As always, I remind you this interview took place a few years ago and represents a snapshot in time.
The Pajama Men are playing Edinburgh now. Based on past experience, I guarantee you’ll find them monstrously entertaining!
Mark Chavez, Performer, The Pajama Men
(Pictured left, with Shenoah Allen)
b. 18 June 1977
Age inside: 30
I still tell people I’m thirty. I remember loving my twenties, but I had this talk with my now ex-brother-in-law when I was maybe 22 or 23, who said your thirties were really nice because you had some freedom but you had a little bit more means with which to enjoy it. I started telling people I was 30 when I was 28, because I was so ready to turn 30.
A lot of my friends from high school, who aren’t in the business of theatre or comedy, have kids and jobs and dental plans and health insurance. I feel immature, like I’m in college or something, which is not 30, I know. I feel like I’m not up to par with where I should be in the world. I can’t fix a car. I think a 30-year-old man should be able to at least put his hands on his hips and know a few things. So I feel immature for those reasons and it makes me a little self conscious.
But then I look at my grey hairs and I get excited. I love having grey hairs. I love having hair! I picture my fifty-year-old self a little bit more bald than I am now. But I have a ton of grey hair and I like it; it’s distinguished and it makes me feel like I’m not a stupid kid. Not that kids are stupid, I just feel like sometimes I have trouble taking myself seriously. Grey hair makes me feel that I’ve been around. It’s a comforting feeling.
When I was 30 I looked back at what I had done and what I had wanted to do. Shenoah and I were changing our approach to how we were going to tackle our careers and we decided to really make a go for it. We’d spent ten years getting good at what we do, and it was a time for ‘all right let’s get serious and do this’—and it worked.
I loved being a kid, though. I never wanted to be older. I am the youngest of four, two boys and a girl. My dad died when he was 46 and I was 7. Everybody kept saying how young he was, and that confused me. I didn’t think he was an old man, but I was like, ‘I’m young.’ Now I really understand it, of course. I want to outlive my father.
I think what shocks me about being 32 now, and being 22 then, and what I’ll probably feel when I’m 46, is that I still feel exactly like me, and I always thought that I would feel like a man. I feel exactly the same. I do feel smarter in some ways. I feel I have more experience. I literally became much more comfortable with myself when I was 30. I took control of how I was living a bit more. It has to do with career success and in relationships and physically, asking, ‘How am I taking care of myself?’ In my twenties, I didn’t know what foods made me feel what way. It’s been ten years of learning how to eat and not feel tired all the time.
In the last five years I’ve become very self aware. I’m very honest with myself about how I’ll react to things and what I’ll do, and I’ve started being very honest with everyone around me. I used to mask things for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It took me that long to realise that all I’m doing is being an idiot. People want honesty.
Death is so much a part of age, but then death has been on my mind since I was seven. My mom was diagnosed with leukemia recently, and that was another prompt telling me that I need to do exactly what I want to do and be serious about it. When I was 25 I was taking things really slowly. I wasn’t taking the bull by the horns – I hate those kinds of clichés, edit that out!
My mom is not necessarily a good example of feeling your age, and neither is my stepfather, though he is a better example. My mom adopted five kids when I was 17 – so she was 47 — on top of the four she had with my father. She and my step-father have this whole new family and she was forced to dive back into the whole soccer mom thing, and they have a business, so she works. She’s always been an elegant woman, and I’ve never thought of her as anything but a grown adult – she’s my mom!
My step-dad, I think, turned forty when he turned 20. He is a businessman. For the first ten years of his marriage to my mother he was very serious and a little bit grumpy. I always thought of him as the embodiment of what a man is. He knows his way around a wood shop; he knows how to fix cars; he is good with money — he is everything that I am not and a very good role model to have around. But at the same time, I can’t be like that! I think we’ve learned from each other a great deal. As he gets older he’s a lot looser, he’s laughing a lot more, and as I get older I appreciate the influence of having this consistently 40 year old man in my life.
I never call myself a man, I always call myself a guy.
When I look in the mirror, I’m accepting the way my body changes, though I can’t get over that I have bags under my eyes. I think that’s a lifestyle thing, not age, and it really frustrates me. I can accept the wrinkles because they’re smile wrinkles. So I recognise myself in the mirror but it’s like a tired version of me. I saw a trailer we’d done about four years ago and I looked heavier. I was like, ‘Wow is that me?’ Looking at myself more recently, that’s definitely me and the guy I want to be.
We had this joke in our act that if I got everything that I wished for when I was little I’d be ridiculous looking and have a ridiculous life. I think 30 was the time. There’s a level of maturity now. Not that I’m a man now, but I have the knowledge and the wherewithal to do what I want in a responsible and respectful way toward people I love and care about and people who I work with.
I remember telling Shenoah, when we were around 22, how I hoped that when we were 32 that I’d think we were stupid, because I wanted to learn so much. And we do know so much more. I want to feel the same when I’m 42. I want to look at this guy I am now and go, ‘Look how innocent he was.’ I always want to feel that way.
I’m starting to embrace old age. Talking to my mom’s mom is inspiring. She’s funny, she’s like, ‘Enjoy your life. I’m enjoying mine, but it’s hard, you start wearing down and things don’t work the way they used to.’ So I’m preparing for that idea, to take control so I can be ready physically and psychologically. I want to be graceful about it. It’s not that as soon as I’m 50 I’ll wear higher pants, and as soon as I’m 60 I won’t go out. I don’t know what the phrase act your age means. I just mean, as I said, to look older, take care of myself and not freak out about it.
Old age and then of course death. It’s somewhat frightening, the finality of it. I don’t want to approach it from the viewpoint that it’s all downhill from here. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working and that is a good feeling, one that comforts me. My sense of self is not derived from what I do for a living, but vice versa – what I do for a living comes from who I am, so I have to keep doing it.