgage and 401k, all of which would make 22 year old me gag.

        However, 22 year old me used to stay out all night and drink things with names like Blood Clot and Cement Mixer and Four Horsemen, so she is not to be trusted.

    • I could have written the exact same thing. I was never a social butterfly, never went out dancing and drinking. So, the only thing that's really changed now that I'm 29 instead of 19 is that my wardrobe contains fewer Lord of the Rings t-shirts and I don't decorate my home with movie posters anymore.

    • Yeah, I've always been more of a quiet bar or coffeeshop (or make it at home and enjoy my own comfy clean furniture/that of a friend) person over going out clubbing, but I can still sort of relate to what Ariel is saying, as I know that a lot of things that I could do/would enjoy before, I just don't anymore. A night of crazy drinking with friends just doesn't have the same appeal as it used to, as where there used to be "hangovers," now instead, there are "I-feel-like-death-HANGOVERS" after about half as much drinking.

    • I feel you. I'm 26, and wine and NPR is my idea of a good time. But, I also relate to Ariel's piece because I think with every shift in interests or lifestyle, there's this question: "Am I being true to my authentic self, or am I changing out of laziness/peer pressure/other unideal reason?" I don't usually have an answer, but it's something I think about a lot.

  4. I would love to see an ongoing series of interviews/thoughts/ideas from aging weirdos. I FEEL so super old whenever I do the things young me loved to do. Then I get drunk and start telling everyone there how OOOLLLLLLDDDDD I am. (I'm hardly old, only 30. But it hit me hard)

    Teach me, O Sage Weirdos, how to be weird without the aches and pains in the morning. <3

  5. Oh gosh, if I were doing things because I felt like letting them go would be getting OLD, I'd still be staying up until 2 am every night, wearing ripped jeans with nerdy unisex t-shirts, and drinking crappy beer and mixed drinks every weekend and dancing ironically to 80's music with awkward dudes. Yes, these are the things we did at nerd college, and they're fun (kinda), but I was ready to move on after I graduated. Finally leaving the dorm mailing list a couple years later was the best decision ever. Now my weekends consist of fun backpacking trips, music festivals and concerts, hanging out with friends and drinking good beer, going on long runs, and other things I now find awesome.

    It's not just weirdos who have trouble letting go, too. I went to our Pi Reunion (~3.14 years post-graduation, told you it was nerd college) last summer in Vegas, and there was a guy there who graduated a few years ahead of me. Apparently he goes every year since it's always in Vegas, and if he continues he'll just keep getting older and older than the people he's partying with. He spent the entire time sloppy-drunk and making immature comments and gambling, and it just seemed sad. It's one thing to keep having fun as you age, but it's important to check in with yourself and make sure it's still fun and not harmful.

  6. I was also never really into going to clubs but it was the sociable thing to do back when (smokey, ear-damagingly loud, expensive drinks, and I had to scream for my friends to hear me if we wanted to talk). Nowadays we have regular Magic nights at a friend's house and it's BYOB and usually Pandora going in the background (bonus if Pandora is shuffling all the stations). Or if we're not doing Magic it's board games like Pandemic, Firefly (yes like the tv show), and a couple others I can't remember.

      • Not the poster above, but we found it really fun! It definitely takes a chunk of time to play the first time, as you're learning it, but it gets faster as you get more familiar with the rules, etc. It felt very true to the spirit of the show.

  7. Thank you for this! While I didn't do a lot of bar hopping/clubbing as a young 20 something, I did do a lot of social experiment type things (like go barefoot for a year…starting in January…in Central Washington snow…). I tend to do a lot of things that other people see as being…er…'random.' But I like a good story. And while I still like being barefoot, I have no desire to commit to another year without shoes. I like finding other ways of being creative with my weirdo-personality, without trying to hold on so tightly to one particular time in my life.

    • Seconding the suggestion for you to write a guest post about the going barefoot experiment. I'd be particularly interested to know how you dealt with going into public places that require shoes. Did you just avoid them, or did you have some other way to get around those policies?

      Someone I knew at boarding school always tried to go barefoot everywhere, but she got in trouble for going into the student center, dining halls, etc without shoes. In college I often tried to go barefoot in my dorm, but the person in charge of my Freshman dorm didn't like that and told me it was against health regulations. (She was interpreting those regulations rather strictly I think, as I had no problems with doing the same in the dorms I lived in after Freshman year.)

  8. I am the biggest nerd of all – I lament the fact that I can no longer stay up all night doing work and have a productive day the next day. All through graduate school, I was able to perfectly function on small amounts of sleep when necessary. Oh, 20 page paper due tomorrow? No problem!! I'll just take a nap on the train. I haven't been able to do that for more than a few years, but I still have this "sleep? who needs that?!" mentality when I have to get something done (or want to browse through just a few more tumblr posts before bed . . . ). Who needs sleep? I do, apparently! I seriously need at least 8 hours of sleep every night, but I still keep wanting to deny myself that, thinking I'll be okay. I won't be.

    Want to really feel like an aging weirdo? Hang out on entertainment- and celebrity-related tags tumblr for a while! Everyone (okay, not everyone) is around 16 years old. I'll see pictures of a favorite (45-yr-old) celebrity posted with captions like, "He's my dad's age." gahhhhh. But I'm still going to hang out on tumblr, as long as nothing gets too weird (as in, I don't want to read about anything underage and sexual).

    • That sleep thing is my biggest bummer. I used to stay up till 4am, going to music venues and then brining the music venue back with us, then wake up a few hours later and ace a mother-fucking final — like a boss! Now, I'm like, "Damn, I'd LOVE to see my friends' show, but doors open at 9, which means you're not going to be playing until 10 or 11pm!? Oh hell no. I'm staying home."

      What happened to me!?

      • Working on a college campus, I remarked to my husband the other evening about how there were some great talks and events listed, but one of them was supposed to start at about 9, and gee, that's getting kinda late…Then I felt old. Now, I will most likely still be awake after 9, but I don't really want to be out that late if I can be at home on the couch instead. (Plus, I'll feel a lot less old–and embarassed–if I do happen to conk out on my own couch than if I do it in the middle of a talk among a bunch of 18-22 year-old students.) I confess, I'm 26 years old, but I am also eight months pregnant, so sleep hits at unexpected moments and leaves me feeling like I'm quite aged.

        • That's one thing that hasn't changed for me. 🙂

          I still regularly come home no earlier than 11pm, and am fine staying out until 2am, 3am…4am is my limit. Not bad, no?

          But I have a freelance job in which, on most days, my "obligations" start at noon (NOON! WOOOO!) with only two 9am days. I can't stay out late when there's a 9am day the next day, but on any other day, I still can. I don't go to the same venues (well, very rarely – I do still go out for live music sometimes) and often you'll find me out until 1am talking politics and social issues with my good friends drinking Belgian beer in a bistro-cafe somewhere, not dancing my head off after drinking a shitty vodka tonic.

          Hoping to hang on to that for maybe 7 more years? We'll see. My dad is still a night owl at 62, so…

          • That guy I married is almost 40 years old, and still has his "bachelor days" schedule: stays up till 2-4am, and can wake up 4 or 5 hours later and feel fine. I'm jealous at his badass-ness.

          • YES. I've always been a night owl & even if we're not doing anything but watching Netflix my husband & I will be up until at least 1:00 am every night. Even when I try to go to bed early (like, by 11) it doesn't work unless I'm sick or something. With a toddler this isn't as easy as it used to be… but luckily we have flexible jobs and reliable people who watch her during the day. Our transition to being oldER has definitely calmed us down a lot, but now instead of going out all the time we make events out of our debauchery. Our "date nights" happen once every few weeks & include getting a sitter so we can go out for dinner, beer pub quizzes and drum circles at the bar with the best tap selection in town. And for the big events, grandma steps in to take our daughter for the weekend so we can go to things like our favorite music festival every year (& get really nuts).

            But on a regular basis, most of the things we used to do we still do, just in a different way. For summer concerts in the park we bring the stroller & blankets & toys, and sit in the back with her big earmuff ear protectors on, instead of our old habit of alternating between right up next to the stage & inside the beer tent. We have one or two drinks instead of as many as we can swallow. Then we go home & chill out on the couch after putting her to bed. And, we still make it out to some shows overnight (though not nearly as much as we used to) but we've come to love setting up the projector in the yard to watch live streaming Phish shows with a couple of growlers & friends around a campfire–we can stay up as late as we want knowing she's asleep right inside the house.

            I love that we're aging & maturing gracefully while still not giving up the things we love doing–and I think we're giving her some great experiences while doing it.

        • My hack for when events start around 9pm (which is late without being TOO late) is to be out doing something already before the start time. So I'll schedule a dinner before a show, or something. Because if I haven't left my house by 8pm… I'm probably not leaving my house!

      • Yuuuup. My friend's birthday party was at a bar last night and was set to start at 9:30. I dreaded it all week. It turned out to be a really fun time, but in all the days leading up to it I was like: 9:30?! Sooooo late!

      • THIS! I have turned down a lot of things because they start at 9 or later…WHY do people have to party so LATE? In high school I loved it when there was the odd ska show with doors at 6, haha.

  9. I've found that as I get older, I'm actually far more comfortable with myself and therefore don't need all that outward acknowledgement that I'm 'different' or 'unique'. You start to realize that the things that are often normal are normal for a reason – they're practical and useful. It's ok to look 'normal' and act 'normal' but you can still be yourself.

      • Oh my gosh, high school me was so ahead of my time! After a brief Hot Topic phase I pretty much wore jeans, sweaters, tank tops and t-shirts from the Gap, with sneakers. If that were "in" right now it would be endlessly amusing.

      • This is making me feel like an aging weirdo! :p If I wore Tevas, I'd be sure to feel like I was 11 years old and at summer camp.

      • I love that article! I find clothes too fun to give up making my own style altogether, but my style has definitely become subtler. Fishnets and tongue rings are just not comfortable enough these days. (About tongue rings – I didn't feel mine when I had it, but I took it out and was like – ahh, that's what a mouth feels like!)

        Anyhow, don't think people should be afraid of changing and growing as we age. I think the key is finding other things (whether they are similar to your old hobbies or completely different) that make you feel engaged and happy.

        • Also loved the article. I've been seeing normcore pop up around the internet lately, but that was the first "readable" explanation of it that I've seen. Other articles have been too densely sociological, if that makes sense.

          I'm not sure how I feel about normcore. On one hand, it's fascinating to think about how this trend (like any trend) has developed/is developing, and if people are finding a comfortable way to live and express themselves, more power to them. On the other hand, though, I'll be sad if all the "weirdos" go normcore. Growing up in a place with comparatively little visible diversity, seeing alternative styles out and about was one of the things that raised my consciousness and made me want to learn more about other people's lives.

          Extreme body art made me uncomfortable as a kid, but exposure to it gave me a life-long interest in body politics and identity, while seeing "extreme" fashion associated with different subcultures (raver, punk, etc.) got me thinking about how people treated others differently based on their choices for self-expression. I wonder if kids growing up now will be less inclined to explore those things if everyone they see is wearing the same fleece pullover and sneakers.

        • Yeah, I am amazed at how my style has evolved. Sometimes I see folks with bright-colored hair or punk clothes on and I think "oh man, I must look so normal, now, with my natural blonde hair and neutral-colored clothing…" Then there are other moments when I realize my tattoo sleeve and piercings probably set me apart more than I generally acknowledge, haha.

    • I said this to a friend recently, that I identify as a 'hippie' at heart and she's like "um, I don't see it." Because I was wearing skinny jeans, with flatironed hair and a dressy top for work. With neon sneakers.

      Because sometimes what's inside doesn't need to be worn all over the outside in a stereotypical way to feel like it' 'fits' you.

      • As a (female) lawyer, I feel huge pressure to dress in a conservative/normative way. I don't want to scare away clients or have a judge be prejudiced because of my attire. I've been lucky enough to have a job right now where I was hired in part for being a weirdo, and my coworkers embrace a little personal flair.
        My struggle has been in recent years on how I can mix my authentic self and my career goals. It's a work in progress.

        • I work in policy development and this is a similar conflict for me. My tattoos keep a pretty low profile day to day! Beyond clothing i also feel that i have to moderate talking about my interests in a work scenario, but that's another issue.
          All the best in finding that common ground!

  10. Thanks for writing this! I'm in my mid-40's and my husband and I still go out on a pretty regular basis, although don't get nearly as intoxicated or crazy as we might have in our 20's or even 30's!

    He's in a band, we run a guitar pedal business, and our friends tend to be involved in music or the arts, so a lot of socializing, even for business purposes, tends to revolve around night life.

    There are definitely times when we feel our ages, especially since a fair number of our friends are younger than us by a significant amount. In fact, some don't believe me when I tell them how old I am!

    With that said however, neither of us have a problem taking a raincheck and spending the night at home comfortably binge watching TV or simply hanging out in our back yard. I've also found it interesting that many of our young friends also enjoy doing the same, and especially over the last couple years, we've planned more home-based get togethers with cooking, music and simply spending time together talking.

    We've all talked about this on more than one occasion; it's almost as if the pressure is off to go out and get crazy, and young friends feel it's almost a relief! In fact, we've become almost the stable, older, cool "adults" to some of them, and I have to be honest in saying that I really enjoy that position! In any case, I love your idea of creating controlled freakiness!

    We "older" punks can still maintain our edge, and yet be responsible, successful and stable! In fact, I think I may enjoy and love my life better than I did in my 20's, and that's a great feeling! Again, thanks for writing this; it really hits home!

  11. My parents, both musicians who have played music professionally for the better part of 45+ years and as owners of a music shop and recording studio and have been through every scene going have always told me – "We don't grow old. We just evolve" I take it to heart.

  12. people used to joke that I had 80 year old woman hobbies: quilting, cross stitch, dominos, pajamas. today as I got off the floor from cutting some fabric I thought dang I'm getting old this didn't used to be so tough; my thought was to get a table instead of being on the floor. so I'll stick with my my hobbies just adapt them as you said. I used to go to midnight movies when they'd premiere now I cannot do that bc heaven forbid I not be in bed at a decent time or I'm wrecked the next day.
    I highly value being silly and a kid at heart but yet growing and adapting the things I like. like a lot of my fellow commenters I've gotten more comfortable with myself as I've aged and I suppose I still feel young at heart.

    • My husband and I spent New Year's Eve at home, just the two of us, playing cards and dominos, drinking non-alcoholic wine (again, I'm pregnant, otherwise it would have been the real stuff), and went to bed shortly after the arrival of the New Year. We probably could have found a livelier place to spend the evening, but really, hanging out together, having a pretty quiet evening, was way more our speed.

      Also, your 80-year-old woman hobbies = totally cool! I would totally come have a pajama-wearing, cross stitching (never tried, but would be up for learning), early-night party with you! 🙂

      • yes! pajama cross stitch early party at my place! yay!

        oh and I totally joke that when I am an 80 year old lady I'm gonna be the coolest ever bc obviously I've got the hobbies down pat.

  13. I know I'm over 40 bec. I balk at paying $7+ for a cocktail when I can drink for seemingly free on my own couch & actually *hear* conversations at home, as opposed to going to a bar or club 😉 . I've entirely dropped my old goth nightclubbing as I got older, but I've more fully delved into historical reenactment & now spend weekends hauling tents around & dressing up in crazy costumes. It's not a new interest (I've made costumes since I was 16), but now that I'm older, I have more resources (steady income, a sewing room, more knowledge, advanced skills) & connections & can get involved at a higher level. When I was younger, dancing at clubs was one of my few outlets, for a variety of reasons. So I feel like age has expanded my horizons.

    • I agree that getting older has made lots of my 'hobbies' more fun. I have more money to spend, we have a car so can travel more easily, and as my anxiety issues calm down I can be more genuine with friends. Though my hobbies are pretty much just eating and drinking – both to excess – and I have expensive tastes. What I've found much more difficult is actually scheduling time to spend with those friends as each of us moves up the career ladder/gets married/has kids/moves away. How little I see my favourite people really saddens me.

  14. Facing some of this myself.
    Finally got a job where I had to tone down my rainbow hair. It's an offbeat job, and they were really, REALLY apologetic about it, but it had to go. It's weird, because on one hand, that's such a normal "Oh lord, I'm an adult now" thing, but for me, it definitely feels like being old. I also have toned down my wardrobe (Albeit mostly out of laziness. I used to look like a freak, now I mostly look like a paint-covered slob. (No regrets! Slobs forever!http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Lister)
    I was never a makeup-user (Still not. Come watch me put makeup on some time. I look like a 6-year-old trying to become a drag queen) but I LOVED me some costumes. I had a collection of awful shirts for a long time and took great pleasure in making other people flinch. About once a month I celebrated: How Many Patterns Can I Wear at a Go day. And now? I don't wear costumes every day, just… clothes. I do sometimes wear my Ren Garb out in public because I'm on the way back from an event, or that's what's clean.Save the high effort stuff for parties and social events. I'm kind of proud of it. Saves me time and energy for stuff that matters more to me. (Making all of the things! Cuddling the small dog! Hunting for wild vegetables and mushrooms!)
    Still weird, just lazy weird. Lazy weird = Confident weird. And confidence? Confidence is sexy.

    • If you still want to have rainbow hair "on the weekends" my boss recently told me about this temporary hair dye that is true-to-color on any color hair, can be styled, doesn't rub off, but washes out in one wash. My salon carries the brand Color Me by Giuliano. It's great stuff that helps me feel a bit funky without ruining my professionalism.

      • That sounds like a pretty cool product. Does it show up decently on hair that is not blond?

        I've got medium brown hair, but would like to make it blue or purple for the occasional event without having to keep it that way for weeks or damaging my hair. I used to dye my hair fun colors when I was in my teens, but after I cut off most of my hair at age 20 to get rid of some dye I was sick of letting grow out, I'm not using longer lasting dyes anymore.

  15. I hear all of this… I was a raver back, way back in the day and I loved my weekends dancing intoxicated way past dawn. I loved the community, the plur, the love, the freedom, celebrating life and god and the universe on the dance flookr, the fashion, etc. I kept going to festivals long past my days of weekend raves, but even that doesn't hold as much interest to me anymore (at the ferocious age of 31).

    I was fortunate enough to find a community with all those things and more in the hoop dance and prop manipulation scene. We get dressed up in wierd clothes, and dance all weekend long, but the hours are more reasonable. I now teach and perform and find myself at festival and events in a different role and I love it. I get to spin, dance, laugh, love, sweat and let my freak flag fly in new ways that fills all my needs to be that aging wierdo.

  16. Wow, thank you for this! This really hits home for me right now. You've very eloquently explained my current experience.

    One way I could describe my shifts in behavior is to the old cliche of "quality vs. quantity." I find myself still highly enjoying the same things I always have, but instead of doing a whole bunch of it to an exhausting level, I do things less often, but strive for more enriching experiences. Drinking is always a good example of this…I'd much rather spend $15-20 on a good quality bottle of wine and drink two glasses of it, than drink a bunch of crap just to get a buzz. I'd also rather spend more money going out to a really nice dinner and having a fun night out on the town two or three times a month, instead of going out on Fridays and Saturdays every weekend, but settling for cheap/easy kicks.

    I guess I just try to remind myself that doing more of something doesn't mean that it's being done better, and that could apply to pretty much any activity/hobby/interest!

  17. I can really appreciate this post. I'm almost 29 but feel like a 15 year old stuck in an 80 year old's body. I don't even know what I feel like. I'm post grad, job hunting, dazed and confused, sleepless in Seattle :P. I was on a path and then got off it and now I am trying to get back on it but on my own terms… but that's not so easy. And then being unemployed makes me feel like I can't relate to my old friends… and I'm just not into the bar scene ATM… so I'm choosing to isolate…ugghh. Oh and back to the job hunting thing, so I FEEL like I have to be "normal" but I'm not and I hate "normal" or whatever it is to try and be something I'm not. I don't think there's any right way to be, and I think it's okay that I'm feeling all the feels that I'm feeling… it's a pretty big transitional phase in my life. I just miss the days of being all up in my head and thinking it was a great place to be… right now it's quite stressful :\

  18. I feel this. In different ways of course but that's sort of the point.

    For me, it's been not so much going out to loud bars (I still do that now about as often as I did in my twenties: not even once a month, maybe ten times a year, because I liked the other people who were going) and I don't miss nightclubs at all (actually now they look kind of lame – now that I'm in my 30s I feel like one day the goggles came off and I noticed all the dust, shitty drinks (like REALLY shitty, wow), cheap decorations, and I think, "I thought this was cool? Now that I can afford to decorate my own house looks classier than this". Not to dump on people who like the experience or the scene, that's cool, it's just how I feel personally.

    Rather for me it's been 1.) as an atheist, owning up to the fact that being an aging weirdo means I'm AGING, which means I'm going to die and if I'm very lucky maybe I'm about 1/3 of the way there now…and there is nothing after death. I'm OK with this and am not contemplating getting religion, but it was something to come to terms with.

    2.) Clothing – I still look young enough to get away with some of the odd clothes I wore in my 20s, but I can see how I am slowly losing that and starting to think "well that just looks silly". What was cool and interesting at 24 (vintage lace blouse, whackadoo skirt, colorful hair ties, glitter eye-shadow) either looks tired and sad or Crazy Cat Lady. It's OK – I can still get away with my koi knee socks and robot t-shirt (the day I can't get away with the koi knee socks and robot t-shirt is the day I cry) and there are other sartorial choices that look better on me now. Not because "thirtysomethings shouldn't wear _____" but just on what I think looks better/worse on me personally as I age.

    3.) travel: I used to be able to roll into some country with, like, zero dollars, and have a blast. I think I managed 2 weeks in Thailand on $150. I moved to Taiwan (and never left) with $2000 in my pocket and nothing else, not even a return ticket. Grubby hostels, staying on the bed because there were roaches on the floor, eating a huge hostel breakfast then skipping lunch to save money…SO much fun when I was 22-28 and could take it. I met all sorts of cool people. Now…ugh. No. My lovely husband and I still travel frequently (someday I'll contribute more to Offbeat Home's travel pages) but we stay in decent rooms and my two-week budget for Thailand is now our one-day budget in most places. I kind of miss the old rough-and-ready backpacking, but neither my psyche nor my body can handle it (or rather, my body probably can, but my mind is all like "NO!" You like comfortable beds and no roaches).

    And two more for good measure:

    4.) One of my weirdo things is that I chose not to have kids. I thought there would be tons of people like us, that we'd have a lovely circle of child-free couples and single friends to hang out with, and we'd see our friends with kids when their schedules permitted, all good. Except that didn't happen – I found out how rare it really is to marry and then choose to remain child-free, and everyone I know either has kids, is actively planning, or wants them someday.

    5.) I live in the city in the midst of some pretty intense student protests (it only got violent once, but nobody was killed and – just to show you the national character of Taiwan – the police seemed kind of ashamed at their brutal response to a student attempt at occupying the executive branch of government. They are still in the legislative, because the speaker won't clear them out).

    And I realize I can only support – and I do support the students, wholeheartedly – and not play an active role, not because I am not Taiwanese (although that is a big part of it) but because these are student protests – at 33 I feel like I've left my student radical days behind (not that I was ever that radical). A whole new generation is there now to chant "do you hear the people sing?"

    • You make a great point about travel. My partner and I love staying in hostels, and we've done it all over Europe and North America. I like the community feeling of a hostel, not to mention the cheap price. We still don't make enough to stay anywhere else, but we also *like* hostels.

      Although on recent trips, I've started to feel too annoyed about hostels' inconveniences, like people leaving their luggage all over the small room (leaving little or no room to walk around) or having to find a random outlet in an awkward place to charge my electronics. Am I getting too old for hostels? I don't want to be too old for hostels!

      My partner and I are both in our early 30s, but we pretty much look like we are in our early- to mid-20s (I teach college students but most people will assume I AM a college student). I feel like young people in hostels are sometimes a little judgy about older people who are staying there (maybe more in the US, where hostels in general are less common), and I worry about one day being THOSE old people staying in the hostel. That probably still won't stop us. 😉

      • Just a suggestion, but lots of hostels offer private rooms for not much more than what it would cost for 2 people to stay in a big room. My husband and I have done this every time we stay in hostels (mostly for security reasons). We still feels like we get a hostel experience, but it's much more comfortable for us.

  19. I am very curious what that green t-shirt in the picture says in Chinese (I suppose it could be kanji)? Even just a whole picture and I should be able to read it. I want to knoooooowwwwww. It's kiiiiiiilllllliinnnggg me.

  20. Strangely enough, when I was younger, I didn't really like going out all that much. Sure, my fellow nerds and I had a good time usually, but more often than not, I was the only person who could drive, so I HAD to drive everyone everywhere. I was constantly out of the house, and constantly at everyone's beck and call. I used to have a good time going to the goth club and all, but when I hit my late 20's, I figured that it was time to actually do something that I wanted to do – not something everyone else wants me to do: stay indoors, drink tea, play video-games, and read. And thus I join the aging weirdo club – piercings, Halloween decor, Addams' Family clothes and all.

  21. My personal style has gotten tamer over the years, simply because of lifestyle. I used to always wear skirts, even in winter — I'd just layer them up. These days, it's mostly jeans through the winter, since that's what I can put rain pants over and bike in without freezing. I'm not wearing the same collection of cotton shirts anymore, since I've switched almost entirely to wool for winter. My style at this point is largely dictated by practical considerations, as well as wanting to look "more professional" now that I'm running my own business.

    But, y'know, even though I look "more normal" now, it's in large part because I'm weird. I dress in clothes that work for my car-free lifestyle and my freelance graphic design business. And while I sometimes miss being known for my style (people used to comment on it if I wore pants, since that so rarely happened), I really love my lifestyle, and I like the way my wardrobe fits me and it. I'm way happier with where I am in life now than I have been, well, ever, even if that means being less obviously a hippie.

    I think I've always been old, in a way. In first-year university I tried harder to "be social", and stayed up with friends (really, usually it was my now-husband, so that turned out ok) until pretty late at night, and then went to work on my assignment that was due at 8:30 the next morning. After first year, though, I just stopped doing that. My body is a lot happier if I get enough sleep. I usually go to bed between 9 and 10; I don't generally go to events that start after 7:30, because I know they're run past my bedtime. I've always preferred quiet dinner-parties to large or loud parties (full disclosure: I have never gone to a bar or a club, and I don't like the taste of alcohol). I'm glad to have friends who also like quiet dinners, afternoon get-togethers, and breakfast dates.

    Maybe because I've always been "old" deep down, stopping going to late-night things (y'know, ones that end at 10 pm) feels more like making choices that keep me happy and healthy, rather than "growing old". It feels more like I've settled into my own skin and needed to prove less as I've gotten older (she says at the ripe old age of 23…).

  22. My transition was never that drastic, which is, I think, common for us more introverted weirdoes. We were the ones doing the "80 year old lady" hobbies which are still our speed as we got older.

    I think the only difference between my 20 year old self and 36 year old self is that my taste in dressing up has changed. Instead of elegant goth, I prefer subtle pin up and mori/boho (yes, very contradictory).

    As I've said, my aging hasn't shocked me. Choices I've made in my youth makes me feel like I've wasted it, but I generally like how I'm evolving in my tastes and interests as I get older.

    And you're never too old to raise the kids' eyebrows. While at the supermarket last year, an elegantly dressed elderly woman asked me over to where she was parked in a scooter near the freezer case. I went over, thinking she may have wanted help – she proved me wrong by telling me a dirty joke instead.

    There are definitely more ways to express weirdness than by appearance and party stamina, indeed.

  23. You totally gave me a baskets moment! I've been thinking lately how I miss going out to drink and dance for a few hours. It's not something I did regularly when I was younger, but it was a good release every couple of months. Now that I'm in my late 30s, I feel way too old to do that in clubs. But I could totally still get the same effect by taking dance classes. I've taken dance classes before and totally loved it. I don't know why I didn't make the connection before. It's not about drinking and dancing in clubs late at night; it's really about getting out and moving that isn't in a boring health/exercise type way.

  24. I'm surprised no one has brought up the shift in Identity. If someone identified themselves as a "partier," "raver," etc. in their 20s, and then didn't really feel like partying as much in their 30s, that is a big psychological shift and needs introspection to figure out what "identity(s)" s/he feels is accurate for the present. Identities are fluid but also extremely sentimental – and therefore hard to let go.

    • I still tend to think of myself as punk even though I haven't "looked" punk for years and I rarely even go to shows, anymore. Heh.

  25. I feel like I had a similar epiphany recently. I'll be 30 next year. I've spent the last ten years trying to get my career (nursing) where it needs to be and because of that and trying to fit into jobs, I feel like I've lost some of who I was. I'm not 21 anymore, I'm not playing roller derby anymore (mainly because of an injury), I didn't get to let my cooky artsy hippie flag fly because I was busy. I've always wanted dreadlocks. Like my entire life. I recently decided FUCK IT. I'm going to be 30 next year, I've been a nurse for 10 years and I'm good at it, I deserve dreads. That decision had snowballed into just feeling more comfortable with myself in general. To me the best part of being an "aging weirdo" is I really don't care what people think anymore.

  26. As the child of lifelong weirdos, and the friend of lifelong weirdos 8-20 years older than me, I've thought about this a lot since high school. The first thing that made me really consider it was watching my parents' friends drop off as they got more conservative as they got older. The next was watching my own friends finish up their weird "phases" and drift away for various reasons. I'm lucky to have a pretty solid band of lifers around me now that I'm not worried about disappearing, whether they breed or not.

    The nice thing about having a lifelong context for being an aging weirdo is that I always had a timeline in my head for when certain behaviors would start to be embarrassing for me. Also that I never felt like I needed to self-identify as one particular grouped identity, because what interested me was so varied. Mostly my exploration has been driven by seeking out new experiences, and realizing that I was finally at a stage or income level where I could just enjoy nicer things. Since I had some excellent examples to follow, sometimes that just meant getting freaky at a museum instead of somebody's interchangeable dance party. And the realization that you didn't need to be at the bar at open mic at 3am anymore, because everyone there was just trying to get laid, and you had someone you actually liked at home in bed waiting for you.

    But because I've been off the leash for basically my entire life, I've gotten to a point where my expectations for entertainment have gotten so absurd, that I needed to start pulling back. Or rather, instead of being impressed by some 100 foot fireball (though let's be real, that will always be impressive), I realized that my next steps for personal fulfillment and leveling up in life required me to work more directly within society's normal structure and prove myself, while still keeping my identity. They were more about long term goals and doing things that were impressive on a much larger scale than just managing to pull together some crazy costume in a week for a party.

    The downside of chasing the weirdo ideal of being paid to be openly weird, is that I have very little time. To play, to spend time with my most important people. When I do, it's usually to work on a big project. But I do think I've done a pretty good job of staying true to myself, while pursuing bigger things that are just as goofy and random as anything else that ever made me clap my hands in glee. The crafting projects that used to be the main focus of my creative push have become the quiet things I do to decompress. Which is kind of insane, because projects have become what I do to unwind from bigger projects. But I've always been a little hyperkinetic.

  27. I'm 45, my husband & I don't have kids (we like them, just never wanted to raise any!), and I have a fairly conservative job. However, I've been & looked pretty punk/goth-y since I was about…15? At work, I just wear a lot of black & some very small & subtle skull/bat/etc jewellery bits. I have a few teeny tiny stripes of a not-found-in-nature colour, in my hair. My husband is a jeans & cowboy boots type. We look pretty odd side by side; people that don't know us, never assume we're together.

    What's hard for me is never having been able to decode or understand the 'in between' way to dress for a lot of what happens in life. I get how to dress for work, even if I chose to do it a tad differently. I've gotten no complaints, & had no issues with promotions. I enjoy my bondage pants & Converse in my off times. But I have nothing in my closet that feels or looks right for say, a baby shower, or a cocktail style afternoon wedding for my 40-ish pals, or for when my large group of sister-in-laws say "Let's dress up & go for martinis at that new chi-chi bar!" on a summer evening. The type of clothes one would typically see on a 40-ish woman for those types of events/outings – ugh, it makes my skin crawl. It looks cute on everyone else, but when I try it on at the shops, I think it's just god-awful, or, I don't look like 'me'. But then I end up looking weirdly out of place, or I feel uncomfortable with whatever I've 'resorted' to as a last ditch choice, because it's either far too casual, or it's too business-wear. I can do 'some' body skimming clothes, but nothing clingy or god forbid tight; I don't wear a small size. I don't even understand the shoe dynamic – if it's not Converse, or Doc Martens, or the beloved black chunky-heeled Mary Janes I favour for work, I'm clueless. I don't do spikes – my feet can't do manage that anymore; no dressy flats – I've not really plus size but I am a tad heavier, and flats make me look dumpy….so then, what does that leave??

    But as far as lifestyle in general, all I can say is, you do the things you enjoy, & that's that. I love combing through antique stores & charity shops, going to art house films, concerts, etc. My age won't stop me from going now, or ever. Anyone who thinks I'm too old to be somewhere, can go pound salt. It's a natural progression as you age to maybe go to the earlier showing of a film as opposed to the later one, or to go to the heavy metal concert, but maybe with half-inserted ear plugs. What ev's – do what feels authentic & right to you.

    • Your work style sounds just like mine! My workplace isn't conservative, and our dress code is pretty relaxed, but I need to look somewhat professional, and I love to find sneaky ways to wear skulls and rock 'n roll or goth-y things.

      I identify with your "issue" with going to certain things like weddings, baby showers, etc. I am very tattooed (half sleeve on one arm, a big tattoo on the other upper arm, and two on both sides of that wrist) I LOVE my tattoos and so even when I want to dress "normal" or fancy… I stick out unless I wear long sleeves anyway. I say embrace your style and put your own spin on the style for the occasion!

      I also kinda gag when I try to shop for the kinds of work clothes many of my friends wear. I am pear-shaped and most dresses I find either fit my waist/hips/butt and are too big in the chest…or the ones that fit my chest won't even fit around my hips.

      And my feet are terrible and I have also given up on high heels. Have you tried some taller, sleeker boots–but flat? Like "riding boots?" I think those can give you a more dressy look without the uncomfortable heels.

      • ooOOooooOOOOooooo…I like the idea of those boots, Carrie Anne! Thanks!

        I have the SAME issue – pear shaped – if it fits in the ass/hips, I'm floating in yards of fabric on top! If it fits in the bust, I am bursting at the seams on bottom. It's pretty much separates or nothing.

    • The great thing about social events like baby showers and weddings is that the people who invited you know you, and likely don't expect you to change for their event. So don't feel so much pressure to be someone different!
      And if you're looking for solutions to the style question, black is always acceptable. I've been to many events wearing a black dress and mary janes, and no complaints that I'm not dressed right.

  28. I haven't completed the transition. I always hated clubs, bars in this city play annoying music annoyingly loud, I like drinking but I 've began hating getting drunk so I've pretty much stopped that.

    thing is, I haven't found any activity to replace my hanging out like I used to, my life is in a sort of vacuum right now. I tried becoming a super organizing freak, but it's such a headache. So this had been my hobby lately, guess I'll try to go back to some of my healthy old ways because I seriously feel like I can't be someone I'm not. Aaagghh.

    I had to get it off my chest

    • You're not alone. My husband has been struggling with the transition lately too. Is this what they call a "quarter life crisis"?

  29. I've always been on the more low-key side of things. Going to the bar to drink with friends on a Saturday night has always been an option, but even when I was 20 I didn't want to do it every damn week. I've always just felt there's too much variety out there to stick to only one pastime, and as much as I am totally terrified of getting older, I feel this helps alleviate any worry about how I'm spending my free time. Lately for some reason I find myself wanting to take up activities I loved as a kid, like board games and little crafts. It also helps that the crowd at our chosen bar has aged with us instead of constantly bringing out new crowds of 18-22 year olds, so even when we do go out we never feel out of place.

  30. "Stagnation isn't youth. You can't stay 21 (or 25, or 30, etc.) forever. Personal evolution is awesome!" – this is so important to me. I would feel kind of sad if I were doing the exact same things that I was doing in my 20's (I'm in my 40's, now).

    I meet new people, have new experiences, learn, evolve, and with those evolutions come new interests, new ways of experiencing life. I've lost interest in some things, gained interest in some things, and sometimes I even have regained lost interests. My bigger concern is that I occasionally allow my professional life to take up so much time, space and energy that I don't allow CHANGE to happen. I don't care that I don't go out all hours of the night, but I am bothered by the fact that being exhausted by work may prevent me from experiencing and learning new things.

  31. I just turned 31 and am largely ignoring it, continuing to do what I do and have been doing since my 20's – seeing live music, playing records in a public setting, and drinking lots of coffee. A lot of other readers are responding to the nightlife aspect of this article, but I've never been all that into clubbing or nightlife, but more into arts and music. I really don't forsee my age EVER impacting my love of listening to and enjoying music and playing it for others.

    The only thing that I did a lot of in my 20's that I have toned down a bit is wearing outrageously whimsical clothes. I've become increasingly embarrassed about wearing cutesy stuff because I get the sense it is seen as baby-ish for grown women to wear cutesy stuff (see the backlash against Zooey Deschanel's whimsy) Thus I put away my giant fluffy pink bear hat and haven't worn it in years. I still wear bright, garish colors though, albeit in a stylish fashion. I can't give up my bright, 70's hues!

  32. I really enjoyed this article and the comments–it is nice to know I'm not alone in dealing with this and that people have so many different approaches.
    For me, the recession hit right in my mid-twenties and there was also some sad things that happened to my family at that time, so when I turned 30, I felt resentful that my twenties hadn't been as carefree and fun and full of hobbies as I thought they were "supposed" to be. Most my post-college twenties years were spent taking care of people I loved, holding down three badly paying jobs, and scrambling financially while watching a lot of my friends lose houses, jobs, etc. But I learned a lot, my relationships are stronger for having dealt with adversity, and now as my life stabilizes a bit I appreciate the things I have more and I feel more "free" at 31 than I did at 25. For me, turning aging has meant being able to pursue my interests more, rather than put them on hold because I'm in survival mode.

  33. I'm so much happier at 36 than I was in my teens and twenties. No pressure to do the party thing (which I always hated and pretended to love) or be anything other than who I am. Since I'm self-employed, I wear whatever I want, and I finally have the mohawk my mom wouldn't let me get. 😉 Plus, I always wanted to be a writer and gay, both of which were frowned upon. Now I'm a writer and engaged to a woman. For me, it hasn't been so much about holding on to the things that mattered when I was younger, it's about having the freedom to express them. I'm more of a weirdo than ever, and loving the hell out of my thirties!

  34. I was actually a tad disappointed to read so many comments about how "We never liked going out, or being sociable in clubs/raves/bars anyway"… I'm the kind of person who sometimes desperately misses big social events with loud music and karaoke. I thoroughly enjoyed going out and partying with friends, and with me currently being a few months away from turning 25, most of my friends are still carrying on just that way… But I have a toddler to think about and so the transition for me has been very difficult. I adore my daughter, but once she's asleep and it's dark outside, sometimes I get really lonely and nostalgic. I'm also in an unfortunate situation in that I don't have grandparents around that can take the baby overnight or even past maybe 8 30 pm, so that's not even an option for me. I like the original post here a lot, but are there more people out there who DID enjoy the wild side, big crowds and craziness when they were younger, who are now figuring out how to reconcile that with being a mature adult/good parent and partner?

    • Bryn, when I was a single mom, I, too, felt the need to go out and party, and I missed it, terribly. One thing that really saved me was finding another mom to "trade kids" with. She would watch my daughter on friday nights, and then I'd watch her kids for several hours on Saturday afternoons, so she could go out and have some time to herself. I don't know anything about your situation, but I thought I'd throw that out there, in case you've got an awesome mom friend or two.

  35. I first encountered this a few years ago when my soon-to-be stepmother invited me out for Girls' Night. We did have a good time, but I realized that I wasn't enjoying the partying atmosphere nearly as much as I used to do. In large part, this was because, for good or ill, a big draw for me was the attention that comes with being an attractive woman out partying with her friends. I realized that since getting married, I no longer sought that type of attention from anyone but my husband, and therefore, going out without him just wasn't fun.

    This was a big paradigm shift for me. Almost as big a shift as overcoming my early socialization and admitting that I consider myself an "attractive woman", but that's another post entirely.

    So, as far as adapting goes, I started going out only when my husband could come, because it just wasn't fun otherwise. And then we had baby#2, and "going out" at all came to a screeching halt. Not because of any moral objection to babysitters (after all, I left baby #1 with my dad for a year while I deployed!) but because of… well… inertia? It's just so much damn work to go out!

    But! We have done one thing that I love. We reserve the right to take a "grown up only" vacation every year. The past two years, it's been to Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA. We leave the kiddos with grandparents for the long weekend, and we tear it up hard enough to make our 22-year old selves proud.

    And then we spend the following week recovering, but that's neither here nor there.

  36. having children caused the biggest shift in my lifestyle – the best way I found to adjust to not being able to pursue my interests in the same way as I had was to share my interests with my children. Ok, no time to be in theatre productions, but I threw killer birthday parties with costumes, sets, and theme cakes – all with their direction and involvement. now all of my boys can bake a lovely birthday cake. and we all enjoyed going nuts on Halloween costumes! my husband built them guitars and taught them to play. we all took up archery so we shared our love of the woods and camping while pursuing those interests with our children instead of our friends the way we had before. this gave us concentrated time together away from work and chores. it made me feel we really know our children and they know us.

    now the children are grown and my husband and I have found a new interest in Steampunk culture which the kids do not share. we don't have much time to pursue it, but we go to local events when we can and add steampunk style to the house. we even created tentacles to frame the bathroom mirror with plasticene clay with glass baubles for suction cups!

    maybe the key to being Ok with aging is not to become complacent but continue pursuing interests even if the interests, and schedule, shift.

  37. Yay to expressing your true self at any age! I'm 45, and after a lull in my 30's, I find I want to go out dancing like I did in my 20's. I want to color my hair blue or purple or red. I want to go wandering around the world. I want to do ALL THE THINGS I didn't have time/money for when I was younger. I've gone from reading and dancing and cross-stitch (teens) to reading and dancing and cooking (20's) to reading and crocheting and quilting (30's) to reading and dancing and travelling (40's).

  38. This is a nice article. I really like the idea that being a weird person is a lifelong passion, and has no expiration date. I'm 41, and I have 3 little kids, and they are so fun. I run around outdoor sculptures on purpose. We got really into the Titanic for a couple weeks and built models, watched documentaries, read books, and made renenactment videos. We were all Star Wars characters for Halloween. Other Halloweens I made a stroller into a fire truck and a pirate ship, both with lights. I still go to tap dance class once a week, and I'm making a paper mache snowy owl. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and camping, outdoor cooking, and theme weekends.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.