The Peter Pan Syndrome: Why I Refuse to Act Like My Age Group
“I read in Letters that there’s a new dance bar opening,” I excitedly told a group of friends with whom John and I plan to share a house in Rehoboth later this summer. My thoughts were on the great nights we used to have at the area’s dance venues of the past, from The Nomad and Boathouse to The Renegade, Strand, and Cloud 9.
John laughed out loud at me. “You think you’ll want to stay out late enough to go dancing? When was the last time we went to a dance club?”
“There was the night we took Mikey to Pulse in Orlando…”
John cut me off. “That was nearly a decade ago.”
“And we went to Parliament House on New Year’s Eve.”
“That was 2010.”
“Oh, right. Well, we did dance at the [local] inaugural for President Obama’s reelection and I boogied a little at our fundraiser for marriage equality.”
“Both of those parties were over by 10 p.m.”
“So, maybe the new Rehoboth club will have a weekend tea dance…”
“Hope it’s not during your naptime,” John muttered.
Okay, I concede. I am getting older. A very late night out ends at what starting time used to be.
Still, I am not about to take on the mindset of many people in my age bracket. I have Peter Pan syndrome—the Mary Martin version from the 1950s, of course. I won’t grow up if it means behaving in social situations like a lot of my peers. With apologies to those who may be offended, here are a few examples of how we differ:
1) I absolutely refuse to eat my evening meal at 5 or 6 p.m. Early bird specials may be tempting to the pocketbook but they don’t suit my palate (or John’s, fortunately.) We have always favored the European model where dinner is a leisurely paced, social experience—one that can fill much of an evening. The classic movie Dinner at 8, starring Jean Harlow, Marie Dressler, and John Barrymore, remains our mantra whether we are dining out or at home. Of course, the fact that a movie made in 1933 remains an inspiration says something about how dated our influences are.
In our area of Florida, we have been part of an LGBT networking organization for more than a decade, and each month 75 or so of us gather at a different restaurant about 5:30 p.m. for a meet-and-greet. That used to mean mingling over cocktails for an hour or two and then merging into smaller groups to eat. But with each passing year, more folks are skipping the meeting and the greeting and moving directly to the dining tables. Often they’re halfway through their entrees before John and I arrive. Like younger people, we still work until at least 5:30—considerably later some days. Besides, we usually eat lunch about 1 p.m., meaning there’s no way we’re ready for another meal four hours later.
Some of the younger participants in our group have stopped coming to the meet-and-greets because the atmosphere is beginning to resemble a dining hall in a nursing home. Someday I may have to go there—but not willingly. (Fortunately, we do have a regular Friday evening gathering at a gay-friendly bar where we can enjoy a good “old-fashioned” cocktail time with friends who don’t need to be home and tucked in before dark.)
2) I like to keep a conversation fresh, and I consciously try to avoid telling the same stories to the same people over and over again—unless they ask for an update or encourage me to share my exciting tale with someone who hasn’t already heard it. Many of the people with whom I have regular contact seem unable to recall that they already told me a story (for the second, third, or umpteenth time) just a few days earlier.
I don’t mean to make fun of people who have genuine health issues with their memories, but lately it seems that almost everyone over the age of 40 has a memory problem. Perhaps they think I’m the forgetful one, so they tell me again about some minor event that may have taken place in their lives decades ago. In truth, I still have a pretty strong memory. Perhaps it’s my background as a news reporter; I listen closely the first time I am told something. And I have to stifle a yawn whenever someone spins the same old yarn about where their mama cat hid her newborn kitties in 1975. (Or, as John would say, “Just shoot me.”)
3) I cannot tolerate elevator music. Never could, never will. Whether it is called easy listening or light instrumental or mellow melodies, the sleep-inducing sounds of Mantovani, Percy Faith, Lawrence Welk and their current-day imitators are not only boring, they suck the life out of any party. Even most elevators and dentists don’t play such dreck anymore. But many older folks (especially gay guys) do—in their cars and in their homes. Even when guests are present.
As one of the original baby boomers, I grew up on rock ‘n roll and rhythm ‘n blues, and the sounds I want to hear are found on the 50s, 60s and 70s channels of Sirius XM, as well as the wonderfully eclectic Little Stephen’s Underground Garage. I especially love their selections when I’m in a car. Elevator music would quickly knock me out at the wheel.
I do appreciate that rock is not an appropriate ambiance for most dinner parties, especially those that begin at the proper hour of 8 o’clock. That’s when piano-based jazz is a good choice, perhaps a little Bill Evans, Ramsey Lewis, or Oscar Peterson. For some vocal flair, try Sarah Vaughan or Roberta Flack. Or go for a classical quartet. Internet radio and cable have numerous choices if you don’t want to program the music yourself. But, whatever the genre, don’t go down the elevator shaft; rise up with genuine music performed with heart and at least a little bit of soul.
Does that attitude mean I’m young or old? Although I detest the elevator shaft, I’m also not much of a fan of the electronically manipulated recordings that pass for a lot of dance music today. I prefer the disco of yesteryear when great singers like Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor belted out the beats. Still, I’m not fully in agreement with those who tell young people, “Your music sucks.”
I dig quite a few current artists from blues singer Beth Hart to rockers Green Day, Foster the People, fun. and Train. (Yes, the band’s name is fun., with lower case f and period at the end.) Most of the people I know who are my age have no idea who any of those artists are. They still think that David Bowie represents the cutting edge of new music—though he hasn’t donned a dress in decades.
Uh-oh. As I proofread this column, I’m having a realization. More than most of the people who eat dinner way too early, play lousy elevator music, and repeat their stories interminably, I seem to be the one who is becoming a cranky old man….
By the way, I don’t like to eat dinner before 8 o’clock.