If you watch many videos of Burning Man, you can get the false impression that the event attracts mostly young “beautiful” people. Sure, there are plenty of those, but look closer. When you walk down a dusty street in Black Rock City, look past the sparkle ponies. Over there is a middle aged couple sitting in the shade of their RV. And on your left, nobody in that camp seems to be younger than 50. Another block down, you find a camp with people young and old. And that naked, wrinkly guy who just rode by can’t be less than 70.
Older burners are everywhere at Burning Man. They may or may not be wearing something crazy, or nothing at all. They might be sitting in the shade, giving away hot dogs, or dancing at one of the big sound camps. They might be there with multiple generations of their families, or they might be a quiet couple who parked their little camper in the suburbs. Some are old hippies. Some are going through mid-life crises. Some were dragged to the event by their children. Some like art. Some like adventure. Some may actually like that electronic music (not me. I settle for tuning it out most of the time, and the rest of the time I find myself repeating, “duh duh duh dum, dee dum, dee dum, duh dum.”).
This year will be my third burn, and I am fast approaching 60. As I mentioned in previous posts, a major trauma in my life prompted me to start doing “stuff” faster, not putting it off, and that ended up sending me to Burning Man. With my graying hair, wrinkles, and body parts under the influence of gravity, I can’t be mistaken for anything but an older burner. My arthritis tells me I won’t be climbing the Thunderdome. Twenty minutes of dancing and I’m ready for bed. Getting back on my feet after sitting on the playa involves a certain amount of “oof, ouch, oof.” I almost bruised my tailbone on the Man slide last year (silly old woman, what were you thinking?). I most definitely need a nap if I want to stay up after dark.
NONE of that is going to keep me away from Burning Man. It is my wondrous week in the desert, free of obligations and appointments. Nobody looks at me strangely because I brought a doll bar. Not one person at Burning Man called me “a bit strange” the way they do when I am at home. I don’t have to filter what I tell people, like I do at work, because nobody at Burning Man cares if I’m a square peg in a round hole. And when I look around the streets of the city, I see people like me, from all walks of life, having one hell of a good time.
Sometimes, when I read comments on the Internet from people in their twenties, I laugh and roll my eyes at their “I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Burning Man.” Umm….you haven’t lived long enough to use “always” in that context. Seriously. And if you are talking about getting a low-income ticket because you are 22 and work a minimum wage job, please, put down your $4 latte and grow up. Some of the old folks are on disability and fixed incomes and haven’t spent their youth mooching off others while chasing their twenty-something bucket lists.
Okay, that last paragraph is total curmudgeon. That’s another thing you earn with age. There’s no such thing as a twenty year old curmudgeon. They’re just called assholes. I can see that my post is fast sinking into a “blasted kids these days” old person whine, so I’ll stop now. The people I’ve met at Burning Man, both young and old (and everything in between), have been a delight.