This is 53: Mike Albo Responds to The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire
"Over the past 30+ years working as a writer and performer, I have always had to believe in the Long Arc—that despite it all, just keep making, keep expressing. My creative drive is my purpose."
From the time I was 10, I’ve been obsessed with what it means to grow older. I’m curious about what it means to others, of all ages, and so I invite them to take “The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire.”
Here, writer, author, performer and journalist Mike Albo responds. - Sari Botton
Mike Albo is a writer, author, performer and journalist. His newest novel, ANOTHER DIMENSION OF US, is being released on January 17th 2023. He is also the author or HORNITO and THE UNDERMINER: THE BEST FRIEND WHO CASUALLY DESTROYS YOUR LIFE (co-written with Virginia Heffernan). Mikealbo.net IG and Twitter: @albomike
How old are you?
Is there another age you associate with yourself in your mind? If so, what is it? And why, do you think?
Age 5? I am always reminding myself (or trying to) of my first memories…times when I felt content playing by myself/in awe of nature/using my imagination. Like one of my earliest memories is running (probably after dinner) to this little shelf in the corner of the family room where my books and toys were, and sitting in my little chair and just looking at it and getting excited while I decided how I was going to play by myself. Would it be reading a book? Creating a world with my Fisher Price toys? Drawing with crayons? I love being creative alone, I always have. And I still do that—except now I think my little shelf of books and toys is my entire apartment.
I feel like from age 5 to 50, I have learned—and unlearned—SO MUCH. But I also feel embarrassed because I meet younger people who are way more self aware and wise than I was at their age.
Do you feel old for your age? Young for your age? Just right? Are you in step with your peers?
I feel ancient as the pyramids. Well, at least infinitely wiser and more mature than I did even just 10 years ago. I feel like from age 5 to 50, I have learned—and unlearned—SO MUCH. But I also feel embarrassed because I meet younger people who are way more self aware and wise than I was at their age. Like, I will meet a guy in his 20s who will say, “The answers are not in other people,” or, “Thoughts are thought forms and I don’t have to believe them,” and I will be like “WHAT? I didn’t learn that till I was 45!” So I guess my answer is I finally feel just right for my age.
What do you like about being your age?
To be honest, what I like about my age is not being constantly led around by my dick like I was in my 20s to 40s.
What is difficult about being your age?
Ageism is real. It’s really the last “acceptable” “ism.” I don’t like being overlooked or having my hard work ignored because I am older. If I may say something provocative: to me, the term “queer”—especially when used to categorize art or comedy or performance or something on Netflix—seems to be more an age demographic than an identity, like only for folks under the age of 40 in an ironic mullet.
What is surprising about being your age, or different from what you expected, based on what you were told?
The way older people are portrayed in media—especially gay men—is always with this melancholic tinge. Like they are lost in a soupy reverie of a former, happier time when they were dancing shirtless to oontz oontz music on Fire Island. (Why does every gay movie / play / TV show STILL have a scene on Fire Island?) This isn’t true for me. I am more present than I have ever been! And I never liked dancing shirtless to oontz oontz music on Fire Island!
The way older people are portrayed in media—especially gay men—is always with this melancholic tinge. Like they are lost in a soupy reverie of a former, happier time when they were dancing shirtless to oontz oontz music on Fire Island.
What has aging given you? Taken away from you?
Given: Awareness and (finally) the ability to make healthy decisions like, “You know what? I’m going to leave this hideously loud and crowded restaurant/get my own hotel room, instead of sleeping on someone’s couch/not pine after someone who is a narcissistic fuckbag.”
Taken away: the ability to drink gallons of wine and night cheese and not gain weight.
How has getting older affected your sense of yourself, or your identity?
All I know is I am SO GRATEFUL that I began my practice in Buddhism and mindfulness and looking inward 15 years ago, because if I hadn’t learned how to be gentler with myself I would be a mess right now.
What are some age-related milestones you are looking forward to? Or ones you “missed,” and might try to reach later, off-schedule, according to our culture and its expectations?
Despite the aforementioned ageism, I look forward to my creative work being appreciated and connecting with people through my work. I have to think this will happen, because amidst the struggles and near misses and ups and downs I have had over the past 30+ years working as a writer and performer, I have always had to believe in the Long Arc—that despite it all, just keep making, keep expressing. My creative drive is my purpose.
My friend Douglas was like, “Oh you will be remembered, but just after you’re dead.” Which is sort of a bummer but kind of typical for me. So I guess I am looking forward to the milestone of dying? Weird.
I am SO GRATEFUL that I began my practice in Buddhism and mindfulness and looking inward 15 years ago, because if I hadn’t learned how to be gentler with myself I would be a mess right now.
What has been your favorite age so far, and why? Would you go back to this age if you could?
I think my fave age is still like 5 years old. Also, despite the fear, homophobia and self hatred that came with growing up gay in the 80s, probably also the age of 14/15, when I first fell in love with poetry and began to write it in all my spiral notebooks. That florid time of creative development is what I explore in Another Dimension of Us. And while I don’t really want to go BACK to either of those ages, I do want to tap into their creative freedom as much as possible.
Is there someone who is older than you, who makes growing older inspiring to you? Who is your aging idol and why?
I love seeing older gay men who exude self-respect and never stop working. Ian Mckellen comes to mind. Don Bachardy. Pedro Almodovar. Bill T. Jones, Robert Rauschenberg. I don’t know what Paul Cadmus was like, but he seemed to be making art till the end. My pal, the theater director David Schweizer, is also very inspiring to me.
What aging-related adjustments have you recently made, style-wise, beauty-wise, health-wise?
My skin care game is ON. I love my serums and oils. But also all my life I have had acne prone skin and now I am thankful for having oily skin because its all staying moisturized!
Everything revolves around sleep. I also take a 10- to 20-minute body/mind break every day, which I call “napitation.” I also practice chanting.
Physical activity is hugely more important for me than ever before.
I have been taking these NAD+ pills. Also I have a JOOVV device that emits that infra red light wave thats so popular now. (Recently seen on Emily in Paris season three!)
Style wise—I dress up more often and don’t wear tight “look at my muscles” clothing. That’s for the Young Gays. I’ve been aspiring to a tailored Indiana Jones / John Huston directing African Queen silhouette. But also I’m definitely returning to more color and patterns and in tandem with that LEWK; I am also going for a Paul Bowles in a caftan in Tangier LEWK / Eusebio Poncela in a printed shirt and tailored pants on a hot day in Madrid in Law of Desire (my favorite film!) LEWK.
Style wise—I dress up more often and don’t wear tight “look at my muscles” clothing. That’s for the Young Gays. I’ve been aspiring to a tailored Indiana Jones / John Huston directing African Queen silhouette. But also I’m definitely returning to more color and patterns and in tandem with that LEWK…
What’s an aging-related adjustment you refuse to make, and why?
As of now, I don’t really feel like I want to stop drinking. It’s still enjoyable and trying to survive in NYC, I need all my relaxation tools. Maybe if and when I move to that coastal villa of my dreams I will finally be like, “You know what? I’ll have a seltzer, thanks.” Until then it’s like, “Wait, so-and-so just got paid a million dollars to be the voice of an animated bubble in that new Pixar film? Chardonnay, please.”
What’s your philosophy on celebrating birthdays as an adult? How do you celebrate yours?
I have always said: you are responsible for your own birthday and orgasm. Meaning: you have to make it happen. Don’t expect other people to be in charge of your happiness or pleasure. I like having a little party and being with friends on my BIDET! It’s fun!
Oldster Magazine is a reader-supported publication that pays contributors. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
"you are responsible for your own birthday and orgasm." This is the best advice! Thank you
SO much great stuff here! BTW I gave up night cheese in my early 30s, and while it's been good for my system I still feel its absence in my soul, y'know? Nowadays I'm all about a good evening scoop of coconut yoghurt (but only on the weekends ;)