by Mark “Mom” Finley
July 13, 2015
I have a confession to make. I’m not really 29. I know, I know. You’re shocked.
My mother once told me that a true lady never admitted to being older than 29, and I’ve held to that adage for more than a few years now. I recently broke that rule, though, to announce from the Main Stage at this year’s PrideFest that it was the 30th Pride I’ve participated in!
So, the cat’s out of the bag.
It’s not uncommon for me to be called the World’s Oldest Working Drag Queen. There probably isn’t an age joke that I haven’t been the butt of. Hell, I wrote some of them. Being sensitive about my age, though, has always been one of my issues.
Back in the good old days, before bouncers and bartenders were required to check your ID, you were just sort of sized up. It was something I was able to take advantage of when I was young. I’ve been 6’2” since I was in 6th grade, and people have always assumed I was older than I was. When I was 14 I was already hanging out and performing with college students, most of whom presumed I their age. My parents sometimes even used to let me to glue on a false moustache so that I could go along to see shows in casinos and other adult venues. I loved being thought of as older when I was younger.
After I got a little older, though, and spent a few years in the entertainment industry in New York, I learned that being thought of as older wasn’t always such a good thing. Everyone in the business was always looking for the younger, prettier face, so aging turned into something to be avoided at all costs.
As a gay man/performer/drag queen, I’d already gotten as good as I could get at making myself prettier. It took a miraculous trip to the New York DMV to make myself younger.
Just like it was in the bars and clubs, it wasn’t unusual for things at the DMV to happen with a little wink and a nod. While standing in line with my good friend Bill Strope, my paperwork was checked over and signed off by one of the DMV staff before we were herded into a second line.
That’s when I had a moment of genius.
Before having my paperwork checked the final time, I shaved four years off my birthdate. I figured if I got caught I’d fluff it off as a joke. But I didn’t, and, miraculously, I was suddenly 4 years younger!
Years later, after moving to Seattle, the time came for me to update my ID once again. This time I didn’t have any accompanying forms or former IDs to corroborate who I was, though. All I had was a copy of the Seattle Gay News with my face over the byline and a recent issue of Seattle Metropolitan that had several pictures of me in it. In drag.
Thankfully, the Washington DOL agent turned out to be a fan, because his first question was: Where’s the hair? I laughingly told him it was at home, in a box. Just like that, another few years were shaved off my age and my secret was safe and secure.
At that rate, if I had moved again, I’d have ended up so young I wouldn’t even be able to get into the bars to perform.
Age, though, like most things, eventually catches up with you. I’ve recently started to notice a few things in pictures of me that make me cringe – those small details that are telltale signs of a person who’s been around the block a few times.
I’ve always maintained that I’m going to be one of those people who manage to look young all their lives and then one morning they wake up, look in the mirror and: BAM! Old. I fear it’s finally happened.
I’m having age issues, of course. They’re hard to avoid in the entertainment industry with it’s high standards and notoriously short attention span. Everyone’s still looking for a younger, prettier face and the Next Big Thing. It’s hard to keep going, sometimes, being looked at as a relic from a bygone era.
I’ve always had close friends tell me that I should embrace my age and be proud of my experience and accomplishments. Hell, I am still alive and working. A lot of my peers aren’t so lucky.
It finally sunk in when my friend Trevor saw a couple of pictures of me from Pride and said: So you’re the older queen. But you know what? You’re still the best looking older queen out there! Enjoy it!
It was then that I thought: Maybe he’s right.
Now I try to take it stride, smiling and making the jokes that I was a Drag Dinosaur or the World’s Oldest Working Drag Queen. Yeah, I can’t move as fast as I once could. I may not be up on all the latest buzz and memes. But I can still fill a room. I can still make them laugh. I am still a recognizable figure in our community.
And, even if I do say so myself, I look good!
I’m still not going to tell you my actual age, though. Just between you and me, let’s just say I’m over 50 and just this side of 60. But if anyone else asks, just tell them: I think someone said she’s 30 now.
Be good. Behave. Treat others better than yourself. Always wear a clean pair of underwear. And remember: you’re not alone – you’ve got me!
M’wah – M.