Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk tweets about a lot of stuff. He tweets about his kid. He tweets about skateboarding. He tweets about his skateboarding video games. And he tweets about people being surprised he’s Tony Hawk.
Tony Hawk, who’s 50 now, is famous for his prodigious skateboarding career. In 1999, Activision released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a video game inspired by his skating career. The games came out more or less annually through 2015; the most recent is 2018’s mobile game Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam, the first Tony Hawk game not published by Activision. The games mostly involve playing as different skateboarders who perform tricks for points in different areas, all accompanied by an awesome soundtrack.
These days, Tony Hawk still skates, and he also runs the Tony Hawk Foundation, which helps build skate parks in low-income communities. Because it’s the 21st century, he also tweets.
Much of Tony Hawk’s Twitter is taken up by encounters in which people don’t realize he’s Tony Hawk. In one tweet, he claims a car rental worker deleted his reservation because they thought the name “Tony Hawk” was fake.
In another, a TSA agent checking Hawk’s ID wonders what Tony Hawk is up to now, to which Hawk responds, “This.”
In a recent tweet, a worker at a drive-thru is excited to meet him, but no one else knows who he is.
Sometimes, people think he looks like Lance Armstrong. Another time, someone at a grocery store asks him, “You ever get mistaken for Tony Hawk?” Someone recognizes him and then is surprised, telling Hawk that he’s “not that recognizable.” “I’m not sure what that means,” Hawk replies, “but you recognized me, so here we are.”
In one tweet, someone recognizes Hawk, inspiring a guy who overhears the encounter to say, “I haven’t seen any recent pictures of you. You’ve gotten older.” Hawk replies, “It happens.” Encounters like this, Hawk writes, are “redundant...but they’re all true.” Whether they are or not, their redundancy points to the weird experience of someone living his life after being a household name. People remember Tony Hawk, kind of, but they’re confused that mostly forgetting about him didn’t make him stop existing. Rather than being annoyed, Hawk seems cheerfully resigned to this struggle, and even occasionally plays along.
These tweets are hilarious, but I also find them touching. Like many of the people in these tweets, I’ve always sort of known who Tony Hawk was. When I was a kid, he would be in the magazines and video tapes my twin sister and I would get from the owners of the skate shop, two guys in their 20s I both worshipped and was intimidated by. I didn’t know about the Tony Hawk games until years later, when a group of friends from college rented a ski house that had a PlayStation and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. The game’s roster let me feel like all the cool guys I’d eye at the snowboard park pulling off tricks I could never master.
Being like these guys wasn’t just about having the guts to hurl myself off the ramps at the trick park. Looking back at my infatuation with skater dudes after I realized I was trans, they embodied a masculinity I wanted before I even knew I wanted it. When I was young, being a skater was a rebellion against the masculinity of jocks. It was a manhood that was in reach for more people, though still not for me. When I was in early transition, I’d dress like those boys I’d admired as a kid, in torn jeans and punk band T-shirts. It’s funny to look back on those feelings now that I’m 37. Tony Hawk’s tweets resonate with me because they’re anticlimactic—he’s just some guy now. It’s comforting to stop taking yourself so seriously.
Now, I mostly feel like any other old man (or any other old man who’s a queer anarchist ex-chaplain who writes about video games for a living and rails at his young staff for calling things “cringe”). Being on hormones for years made some parts of masculinity easier, and being out as trans in my work and social life helped me value things I’d once seen as deficits. I used to have a mohawk; these days, I shave my head to deal with steadily encroaching baldness. A few months ago, one of my younger colleagues told me I looked like “someone’s punk dad” when I slouched into work in my standard outfit of black jeans, a black hoodie, and a black hat.
When Tony Hawk’s self-effacing tweets end up on my timeline, they feel like more than just funny jokes about fame. They remind me that these days, Tony Hawk also looks like “someone’s punk dad.” He’s patient and finds the humor in getting older, providing another model for what my own masculinity could be.
On Twitter, Hawk is good at living through the kind of irrelevance that comes for all of us as we get older. We’ve both hit ages where the world isn’t quite as about us anymore. I sometimes joke about looking forward to the day the trans youth eat me alive, but I genuinely love watching younger people do things better than I did. Hawk doesn’t seem bothered by his slide into semi-obscurity, and he performs it with a grace and gentleness that’s rare to Twitter. It’s an attitude I can strive to emulate more than the trappings of what drew me to guys like him when I was young.