It’s nearly 4 a.m. in Las Vegas, and Cardi B just told the ladies in the crowd at the outdoor, poolside club Kaos to “suck some dick tonight.” I want a slice of pizza and my bed. I’m 35 years old, and the excitement of beats dropping and bottles popping wears off a lot earlier than it did 10 years ago. It’s not even just a nighttime thing anymore. Partying in Vegas is an all-day affair that starts at early afternoon pool parties, with Kaos (and day clubs in general) drawing crowds thanks to big-name resident DJs like Marshmello and Kaskade. Roughly 14 hours into my second day in Vegas, I’m cruising on autopilot and pushing myself to rally. There’s not much of a choice.
Turning 35 was this scary maturity milestone. Everyone thinks 35-year-olds are out of touch and don’t really know what’s cool anymore. And the weekend line-up at the Palms resort, where Kaos is housed, confirmed that my familiarity with the work of J Balvin, G-Eazy, Travis Scott, and Zac Brown Band was minimal. It wasn’t just about the music, either. Most of the acts didn’t hit the stage until well past midnight, and I seemed to be the only one annoyed by that.
These days, my “party” nights are strategically planned to allow for recovery time. It doesn’t help things that I’ve become a morning person. Sleeping until 8:30 a.m. on a weekend feels like sleeping in for me, which means that I’m crashing shortly after 10 p.m. most nights. All of this aside, I feel old, because by gay standards, I am. Getting called “daddy” by a 23-year-old on Grindr will make you realize some things about yourself. But there I was, surrounded by people who clearly hadn’t hit that 30-something switch, when hangovers can last for an entire day and greasy breakfasts are no longer the easy fix.
I made the ultimate rookie mistake while partying in Las Vegas: having too much, too soon. Within hours of arriving on my first day there, I was at the poolside cocktail hour that kicked off the weekend’s festivities with a vodka shot in one hand and a glass of Dom in the other. I photobombed carefully crafted influencer photo ops while pontificating to my friend (shoutout to Joanne) about whether the luxury brand T-shirts worn by many men in attendance adhered to the evening’s “cocktail attire” dress code. I took a photo toasting the oversized genitalia on Damien Hirst’s 60-foot “Demon with Bowl” statue that stood in the middle of one of the pools. In summation, I was in “drunk asshole” mode.
The night raged on at Kaos with booze and performances by Xzibit, Austin Mahone, Skrillex, and Travis Scott. I took in the scene with my arms extended across a balcony rail, and just as I was picturing a blimp emblazoned with “The World Is Yours” flying overhead, a girl tapped me on the shoulder. Apparently, a few of us had wandered too far from our designated area, and my Tony Montana moment was blocking the view of a more important person: the woman who had donated a kidney to Selena Gomez. That moment marked the first of several times in Las Vegas that I would be ejected from an area for a semi-celebrity.
Long after being corralled back to our section, where the view was decidedly worse, a group of us left the club around 1:30 a.m., believing full well that we had seen Travis do his thing and feeling totally fine about not staying to see Skrillex do his afterwards. It wasn’t until the next day, back at the pool, that I learned Travis hadn’t taken the stage until 3 a.m.—45 minutes after I had passed out in bed, the closest I’d ever been in my life to blackout. But I had narrowly survived my first of five visits to Kaos that weekend. I’d call that a success.
Needless to say, waking up the next day to head back to the club for a Marshmello pool party was not at the top of my list of preferred activities, but I ate a hearty breakfast and prepared for another go-round. Most people I spoke to prior to my trip advised that I avoid the pools at all costs, so I didn’t even give myself the option to swim, dressing in a polo and chino shorts. Serving full dad vibes, I found a shady spot in our sectioned-off area to drink water and nurse my hangover with fresh fruit. The idea was to avoid booze ’til sundown so I could make it until Cardi B hit the Kaos stage, presumably as late as Travis Scott had the night before. It was a solid plan, and my seat was prime for people-watching and Marshmello-listening. But less than five minutes into said plan, my VIP status was redefined as “vaguely important person” when I was asked to move from my space for another guest who had reserved it. Selena Gomez’s kidney donor had ruined my moment once again.
I accepted that a chill day was out the window. The sparkling rosé was flowing, and when Marshmello finally started DJ-ing, I was sipping on a rum cocktail served in a hollowed-out coconut. The crowd went nuts as EDM hits spewed from the speakers. Foghorns blared every few minutes, making me jump out of my skin. Midway through the set, Marshmello shifted gears to play Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?”—ironically, right around the same time I realized I had forgotten to apply sunscreen to the top of my head where my receding hairline no longer covers. I ventured into the crowd to get the full experience, but quickly retreated back to my section after getting self-conscious over the fact that I was surrounded by half-naked girls and guys, while I looked like I was waiting in line for the buffet on a cruise ship.
As surprisingly fun as the playlist was, at that moment by the pool, between foghorn blasts, I accepted that I am at a point in my life where I would rather have DJ Delilah spinning her light hits while I sprawl out on a lounge chair and read my book club book. I’m not trying to shit all over this once-in-a-lifetime experience that had been handed to me, thanks to my job. I just can’t tolerate spending a majority of my day listening to thumping bass.
But later that same night, I found myself right back by that same pool to watch J Balvin, G-Eazy, and Cardi do their thing. Just as we were getting settled, a woman came to let us know that we were standing in an area that someone else had reserved. I was fully prepared to accept the fact that Selena Gomez’s kidney donor had shown up to solidify my place as a “vaguely important person” once again. Alas, I was wrong. This time, it was Olympic medalist Adam Rippon celebrating his birthday with two members from the pop-a cappella group Pentatonix. It still stung.
From our new spot, the stage was blocked by the crowd, but I pushed myself to stay awake for Cardi B. When “Bodak Yellow” came on, my frustration over not being able to see took over. We decided to leave during the song in an attempt to beat the rush to the pizza place. I ranted to my friend about being over the club scene and how being second-class VIP was getting on my last nerve. I was back in “drunk asshole” mode, with a little bit of “spoiled brat” thrown in for good measure. The penis on the “Demon with Bowl” statue was like the north star guiding us home.
Vegas was getting the better of me, but I still had one more day, so I decided to stick to beer. That plan was immediately thwarted when I was told that my only alcohol options for the day were champagne, tequila, or vodka. The gods of Vegas were dead-set against me trying to take it easy. At least I could eat more fruit. I alternated between bottles of water and glasses of champagne until I could wrap my head around the idea of vodka. Kaskade hit the stage, and the foghorns were out in full force again. In the midst of all the drunken antics and my Roger Murtaugh “too old for this shit” mentality, I decided that the saving grace of the weekend would be a costly seafood tower, a table-side banana split, and a bacon fat bourbon Old Fashioned to wash it down from Scotch 80 Prime, Palms’ restaurant. Time slowed down with every bite. But when the bill dropped on the table, reality came crashing down with it. And we still had one final trip to Kaos left on the itinerary to see Zac Brown Band. At least they let me have beer at that one.
As I made my way to airport the next morning to fly home, I took some time to mentally unload. I remembered being in my mid-20s, joking with my friends about how sad it would be to still be partying like this when we were pushing 40. But then it dawned on me: Nobody at Kaos really made me feel like I was too old to be there except me. I psyched myself out by believing I didn’t belong there before I had even arrived. A party weekend in Vegas is about letting loose and living extravagantly for a little while. Some days I wake up feeling like I’m in the prime of my life, while on others I focus on my crow’s feet and hairline, expecting my AARP card to arrive in the mail. That’s just life. I wonder if Selena Gomez’s kidney donor has those moments.